August 24, 2009

Tribal Trend Gone Wild

(Image from Angela DeMontigny (Chippewa/Cree/Metis))

So I'm new to blogging (yep it's true!), and I've been searching around this blogosphere, and I've found many, many, many blogs about the so-called now-popular Tribal Trend!

While it's exciting to see Indian-inspired designs all over the runways and in the boutiques (because Native fashion has added greatly to the broader fashion world), it's also worrisome to see how some designers, stylists, and bloggers offer some really bad advice about this trend. *gasp*

Many blogs, including the Official Blog of, tell readers how to wear Native American-Inspired Styles. Unfortunately, the majority of blogs like these completely miss the mark because they stick to stereotypes and promote cheap replicas (or overly-priced designer knock-ups).

There's so much more to Native fashion than the stereotypical aspects of Native attire: fringe, feathers, and turquoise. There are several contemporary Native designers and artists who make pieces that reflect the now-hot Tribal Trend, but who will also outlast this trend (all trends come and go) and continue to produce chic Native fashion and accessories. See for example Angela DeMontigny or the Tsosie-Gaussoin family. While we may love fringe, feathers, and turquoise, there are many ways to incorporate these elements into fashion without looking like cheesy Indians from a 1950s Hollywood western. It can be done! Taos Pueblo designer Patricia Michaels created feather scarves that are anything but cliche.

Alas, the majority of these How to Wear Tribal Trend blogs also state that Native American accessories are inexpensive, while in reality, the handwork (and quality materials) that goes into accessories made by Native artists is anything but cheap. This misnomer makes it hard for Native artists to compete with imported cheap replicas. This is particularly true when buyers are expecting accessories to be no more than a couple of dollars (thanks to bloggers who tout that you can "take any classic piece out of your closet and update it with an inexpensive and fun beaded cuff"). If you would like to check out some super fresh budget-friendly Native-made earrings, hit up GrayFox Creations, or Enspired Visions. I would also suggest checking out a powwow or Indian Market. At these venues you will find Native artists and designers selling some awesome jewelry and garments.

In short: 1) Support Native creativity! Don't just stick to the conventional Native elements - and the best way to do this is to look into the work of edgy Native designers. 2) Uplift Indigenous communities and buy directly from Native artists/designers. Go for the real deal!