January 28, 2013

Top 12 in Native Fashion for 2012

2012 was an amazing year for Native American-made fashion.

We saw designers taking home big awards, collaborations developed, tons of fashion shows all over the continent showcased designers from throughout Indian Country, some important new projects were launched, and Native pride was felt and seen through the items we wore on various significant events and rallies.

Now let's begin the Beyond Buckskin list for the Top 12 in Native Fashion for 2012.

1. AWARDS: A couple of Native fashion designers had big years in 2012, including Jamie Okuma, whose beaded heels and platform shoes (below) went viral on the internet, and one even landed in the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s permanent collection. But Okuma’s biggest moment came when she took home the Best of Show Award at the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market. She brings fresh and exciting talent to the world of Native fashion.

2. NAFW: 2012 saw the launch of the first ever National Aboriginal Fashion Week. Bringing together Native American and First Nations fashion designers from throughout Canada and the United States is no easy task, but it is one that needs to happen. The fashion industry is one of the hardest industries to break into, so we need to start building our own programs to help push Native-made fashion forward. You can read more about NAFW here, here and here.

3. BBB: Beyond Buckskin took a major step forward with the launch of its own Boutique - the first ever Native American-operated online gallery store specializing in Native-made fashion, jewelry, and accessories. This space is dedicated to promoting emerging and established Native American fashion designers. For the holidays, we launched the Buy Native campaign with wonderful results. You can read about it here, or see the BUY NATIVE list here. We also launched the first ever Beyond Buckskin Giveaway. We are very excited for 2013!

4. COLLABS: Collaboration! I love that word – because even if you have a favorite artist doing their thing, when you pair them up with someone else it usually shoots their work off into this all-new interesting direction. Notable 2012 collaborations include Louie Gong x Manitobah Mukluks; Maya Stewart's Luxury HandbagsNavajos, Rodeos, Levi's and PendletonBig Hoops Big ThingsNelly Furtado and Hoop Dancers; Native Threads x Steven Paul Judd collab (and getting Native Threads into mainstream venues like Walmart); and Virgil Ortiz x Kenneth Johnson. Good job guys, keep bringing the freshness.

5. EVENTS/SHOWS: There were a ton of Native fashion events and shows held throughout the US and Canada, including the Reservation Economic Summit Fashion Show; Runway to Congress Show; The Cody High Style Show (here, here and here); the Miccosukee Fashion Show, the "Explore Fashion Show" held in Tuba City and the coolness of Planet IndigenUs happened.

Fashion shows were held at universities, including the University of Michigan Beyond Buckskin Streetstyle Fashion showUCLAU of A, and ASU (here, here and here). Style events were also held during powwows including the Gathering of Nations (here and here), He Sapa Wacipi, Manito Ahbeeand more. Dozens of more fashion events are slated for 2013, and here's a brief list of some upcoming shows.

6. VO ALL OVER: Another designer who had a great year, Virgil Ortiz launched yet another cool collection during the Heard Indian Market; he was also featured in New Mexico Magazine, nabbed a spot on KASA TV, brought killer Pueblo pottery to Paris, and launched his Rain Collection jewelry designs in collaboration with super cool man Kenneth Johnson. This guy just keeps it coming.

7. SFIM: Not gonna lie, one of my favorite events of the entire year is the Santa Fe Indian Market. There were a lot of cool things to see this past year when it came to fashion, but the two most important events were the Fashion Heat fashion show and the Native American Clothing Contest. Fashion HEAT (below) kicked butt, took names, and got a ton of press here and here. You can also read my interviews with the designers here, here, here and here. SWAIA released their video that packs all the highlights of the big weekend into one cool montage, and you get to see all the Market winners and images from the Native American Clothing Contest.

8. MISS COMPETITIONS: Now I’d like to do some shout outs to the ladies who rock Native fashion during the various ‘Miss’ competitions held throughout Indian Country! Shaylin Shabi nabbed the Miss Native American USA title (below). We learned what it takes to win the Miss Navajo Nation competition, and the new queen was crowned, Leandra Thomas. The coveted Miss Indian World title went to Jessa Rae Growing Thunder, and other newly crowned queens include Miss Indian Nations Shannon C. Hooper and Miss Manito Ahbee Laryn Oakes. I plan to write another post that highlights these women (plus the many other 2012 winners), so stay tuned for that.

9. YELLOWTAIL ON THE RISE: A final featured designer for this post is Bethany Yellowtail – a young designer originally from Montana who is making moves in the fashion scene in Los Angeles. I’m very excited about her recent work and her quick ascendancy in this difficult field. I wrote an article on her for Indian Country Today, and it landed on the front page. She was also featured in several big fashion shows this past year including the Reservation Economic Summit, Runway to Congress, and LA Fashion Week. She’s a mega-talented lady who is representing Indian Country in a real good way, and I know 2013 will be another great year for her. She's one to keep your eyes on.

10. OUR OWN FASHION MAG: We all grew up looking at non-Native versions of beauty splattered all over our fashion magazines: Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair. Well, now we have our very own magazine that highlights Native fashion and style. Native Max Magazine launched in the fall of 2012, held an awesome fashion show in Flagstaff in November, pumped out the winter issue, and I’m sure they are already well into creating content for their upcoming spring issue.

11. ACTIVIST THREADS: The t-shirt is the modern-day moveable wearable billboard. You can make your statement where ever you go without even saying a word. This past October, we asked you to stand in solidarity with Native People and rethink ‘Columbus Day’ by rocking this tee. But the latest greatest in activist threads comes from the Idle No More movement where you can purchase cool tees to visually show your support and to plant small seeds where ever you go while wearing it.

12. ROCK YOUR MOCS: Perhaps my new favorite ‘holiday,’ RockYour Mocs is a movement that’s been brewing for a while now, and was in full swing this past November. Back in April of 2011, I was asked to be part of a video documentary investigating the fashion of moccasins. At that time, I began to wonder the level at which Native youth were rockin’ mocs as a fashion statement. In the past, we wore moccasins everyday, now we wear them only on special occasions. How can we return their regular use? How can we make Native-made moccasins attractive for a new generation? I proposed, “We need to start a Rock the Mocs campaign!” And the great glories that be (and a group that launched a FB event) put the thing in motion and what we have now is just pure awesomeness.

BONUS: This is not only a bonus, but a wish for 2013. This past year, Elle France included Metis artist Candace Halcro in one of their spreads, which is awesome. I hope to see our great designers in more fashion magazines for 2013 (even though we have Native Max now, I still want to see Native-made fashion everywhere!)