You've undoubtedly seen her work before - either in feature articles in magazines, or in a viral Facebook picture of some killer fully-beaded boots, or at the Heard and Santa Fe Indian Markets snatching up the Best of Show ribbon. Her name is Jamie Okuma, and she is one young, cool beadwork artist who is making waves in the art and fashion worlds. She's a true genius, and whether you're into 'traditional' Native quill and beadwork clothing, or rockin' contemporary Native chic, we all flip when we see her work.
Okuma showed her first fashion collection at the Fashion HEAT event held in August, and I caught up with her to ask her about the show.
BB: The pieces you showed on the runway were amazing. When did you start planning and creating the collection that you
showcased for Fashion HEAT?
JO: The pieces I had at Fashion Heat were a year in the making, I make everything myself so needless to say it does take some time. I have already begun the process for next year's show. I am sooo excited to show the new work I have planned for next year!
BB: You had some very nice tailored jackets and coats embellished with geometric designs. What were the inspirations behind this collection and what materials did you use?
JO: My inspiration for the Fashion Heat collection was to make contemporary Native-inspired outerwear that is comfortable and wearable for anyone and everyone. All of the materials used were direct from Italy, including Italian shearling and leather, and some of which were laser etched.
BB: How does this collection relate to your other artwork, in particular the soft sculptures that you've become known for making?
JO: Well, I have been, in a sense, creating and making clothes forever. From my own outfits and clothes for the figures.... it just transformed into my ultimate obsession.....FASHION! It was a twist of fate that I didn't end up going in this direction from the start. I had planned to go to Art Center in LA for costume design right out of high school, but they had suggested that I take some more college courses in the field...thus I ended up at the Institute of American Indian Awards and won my first Best in Show Award at 22 that same year. So I happily went in a different direction.
BB: What are the easiest and hardest parts of being a fashion designer?
JO: The easiest part.....having an endless amount of ideas!! I wish I had the time and resources to get everything out that I have in mind. The hardest part is finding the resources ....... it took a whole year and a half to find my label maker (like the hardwear on the purses I make), but things are finally settling into place.
BB: What was it like being a part of Fashion HEAT?
JO: I was so grateful and humbled that Amber-Dawn Bear Robe asked me to join, especially since I am a relative newcomer. It was chaotic and crazy and extremely exciting being apart of the show.
BB: Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?
JO: I think NIKE said it best..... Just do it!
BB: What's next?!
JO: Ohhhhhhh I cant wait to show you!!!!!
And we can't wait to see! Click here and here to see more of Jamie Okuma's work. All images courtesy of Amber-Dawn Bear Robe.