March 16, 2010

Article | Patricia Michaels

(Work by Patricia Michaels - all photos my own)

A recent article about Patricia Michaels:

The Taos News
March 11, 2010
By Rick Romancito

A long time ago, Native people employed scouts and trailblazers to find their way in unfamiliar terrain, and to make favorable contact with new people. In a way, that's a little bit of the role in which Patricia Michaels finds herself while navigating the runways, dressing rooms and studios of some of the world's most renowned fashion houses.

Michaels, a fashion designer from Taos Pueblo, has just returned from a successful stint at Bryant Park Fashion Week, which started Feb. 10 in New York City. Aside from bringing a wealth of experience and solid professionalism built of many years in her craft, she is able to stand head and shoulders among some of the biggest names in the fashion world -- and, yet, despite the highest levels of sophistication, there is still an alarming ignorance when it comes to understanding Native people in the modern world.

Michaels is tough, though, and has no time for those attitudes. She has work to do.

"I was asked by a nonprofit organization called Unreserved that is based in New York to foster Native American careers in fashion and fine arts," she said Friday (March 5). Although chosen with two other people, Michaels wound up doing Fashion Week by herself. "It was a huge responsibility," she said, "to represent Native Americans in the region of fashion. It was ambitious and well worth the task. It's given me a lot of acknowledgment and interest toward my work and career, which is definitely needed."

She said she's been doing a lot of museum shows and Indian arts and crafts shows, but now because of this she is getting "boutique interest" in her work. In a couple of weeks she is planning to head back to New York where she will be working with a team that is in charge of sales and marketing.

During Fashion Week, she presented a Spring Collection, which consisted of 25 pieces, actual garments, and about seven accessories. This morphed into a Fall Collection, which she still wants to present. In the meantime, she also did work at Indian Market in Santa Fe, a spa, a show in New Zealand and keeps going and going.

Michaels said one of the more interesting aspects of all this is working with a marketing team which sets about refining and subtlety shaping her work so it hits the right mainstream note, "because a lot of my designs can be very couture." A lot of this is so eye-dazzling that it is easy to lose your focus, but Michaels is sharp enough to avoid that pitfall, knowing that all her hard work is valuable and unique enough to not fall by the wayside due to inattention on her part.

This is how she describes her work: "I create highly individualized pieces that are elegant, fluid, sophisticated and organic by fusing my own aesthetics with indigenous and European perspectives. In the detail of every garment, from hand-painted silk feathers and meshed leather to textures that echo the natural world, I evoke my own history and culture as part of a larger timeless narrative. Each design tells a story. Just as a river is pierced by a tree branch, time is momentarily anchored within the garment. Each piece created is worn and continues to create fresh new meanings into the future. Every person brings his or her own sense of self into the narrative and enriches the meaning. In this way, we might defy the consumerist sense of fashion as something we can put on, take off and casually cast aside."

Widely traveled and well-educated, Michael's creates "bold, hip designs, each with a quality of timeless elegance, by blending her heritage with the inspiration she draws from the ever-changing world around her."

According to her artist statement, she "grew up surrounded by the richness of her culture's art and traditions. She studied at the Institute of American Indian Art and the Chicago Art Institute, and has lived and worked in New York and Venice, Italy. As an up-and- coming designer, she understands that tradition and modernity combine to move forward the dynamic and creative cultures of Native peoples, and in fact all cultures."

She lives and works in Taos, where, in her studio, she produces custom-tailored avant-garde fashions, high-end limited edition apparel, and ready-to-wear lines for men and women -- as well as surface designs, including fabric for interiors.

For more on her work, visit online

Copyright 2010 The Santa Fe New Mexican

[for original article, go here]