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‘A dream come true’ Polo Ralph Lauren x Naiomi Glasses honors Diné heritage and centuries-old weaving traditions

‘A dream come true’ Polo Ralph Lauren x Naiomi Glasses honors Diné heritage and centuries-old weaving traditions

ALBUQUERQUE – What was unwanted by rug buyers became what luxury brand Ralph Lauren sought.

Naiomi Glasses, a seventh generation Diné textile artist and designer, remembers she and her brother, Tyler Glasses, admiring a stockpile of fresh-sheared wool. Her grandmother, Nellie Glasses, told her the wool wasn’t desired because of the smell.

‘A dream come true’ Polo Ralph Lauren x Naiomi Glasses honors Diné heritage and centuries-old weaving traditions

Courtesy | Ralph Lauren
Naiomi Glasses, center, locks hands with her parents, Cynthia and Tyler Sr. The family model clothing from the Ralph Lauren x Naiomi Glasses collection.

Naiomi Glasses is the first of many artists in Ralph Lauren’s artist-in-residence program to collaborate with Ralph Lauren and his design teams to reimagine the original designs of her woven art into a collection – Polo Ralph Lauren x Naiomi Glasses – inspired by her family, homelands, and community in Diné Bikéyah.

To accompany the collection, she curated one-of-a-kind silver and turquoise jewelry pieces handmade by renowned artisans from the Navajo Nation, Hopi Pueblo, San Felipe Pueblo, and Zuni Pueblo.

Two special-edition releases from the Polo Ralph Lauren x Naiomi Glasses collection will arrive in 2024 – one in the spring and one in the fall. Glasses’ first collection comprises men’s, women’s, and unisex clothing and accessories, all with colors that Glasses believes represent Dinétah.

“It’s been such an amazing journey,” said Glasses, “being able to have not only the creative freedom to do whatever I wanted with designing everything but also being able to bring our Diné culture to the forefront.”

Glasses is from Tsé Ntsaa Deez’áhí, Arizona, and is Hashk’ąą Hadzohi and born for Tł’ááshchí’i. Her maternal grandfather is Áshįįhí, and her paternal grandfather is Tó’aheedlíinii.

Glasses and her brother, Tyler, thought the stockpiled wool was beautiful because of the natural range of creams to blacks.

That is what she aims to recapture for her Ralph Lauren collaboration.

“There’s a lot of grandma-like teachings,” said Glasses. “I feel like within these when I look at these designs. I think of my grandma. It’s a way to honor her, and I really just hope I’m making her proud, my parents, everyone.”

Learning to weave

At 16, Glasses began learning to weave by ending the rug or filling in gaps in a rug without design.

When Glasses finished high school, her family gifted her a loom and told her to have at it since she already knew the motions of weaving and how to end rugs.

Her first rug was a 32-by-32 saddle blanket with natural hand-spun wool. At that time, for Glasses, squares on the blanket’s corners were hard enough designs.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, like, I love this though,’ so I was like, I want to stick with this (rug weaving),” said Glasses.

Instead of jumping straight into college, Glasses took a gap year to hone her skills as a rug weaver.

Before her gap year’s end, Glasses’ parents sat her down to ask her what she was thinking about careers and if she still wanted to attend school.

Glasses shared her love for weaving. Her parents asked how she would make it a career because they don’t see rugs selling at trading posts as a sustainable source of income.

Glasses recalled her late grandmother Nellie, who used to weave and sell her rugs at trading posts. She remembers her grandmother saying the money wasn’t enough for basic needs.

“I told them, ‘Well, yeah, I want to design blankets, floor rugs, and eventually clothing,’” said Glasses.

After mentioning clothing, Glasses’ parents asked what brands she wanted to work with. At the top of her list was Ralph Lauren.

“So now to be able to be working on this with them so many years later is seriously a dream come true,” said Glasses, “and there are no words to really explain it.”

Honoring family

With Glasses’ collections, she ties in her family weaving history, being a seventh-generation weaver.

‘A dream come true’ Polo Ralph Lauren x Naiomi Glasses honors Diné heritage and centuries-old weaving traditions

Courtesy | Ralph Lauren
Models for the Ralph Lauren x Naiomi Glasses collection include Quannah Chasinghorse and Naiomi’s family.

Glasses pays tribute to her earliest memories of weaving with her grandmothers by incorporating those designs and materials into the pieces she created with Ralph Lauren.

The designs also pay tribute to pre-trading post days when buyers didn’t dictate what designs were profitable.

In twists and turns, the Ralph Lauren staff had Glasses in sight when looking for Native American artists to collaborate with. That ultimately led to the collaboration with Ralph Lauren’s artist-in-residence program.

To pair with Glasses’ rug-designed clothes, Glasses also got to curate jewelry from artists she’s come across.

Artists such as:
Piki Wadsworth (Hopi, Navajo, and Anglo).
Leon and Valerie Martinez (husband, Navajo, and wife, San Felipe Pueblo & Zuni Pueblo).
The Charley Family (Navajo): Lee Charley (father) and Matthew Charley (son).
Readda and Ernest Begay (wife and husband, Navajo)
The Lister Family (Navajo): David and Alice Lister (parents), Davida Lister (daughter), DeAnna Nez (daughter), Clarissa and Vernon Hale (daughter and son-in-law).
The Begay Family (Navajo): Philander Begay (father) and Isiah Begay (son).

While Glasses puts the Diné culture at the forefront of high-end mainstream fashion, she also sends an important message to many Native fashion designers: cultural appropriation is not appreciation.

“Seeing a big company like Ralph Lauren come in and work so collaboratively with me has been amazing,” said Glasses. “Not only is it my interpretation of our weavings, but it’s also an authentic lens that often gets overlooked.”


About The Author

Kianna Joe

Kianna Joe is Bit’ahnii and born for Kinyaa’áanii. She was born in Gallup. She received first place for best editorial in the student division for the 2022 National Media Awards. She is now an intern for the Navajo Times, covering matters in the Phoenix Valley while attending school at Arizona State University.

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