Indigenous fashions show how far we’ve come
Ten years ago, we had not heard of an Indigenous fashion show or of a Native American, First Nations or Indigenous fashion designer.
In the 70s and 80s we marveled at Cher with her grand gowns and tons of jewelry around her neck, wrists and fingers which were often Navajo turquoise and silver.
Soon after, we started to see many celebrities with “Native inspired” clothing and jewelry. Most were of “Aztec,” geometric and basic Southwestern design.
Long gone today are the days of fringe and so-called Indian motif designs mostly found on jackets and buckskin looking dresses and skirts made by non-Indigenous designers.
We’ve come a long way in fashion. Today, we are delving into contemporary designs, men’s collections and haute couture fashions designed by our own Indigenous people.
In 2022, Native and Indigenous fashion shows are the rage with sought after fashions by Indigenous designers and models. These events are beginning to parallel big, ticketed fashion shows such as in New York or Phoenix.
The fashions are becoming more exciting with high fashion and couture collections as seen in this year’s SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market Indigenous Fashion Shows.
Some Indigenous designers have incorporated their culture and traditions in their fashions.
For instance, Navajo/Diné fashion designer Orlando Dugi uses the “Cochineal red, an insect-derived dye used by Diné weavers starting in the 18th century and continuing to this day.”
Dorothy Grant combines her traditional Pacific Northeast Haida art with her clothing lines.
Himikalas Pamela Baker, Tlingit, Haida and Squamish, honors her ancestors using First Nation West Coast design elements.
Lauren Good Day, Arikara, Hidatsa, Blackfeet and Plains Cree, revitalizes her people’s art with textiles and designs of horses, parfleche, elk tooth and ribbon work in her youthful vivid and pastel colors.
In the ninth year of SWAIA fashion shows, 2022 was an exciting mix with seven fashion designers at Friday’s SWAIA gala “shiny drop” Centennial party and fashion show.
Designers included Jason Baerg, Korina Emmerich, Yolanda Skelton, Dorothy Grant, Lesley Hampton, Ursala Hudson and Himikalas Pamela Baker.
They are fashion designers from across the vast Canada Indigenous Nations, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
On Saturday, the sold-out Indigenous show was definitely a must-see event of the year with the likes of fashion designers such as Dugi and Jamie Okuma, Luiseno, Shoshoni-Bannock and Okinawan, among other greats.
Fashion-minded people from all over North America came in droves in their finest most contemporary wear to both Friday and Saturday events.
We saw decorative beaded high-end hats and headwear and designer dresses with tons of jewelry.
Men wore long braids, long hair worn down or with fancy beaded hats and upscale men’s wear with cowboy boots and jewelry.
A new fashion designer, Skawenatti, Canadian born Mohawk, creates machinimas (movies made in virtual environments) as well as still images, textiles and sculpture.
Her work is also featured on the walls of the Santa Fe Museum of Contemporary Arts.
Taos Pueblos’ own Patricia Michaels showed her fluid, organic work using her own textile designs.
Dugi opened Saturday’s show with his men’s collection, which received gasps and excitement from the crowd.
All of his models were men except for a lone female wearing one of his famous cochineal-dyed dresses.
Sho Sho Esquiro’s muted colors with leather, buckskin and dresses with messages like “Indians welcome” are always fun to see. Her work and other fashion designers are on exhibit at the Santa Fe Museum of Contemporary Arts.
Other designers on Saturday included Catherine Blackburn and jewelry artist Melanie LeBlanc and Lauren Good Day.
This was indeed a treat to photograph fashions by Indigenous designers who continue to let us marvel at their work and be able to say this was made by a Native American, First Nations, or Indigenous person.
Yes, we have come a long way.