August 30, 2009

Designer Profile | Lloyd Kiva New: The Father of Contemporary Native Fashion

Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee) is well-known for his work in the advancement of Indian art education, but few people know that after he taught Indian art courses at the Phoenix Indian School in Arizona, and before he helped co-found the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New was a successful fashion designer.

In December of 1945, New opened his first boutique in Scottsdale, selling accessories and handbags inspired by Navajo medicine pouches. These reinterpreted and secularized bags were the genesis of the Lloyd Kiva leatherworks company.

Within ten years, New expanded to include dresses, coats, and shirts for both men and women. Kiva designs were featured in national publications, such as Harper’s Bazaar, Holiday Magazine, The New Yorker, and Town and Country, and were sold through stores like Nieman-Marcus in Dallas, Lord and Taylor in New York, and Newsetter’s in Denver.

New firmly believed that Native people were an integral aspect of the life and identity of the United States. In the post-war environment of American national pride, New advocated that there wasn’t much more American than the Native American, and encouraged people to express this on their clothing.

Lloyd Kiva New played an important role in revolutionizing Native American, and American, customary clothing design in the mid-1900s. His business prospered when opportunities for Native individuals were limited and bounded, and he acknowledged social limitations and cultural expectations and worked within these frameworks to create new possibilities for Native people.

(Lloyd Kiva Boutique in Scottsdale)

(Lloyd Kiva New silkscreening his own textiles)

(Lloyd Kiva original shirt, image my own)