August 30, 2010

Santa Fe Indian Market 2010: Part 2 Wheelwright Art-for-Wear Showcase

On Friday, August 20, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian hosted their annual benefit auction during the Santa Fe Indian Market.

Proceeds from the fundraiser support museum operations and allow the Wheelwright to remain open daily and free to the public.

During the auction preview, potential bidders could also view the Art-for-Wear Designer Showcase, which featured Native couture by top designers.

Back by popular demand, this year's showcase spotlighted Patricia Michaels, Pilar Agoyo, Penny Singer, Dorothy Grant, Teri Greeves, Margaret Roach Wheeler, and TahNibaa Naat'aanii.

I attended the event with my friend Sherry Farrell Racette, and we caught up with designers TahNibaa and Pilar, and volunteers Eslee and Yara.

Here's some pictures from the event!

(Dorothy Grant)

(Margaret Roach Wheeler)

(Dorothy Grant)

(Patricia Michaels)

(Patricia Michaels)

(Patricia Michaels)

(TahNibaa Naat'aanii)

(Terri Greeves)

(Penny Singer purple butterfly vest)

(TahNibaa Naat'aanii scarves)

(Pilar Agoyo pillows)

(Pilar Agoyo t-shirts)

For other posts about Indian Market, click here to read Santa Fe Indian Market 2010: Part I.

August 29, 2010

Event seen as a step toward improving race relations in South Dakota

Event seen as a step toward improving race relations in South Dakota
Jomay Steen, Rapid City Journal staff
Posted: Sunday, August 29, 2010

Madison Beyer of Whitewood was enthralled Saturday by the Red Spirit Fashion Show at the 2010 Central States Fair.

Native American fashion designers Joy Lynn Parton, Mildred Carpenter and Danita Strawberri had brought selections of their clothing lines to the Knology Stage for a 20-minute fashion show as Native models in contemporary clothing took a walk on the catwalk to the beat of a Rapid City drum group.

“It’s pretty cool,” Madison said of the style show.

“It’s very interesting to watch these girls model. They’re doing such a good job,” De De Ghere of Rapid City said.

Ghere and her grandniece, Beyer, were part of the audience at Central States Fair’s Day of Unity, a day recognizing Native American and multi-cultural relations.

Tim Giago, a member of the 2010 Unity Committee and publisher of the Native Sun News, said the good news was that Unity Day, which was held for the first time Saturday, will return next year to the Central States Fair.

“Next year, I hope to see 24 to 40 booths on display out there,” he said of the grassy courtyard outside of the Fine Arts, exhibits and horticultural buildings.

Giago said he was grateful to Ron Jeffries, general manager of the fair, and Dixie Holy Eagle, who organized the mini-powwow, artists’ booths and fashion show for the day’s presentations.

“Next year, we’re hoping to have all the events in one area,” he said.

Twenty years ago, Giago worked with the late Gov. George Mickelson to create the Year of Reconciliation. It was a step in a process of addressing race relations in South Dakota. While Giago said he was disappointed with the results of that effort, he sees the Year of Unity as a way of improving racial relations by involving businesses and chambers of commerce from throughout the state.

“It is going to work out in so many different ways,” he said.

Sue Ghere-Garofalo of Rapid City said the fair’s Unity Day was a good idea when it comes to bridging race relations.

“We all need to be on the same page, and we don’t need to live under so much tension. If there were more things like this, the racial tension would really calm down in town,” she said.

Chris Whiting of Pine Ridge brought his Native American crafts, jewelry and star quilts to Unity Day. Whiting talked to people throughout the day about his art, military service and business.

He said that he has experienced racial problems in Rapid City, but also understands that the races need to understand one another.

“We need to stand together as one people,” he said.

Unity events may be the one way to introduce cross-cultural dialogues, where people can speak honestly and directly to each other, Whiting said.

“The people who organized Unity Day, they should know this is big,” he said.

Candice Estes and Mike Lammers of Wakeya Crafts were at the fair to show their support for the event. Estes received two Reconciliation Awards 20 years ago as an advocate for racial equality.

She recalls the Year of Reconciliation and what Mickelson did for the state and race relations. The Year of Unity is not as big or as evolved as Mickelson’s program, Estes said, “but it’s a start. I wish they could do more.”

Estes said that during the reconciliation years, Rapid City’s Chamber of Commerce, the South Dakota Department Health and Human Services and the Rapid City Journal had Native American advisory boards that met regularly.

“People wanted to get our input. But the advisory boards have all fallen by the wayside,” she said. “I think Governor Rounds has the right idea, but he has to put more effort and opportunity into it.”

Tom Yellow and his wife, Carmen Yellow Horse, of Red Shirt talked Saturday with about 40 people, including some who never had a discussion with a Native American before.

“Unity is getting together and socializing like this,” Carmen Yellow Horse said.

“We treat them with respect and they treat us with respect. They sometimes have an image of what Indians are because of what they see downtown,” Tom Yellow added.

Carmen Yellow Horse said events like Saturday’s are important if race relations are to improve in South Dakota.

“They meet us, and we’re interested in who they are, and they’re interested in us. We start a conversation,” she said.

Contact Jomay Steen at 394-8418 or

August 28, 2010

Ralph Lauren Vintage Native American exhibition

If you happen to find yourself in Tokyo, jont on over to the Monaco Grand Gallery to view the Ralph Lauren Vintage Native American exhibition. The exhibition features Ralph Lauren's collections inspired by American Indian motifs and designs. I'm not aware of any other exhibit to look at his Native collections - so it should be interesting to see all of these examples in one setting. Lauren is well-known for his 'Americana' gear, and his Polo products embraced an idealized aspect of the American cultural experience.

His Santa-Fe collection was added to the brand in 1981, providing Navajo-inspired designs that were a global success, and he has probably done more than any other designer to romanticize the Southwest.

The exhibition will take place at the Monaco Grand Gallery and opened on August 27th, 2010.

Monaco Grand Gallery
36-4 Toyodabiru udagawachou
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

August 27, 2010

Symposium | The Urban Catwalk: Fashion and Street Culture

Check out this upcoming symposium happening at Yale Universty!:

The Urban Catwalk: Fashion and Street Culture
APRIL 23 2011 | Yale University | New Haven, Connecticut
300 word abstracts and bios due by: October 15th, 2010
Please email all questions and abstracts to Madison Moore,

What is street style, and what is the relationship between style, “the street,” and popular culture? How have the Internet, digital cameras and other technologies impacted how we understand the way we dress? How old is street style, and why do so many people care about the way other people dress? In what ways does street style engage with broader issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality?

The Urban Catwalk: Fashion and Street Culture, a one-day symposium at Yale University, aims to investigate and openly discuss the relationships between street style and identity. We are interested in papers that approach street style from a contemporary lens, but also encourage papers with more of an historical perspective.

Every character in a work of fiction tells a story, and more often than not, the clothes they wear are as crucial to their personalities and interests as to their internal development in the plot. Whether high end or mass market, fashion is a daily performance of identities and subjectivities. Street fashion tells a personal narrative about one’s dreams, fantasies, fears and struggles. From Marie Antoinette to Lady Gaga, and from Napoleon Bonaparte to Prince, fashion is used as an instrument of rebellion and commentary on social norms.

The goal of The Urban Catwalk is to show not only how vital fashion is to our daily lives, but to also demonstrate how it impacts the way we understand the cities and neighborhoods we live in. Skinny jeans and Cuban heels are all the rage in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but it’s Khakis and dress shirts on the Upper East Side. In this way, The Urban Catwalk will contextualize and historicize street fashions within the broader realm of popular culture and the urban experience.

Over the course of a single day, The Urban Catwalk will partner 20 minute academic presentations from a range of disciplines. We are committed to a conference that blends the intellectual with an ear to the ground. In this way, we will hold a panel discussion with editors from a number of major fashion publications about how they understand the intellectual work street style does. We close the conference with a special street style fashion show at Artspace Gallery in Downtown New Haven, where real-people models will showcase their street style.

We solicit rigorous, 20-minute presentations treating various aspects of street fashion.

Topics may include:

- Street style and Contemporary art
- Dandies
- The flaneur
- Style blogs and the Internet
- Urban versus suburban style
- Hipsters and neo-bohemia
- Goth, punk, and skate culture
- Street style and hip hop culture
- Fashion magazines and the street
- Male androgyny; men in high heels
- Street style in media
- How to figure out a style persona; rules and boundaries
- Lady Gaga, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Andre J., and other pop icons
- Japanese street fashion
- Street style in literature
- LGBTQ identity and street style
- Models
- Street style in the 19th century
- Fashion designers
- Ready-to-wear
- Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, and trend spotters
- Vogueing, ball culture
- Sex and the City and street style

For more information, visit

Back to Fashion School with Santa Fe's Top Student Designers

The latest issue of Southwest Flair magazine features Santa Fe Community College Fashion Design on the cover, and includes designs by Lynne Kudus, Rachael Maestas and Consuelo Pascual (Navajo/Maya).

I had the great pleasure of attending the fashion shoot, which was shot by photographer Jake Goldbogen at various locations throughout the Santa Fe Community College campus - including a classroom, library, and the planetarium. Click here to read the article about the student designers: Back to Fashion School with Santa Fe's Top Student Designers.

The September issue is now online and is their biggest issue to date - with many articles on fashion, travel, the arts, yoga, cuisine and more.

Pascual also has a spankin' new website.

Props to Southwest Flair for consistently featuring Native American fashion desginers. Check out their back issues online here.

August 26, 2010

Native designers are making their mark on the runway

Check it out~! An article in New Mexico Business Weekly by Megan Kamerick!:

Native designers are making their mark on the runway
Fashioning an aesthetic
New Mexico Business Weekly - by Megan Kamerick NMBW Staff

Penny Singer is settling in for the duration. The mini-fridge is stocked, her studio is meticulously organized and the radio is going.

It’s 10 days before the Santa Fe Indian Market. Singer, who is Diné, is one of hundreds of artists prepping for one of the most prestigious North American indigenous art shows in the country.

Singer is among a group of American Indian designers whose influence is growing in the mainstream fashion world. She anticipates selling all the jackets, bags and shirts in her small Albuquerque studio at the market, even in the recession, because of her loyal client base. Singer incorporates images of corn stalks, mountains and goats onto her textiles of velvet, wool and cotton.

“I’m bringing Native clothing into a contemporary market to where it’s worn, where it’s wearable art,” she said.

Interest in indigenous design manifests itself regularly on the world’s fashion runways, but American Indian designers are doing more these days than inspiring the Ralph Laurens of the world. They are carving out reputations with styles drawn from their own traditions and larger cultural influences.

At least three Native designers participated in New York Fashion Week in 2009: Dorothy Grant (Haida), Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo) and Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo). Ortiz is also collaborating with mainstream fashion mogul Donna Karan. He will launch a carpet line called Indigenous Imprints this fall focusing on high-end and boutique hotel clients.

It’s part of a huge transition taking place in American Indian art, said Shelby Tisdale, who curated two Native Couture shows at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe last year. But the definition of “Native art” is always evolving, she added.

Storytelling with clothing
Fashion is a form of communication, said Jessica Metcalfe, and American Indian designers are continuing to tell their stories.

Metcalfe is an academic whose blog, Beyond Buckskin, explores American Indian fashion design.

“It’s also an awesome way of doing cross-cultural education, because people love to go to fashion shows,” she added.

The interest in American Indian design probably started at first contact with the Europeans, she said. But many mark the 1940s as the beginning of contemporary American Indian fashion. Couturiers including Lloyd Kiva New, who opened a boutique in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1946, began designing clothing for regional and national markets.

New helped found the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, where many designers studied. Teachers like Kimberley “Wendy” Ponca (Osage) encouraged students to experiment with different fabrics and designs, Tisdale said.

That’s where Pilar Agoyo discovered textiles. Agoyo (Ohkay Owingeh/Cochiti/Kewa pueblos) is a regular at the Indian Market clothing contest. She calls her style “rock goth punk and a little risqué.” Many of her works feature leather and vinyl.

Agoyo was raised in a family of pottery artists, and some of her designs are reminiscent of pottery. Then again, some are just fun, like the dress she made out of Pokemon cards.

Metcalfe speaks enthusiastically about a dress with huge silver wings that Agoyo had in a show earlier this year. Her work sells for between $60 and $2,000.

“It’s more art-to-wear than fashion,” Agoyo said. “Fabric is like clay. It has its own mind and will do what it wants to do, and sometimes it doesn’t want to be a shirt.”

Her primary income comes from her costuming for films, freeing up her wilder impulses for her own designs. Her day job also gives her ideas, such as the line of T-shirts she unveiled earlier this year after making T-shirts for Megan Fox’s character in the film “Passion Play.”

Reaching the masses
The jewelry of the Tsosie-Gaussoin family has long been featured on fashion runways, but the artists are now branching into clothing design. Their “Axiom” show, opening at the Poeh Museum before Indian Market, will feature several dresses designed by brothers Wayne Nez and David and their sister, Tazbah.

David said they wanted to better accentuate their very nontraditional jewelry, such as a necklace made of steel pipe.

“I guess that’s the cool thing about being a crossover fashion designer,” David said. “We’re used to working with metal and different materials, and we don’t limit ourselves.”

That freedom is what drew Patricia Michaels to fashion design. She uses natural fibers, especially silk, to express a passion for nature.

“I try to make my garments very fluid and flowing and gentle, so the more compassionate part of our culture is very much alive in the cut,” she said. “I try to make each garment have a story behind it, so they actually are healing to give the person strength and a sense of calmness and beauty inside the garment.”

Michaels has couture pieces that can cost as much as $10,000. But the recession has prompted her to do more accessories, like scarves, that are more likely to sell when people have less to spend.

Virgil Ortiz is among the most sought-after American Indian designers these days. His stated goal is to “take Native fashion to the next level,” and many say that’s exactly what he’s doing.

“He pushes the envelope and is always reinventing himself,” said Jamie Way of Shiprock Santa Fe gallery, which will host an opening for Ortiz’s new pottery work, based on the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, just before Indian Market.

Through his line, Indigene, Ortiz creates luxury handbags, accessories, cashmere, T-shirts and outerwear with his signature designs of water, sun, wild spinach and what he calls “secret writing.” Like Agoyo, he is launching a line of T-shirts.

Metcalfe sees that as part of artists’ desire to expand price points so more people, particularly American Indians, can buy their designs.

If Isaac Mizrahi can create lines for Target, are Native or indigenous designers far behind?

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Metcalfe said. “I think it’s going to happen, and when it happens, I will be really curious to see how people will react to it. Will they see it as cool, or as selling out?”

August 25, 2010

First Nations Fashion: Denise Williams

First Nations Fashion
Denise Williams specializes in designs for her people -- and they're buying
By Sarah Petrescu, Times Colonist

As Denise Williams flips through her photo album of elated brides, smiling graduates and proud women wearing her designs, I tell her she could as easily be looking at her creations in a glossy, high-fashion magazine.

"Well-made clothing our people can feel pride in has always been my goal," she tells me at her Esquimalt home and studio. Williams's House of Winchee contemporary clothing line incorporates West Coast aboriginal designs. "I don't believe it has to be huge to be a success."

Regardless, the 38-year-old's popularity has surpassed her resources, and she finds herself at a crossroads.

"I've become so busy I can't keep up. I have to get into manufacturing," says Williams, whose 18-year-old business has flourished by word of mouth. "I have faithful clients and even, you could say, a little following."

Williams knew she wanted to be a fashion designer from the time she took a sewing class in the eighth grade in Campbell River. She comes from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in the Tofino area.

"I remember looking through a magazine and seeing a stereotypical representation of native American culture -- braids and feathers," she says. "Then in a Canadian magazine I saw a picture of [designer] Dorothy Grant's work. Her stuff was more museum quality but it showed that an interpretation could be classy and not exploitive."

Williams held that thought when she entered fashion design school at Kwantlen College at the age of 18, making aboriginal-themed fashion part of her graduating line.

The name House of Winchee pays homage to fashion design and to family heritage.

Winchee is her father's village on Kennedy Lake, traditionally used for fishing.

"It's also easy to pronounce," she grins.

Williams worked in fashion retail for many years while building her business, travelling to aboriginal trade shows and events. After struggling through a few slow years, she has found herself barely able to keep up with increasing orders.

"It's hard for one person," says the lone seamstress and designer. "But so is finding help."

Williams's reputation led to an invitation as a featured local designer at the Global Fashion Show and Fundraiser for the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Society this Sunday.

"They wanted a First Nations designer and my name came up," says Williams, happy to be part of the multicultural-themed fashion show. "But I had to ask about the models. My clothes are not just for skinny girls."

The House of Winchee segment is sure to be a highlight. Williams's designs are classic, slightly conservative, flattering and meticulously tailored. They are also fairly priced.

Her incorporation of appliquéd aboriginal elements is subtle and striking: A hummingbird along the torso curve of a little black dress, a cascade of black butterflies along a bold red gown, a pencil-skirt edged to resemble a traditional button blanket or red eagles against a black fitted jacket.

"We're so excited to have her," organizer Robin Adams tells me, adding the show will also feature fashions from Mexico, Romania, Africa and India, and a 91-year-old model wearing traditional garb from Norway.

While Williams acknowledges the esthetic value of her designs she emphasizes their importance as a symbol of culture.

"I tell people, 'It's not regalia,' " she says. "But these designs are really meaningful to our people. To me, they're meant to last and be passed down as heirlooms. This is not disposable fashion."

Williams tells me about a friend who promised her daughter one of her dresses if she graduated high school. The girl succeeded and was voted best-dressed at Stelly's Secondary School among fellow students with much pricier wares.

"Her dress was white with a black raven representing her mom's family and a black eagle representing her dad's family. She was so happy," Williams says.

She also takes great pleasure in the accomplished women and men who are her fans.

"My main customers are professional indigenous women," she says. "I believe in presenting our women at their best and they are often the kind of people I love to be around -- talking politics, child welfare, land issues, culture."

Williams is also encouraged by non-aboriginal people donning her wares.

"I sell mostly to First Nations clients, but others who have bought my clothes tend to have a respect and admiration for the culture. So that's a good thing," she says.

House of Winchee has great potential to become a sensation if it expands into manufacturing Williams's designs.

There are very few authentic aboriginal designers in Canada. Vancouver-based Dorothy Grant is famous for her Haida-patterned gowns and jackets. One of the edgiest indigenous designers is Ontario's Angela DeMontigny, who incorporates her Cree-Chippewa-Metis culture with sexy leatherwork, beading and hand-painting. Some companies have commissioned aboriginal artists for special lines, such as Chloe Angus, who hired Haida artist Clarence Mills to design a wrap, and Claudia Alan, who hired artist Corinne Hunt to design sunglasses and spectacle frames.

Several of these designers gained recognition during the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver. As did Vancouver Island's Cowichan sweater -- which caused controversy when authentic sweaters were overlooked for mass-produced versions in the official clothing line.

Speaking of sweaters, Cowichan artist Robert Sam is another local designer who takes a contemporary spin on tradition with bold-coloured wool and animal imagery on his made-to-order knitted vests and sweaters.

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

August 24, 2010

Santa Fe Indian Market 2010: Part I

(The artists of Postcommodity in front of their installation piece, which was, arguably, the most photographed piece of art during the Santa Fe Indian Market 2010)

Here we go!

Well, first things first -
I recently found out that I was awarded a University of New Mexico postdoc fellowship - which meant that I could move back to the land of enchantment. I love NM, almost as much as I love North Dakota. And right now, I really love being able to claim North Dakota AND New Mexico as my home.

As part of my 'big move' back down to New Mexi, I left ND last Monday and did practically the entire 1300 mile drive before I decided that I was lazy and grabbed a hotel room just a few hours from Santa Fe.

I arrived in Santa Fe on Tuesday, the day before the events of Indian Market were about to kick off. On Wednesday, I attended the Postcommodity reception for It Wasn’t the Dream of Golden Cities at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, and then the Institute of American Indian Arts Gala: "The '80s: A Totally Rad Revolution" (1980s themed!). The Postcommodity crew speaks rather eloquently about their work, and you can read more about this particular installation on their website.

Lara Evans has been covering Postcommodity's MoCNA installation on her blog, and she snapped this picture of me with my long-time friend Amber-Dawn Bear Robe, who is currently the Director of the Urban Shaman Gallery in Winnipeg. We are standing in front of the multimedia installation P’oe iwe navi ûnp’oe dînmuu (My Blood is in the Water). The graffiti in the background was done sometime the night before by an anonymous artist.

Amber-Dawn and I were all dressed up in our 1980s Gala gear. Both the president of IAIA, Dr. Bob Martin, and the president of the student government, Mylan Tootoosis, said that the Gala was a success and raised thousands of dollars for future IAIA student scholarships. In fact, they raised the most this year than any other year.

I spent Thursday in meetings during the day, then I attended the MoCNA exhibit openings where I caught up with artists Doug Miles, Frank Buffalo Hyde, Yatika Fields, Thomas Marcus, Rose Simpson, Razelle Benally, Chris Eyre, Sherry Farrell Racette, Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Lara Evans, Erica Lord, the Postcommodity artists, Joanna Big Feather, and many many many others. MoCNA's ability to draw the best of the best when it comes to art exhibits and discussion panels made it our favorite hang-out spot during Market.

Traffic in Santa Fe was insane that day, and so I didn't make it out to the Tsosie Gaussoin's Axiom fashion and jewelry show at the Poeh Museum (which was located outside of town), but, luckily, Lara and Erica hopped onto their scooter (in skirts!) and were able to make it to the opening. They shared these wonderful images with me:

All of this happened before Market even 'officially' started - and I have much more to post! Next up will be a breakdown of the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday events...

The Path, The Journey

It has been one year since I started this blog. Much has happened in the mean time - the biggest being my graduation from the U of A and earning my PhD. Over 100 posts later, I wanted to return to the beginning and repost my first-ever blog entry. Here it is:

While flipping through Native Peoples magazine one day in 2003, I came across a photo spread of contemporary Native high fashion. It intrigued me how the designers incorporated elements from their cultures’ traditional art forms into high fashion. Who were these designers, how did they break into the competitive world of high fashion, and how did they do it on their own culturally specific terms?

These questions led to my 2006 Master’s thesis, which explored the world of Native high fashion and wearable art, and focused on the life and artwork of Chickasaw/Choctaw weaver Margaret Roach Wheeler and the Squamish designer Pamela Baker. Through them, I investigated several aspects of Native high fashion, including the use of clothing as a communicator, clothing as a means of perpetuating aspects of Native cultures, and the use of clothing in honoring and expressing status and identity. The purpose of my dissertation is to build on my Master’s research and to document the Native fashion movement and the evolution of Native American dress as fashion.

Through this blog I hope to share excerpts from my thesis, thoughts from my dissertation, information about contemporary Indigenous fashion and its designers, and updates on Native fashion events. Also through this blog, I hope to explore issues in Native fashion including cultural misappropriation, differing concepts of beauty, and deconstructing the “model” body image.

The genesis of this blog came about from four sources: First, I have been thinking about how I can make my research and writing more accessible to a broader audience. For the most part, dissertations are inaccessible to the average person. Second, I was working as a consultant and co-curator with Shelby Tisdale at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on their exhibit Native Couture II: Innovation and Style when Shelby suggested the title of the exhibit be Beyond Buckskin (the name was scrapped, and Innovation and Style was the adopted title). Beyond Buckskin is an apt title - it deconstructs stereotypes, and suggests looking at the topic of contemporary customary clothing design from a new perspective, so I wanted to use this title for this blog. Third, one of my best friends, Mercedes, introduced me to the world of blog-o-fun via Tumblr, where I started a Beyond Buckskin blog, but wanted to select another venue that would be more searchable. Then, one of my routine online searches for the latest in Native fashion led me to the blog site of Lisa Charleyboy. Her blog on 'Urban Native Girl Stuff' was inspiring. I wanted to do something that would combine these sources of inspiration into an accessible blog, which also confronted and discussed contemporary issues from a fresh angle.

August 22, 2010

Threads of Color

Threads of Color is a non-profit organization founded in order to raise scholarships for fashion and business students studying at LIM College in New York.

Among the Threads of Color principals is a desire to celebrate “diversity” within the United States fashion industry.

Many of our country’s best and most exciting designers were born outside of the US, or were born here but have strong ties to their cultural heritage. Some of these designers are very well known, while others exist under the mainstream media radar. Often, they must to work twice as hard to glean half as much. Luckily their tenacity and talent usually pays off.

Thanks to high profile supporters such as First Lady Michelle Obama, designers of diversity are at the forefront of the changing face of fashion. She has made a concerted effort to wear and promote the work of Isabelle Toledo (Cuban American), Jason Wu (Chinese American), and Tracy Reese (African American). Individuals in the industry have taken note of this movement towards diversity and inclusion and are keeping an open eye.

Threads of Color plans to raise money for scholarships by holding a fashion shown in September during the United Nations Word Summit. The project is shaping up to be an unprecedented and exciting event.

Designers from over twenty-five countries and four continents have already committed to participating in the event thus far, and they include Native American designer Patricia Michaels of Water Lilly Designs.

To maximize the amount of scholarship funds, everyone connected to the Threads of Color project is donating their time and services.

Read more about Threads of Color at their website: (Click here to read the original article)

(Patricia Michaels' Bark Dress)

(Fashion designs by Patricia Michaels for NY Fashion Week 2010)

August 20, 2010

2010 He Sapa Style Show

The He Sapa Style Show is proud to announce their annual show will be held October 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm at the LaCroix Hall on Fine Arts Avenue.

Held in conjunction with the annual Black Hills Powwow during the second weekend in October in Rapid City, South Dakota, the style show features beautiful Native young people modeling exquisite works of Native designers from the Great Plains.

The He Sapa Style Show serves to professionally showcase the talents and beauty of American Indian models and American Indian designers of clothing, accessories and footwear.

American Indian culture-inspired clothing, accessories and footwear, all designed and handcrafted by American Indian artisans who practice the ancient American Indian art and craft of apparel making.

The 2010 Featured Designers include Jackie Bird, Darla Brown, Mildred Carpenter, and Jennifer Carter.

Awards will be given for Designer of the Year ($500), 2nd Place ($250), and 3rd Place ($100).

Show organizers are currently looking for 2010 Models, and information about the Casting Call will be posted on their website soon, but they can be contacted on Facebook on their He Sapa Style Show fan page.

They also have T-Shirts for Sale -
$15 a shirt or 2 for $25
$4.95 shipping & handling
To order, please email:

August 18, 2010

Miss Aussie Costume Controversy

The unveiling of the Miss Australia national costume for the Miss Universe pageant has caused quite a buzz - some calling it tacky, others calling it perfectly Australian. The 'national costume' part of the pageant is an important moment when the audience sees each contest for the first time representing their country. The national costume is meant to reflect the contestant's country and to display that country's unique character. What do you think of the outfit: fashion fail, or fashion fabulous?

Nation Barfs Over Miss Aussie Costume
One critic calls it 'a national joke,' another 'a travesty'
By Emily Rauhala| Posted Jul 30, 2010

The first problem: High-heeled Uggs. The second: Everything else. The outfit designed to represent Australia at next month's Miss Universe competition in Las Vegas is being blasted as "a travesty" and "a national joke," reports the Telegraph. The ensemble combines Ugg heels with a one-piece bathing suit, a multi-colored flamenco-inspired skirt, and a lamb's wool shrug. The skirt "looks like it was made from discount fabric bin scraps," says one fashion editor.

Miss Universe hopeful Jesinta Campbell, 18, defended the costume. "An Aboriginal artist hand-painted my swimsuit, which is the base of the outfit, which is very special," she says, adding that the bulky shrug is "very Australian — very Outback." The overall look, she says, is "incredible." Incredible, eh?

Miss Australia's fashion: What's all the fuss about?
Hilary Alexander, the Telegraph's Fashion Director, sees the positives in Miss Australia's controversial attire.

Starve the lizards! The Aussies have got themselves into a real tizzy over the new Miss Australia costume. Now, as a Kiwi - or one from Australia’s market garden - as our neighbours often refer to New Zealand, I should be busting a gut over the rather bizarre outfit which seems to be about as popular as a dingo’s breakfast, Down Under.

But I have to confess, I rather like it. I agree the skirt is ‘iffy’, a bit of a ‘bitzer’ and looks as if it would be more at home in a bar in San Fernando rather than Sinny. But the sheepskin shrug is bang on trend, the Ugg boots are as quintessentially Australian as Aussie Rules, and having the ‘togs’ hand-painted by an Aboriginal artist is a master-stroke.

Don’t get your knickers in a knot, all you Bruces and Sheilas. It’s only fashion. Just be thankful she doesn’t look as camp as a row of tents.

[Note: the pageant will be held Aug 23 in Las Vegas.

To view other National Costumes, click here.

Click here for more about controversies with national costumes]

August 16, 2010

Who Owns, Controls Indigenous Designs?

Hey folks! Last week I spoke with Megan Kamerick from New Mexico Business Weekly about Native fashion - and she just published her article, "Who owns, controls indigenous designs?" -
Check it out online, here's the teaser:

One story that circulates in the American Indian fashion design world involves a famous designer visiting the Institute of American Indian Arts in the 1990s and raving over some students’ creations.

The idea was collaboration, but several months later, the creations showed up on the fashion runways under the famous designer’s name.

Carole Sandoval from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, co-chair of the clothing contest at Santa Fe Indian Market, recalls her grandmother selling a traditional dress to someone from a major department store, and seeing something very similar several months later in the store’s collection.

But Sandoval said her grandmother was flattered rather than angry.

[to read more, click here]

August 14, 2010

Integrating History and Fashion: an interview with Dorothy Grant

Integrating History and Fashion: an interview with Dorothy Grant
By Brittany Luby, Graduate Student at the University of British Columbia/First Nations House of Learning

I first met Dorothy Grant in Vancouver’s Pan Pacific Hotel. I was so nervous – hardly 20 years of age and working the front desk for a high profile business event. I watched Dorothy – then unknown – walk towards me, her coat tails swaying side-to-side with each step. She seemed to dance across the corridor, her coat an able partner. When she reached the desk, I smiled and greeted the raven embroidered onto her collar.

“I like your jacket,” I said.

“Thank you. Dorothy Grant.”

I scanned the table for her name tag. And there it was, “Dorothy Grant of Dorothy Grant Studio.”

“What do you do?” I asked.

“I’m a fashion designer.”

(Feastwear 1994, Haida Wedding Gown)

I learned that Dorothy Grant gained international recognition for Feastwear, a line sported by public figures like Robin Williams, David Suzuki, and Lieutenant Governor Iona Campanella. My excitement grew when I discovered that Dorothy Grant returned to her roots – to Haida myth and histories – to design garments now. Grant excited my inner fashionista – the Chanel-obsessed historian-in-training who ordered both clothing and library books online.

Three years later, I would meet Dorothy Grant again – this time, in her studio on West 6th Avenue in Vancouver, BC. I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know how (and why) Dorothy, of Haida and Tlingit ancestry, united fashion and Indigenous history. And, I had Active History to offer. Over a cup of green tea, here’s what I learned about the intersections of history and haute couture:

LUBY: What inspired you to use fashion – to use garments as a medium – for sharing Haida art, Haida histories?

GRANT: Haida art has a look of almost universality to it. It has to do with the “Innovation” idea – that art should not be stagnant, but progressive, no matter what the culture. As for Haida people, we have always looked for new mediums to convey Haida Art. This way, we keep ownership of it and no one else can say they did that first. Think of fashion as a bridge between cultures. It’s a way for people of nations –

LUBY: Of different nations?

GRANT: Yes – of nations to understand the art in fashion, rather than a totem pole. It becomes more communal.

LUBY: How do you decide which stories or symbols to share?

GRANT: Sometimes my garments tell a story from really what inspires me to create something. And, sometimes its just esthetics of a design – that I want to put Haida art onto a particular classic style. Like art, fashion should not be stagnant, but be constantly moving to convey a contemporary culture.

LUBY: OK. Contemporary culture. Dorothy, your work has been displayed at museums across North America from the Smithsonian to Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology. Do you have any fears surrounding museum displays? For example, the conflation of current fashion with Indigenous pasts by your viewers?

GRANT: No, I don’t fear that at all! I think to be collected by museums is a huge honour. Most artists or designers have to die before they are recognized that way! I think it –

LUBY: Museum displays –

GRANT: communicates that innovation that I talk about to the general public and that is good thing.

LUBY: Alright. So, museum displays: a good thing and fantastic exposure. But, what sort of history do you want museum visitors to walk away with? They see your pieces and think – what?

(Dorothy and models, Feastwear 2010)

GRANT: That it’s more about progression of Haida people. They first must see the evolution of Haida art and its people and what we have evolved from. For instance, from about 1850 we were nearly extinct from diseases like small pox. Our population was decimated by 90 % from contact. And there’s so much that can be said for the period between then and now, our contemporary culture. It’s like colonialism, social oppression, and how we have overcome that. Haida people refuse to be victims. Again, it’s about claiming what is rightfully ours.

“And, the history of my people is one of national interest in that we have always been progressive in politics, in art, in language, the protection of our territories (land and water rights). The interest in Haida art is much sought after and carries a lot of weight in the Native art arena. To see my work in museums is a lot about that progression, and evolution. As one collector has said “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Sweet and true.

LUBY: I love that you see museum displays as a statement of evolution. Fashion as a piece de resistance. Now, to a set question: Flare and Toronto’s Globe and Mail have both claimed your garments are a site of intersection. They are a creative space where fashion meets Haida art, myth, history. How do you feel about this claim? And, is this the legacy you’d like to leave?

GRANT: This is true! Yes, this is what I set out to do as part of an earlier vision from 1989, but it still carries forward today.

“Nothing ever remains the same – as for the vision, it still is the same. However, what is changed is the Legacy of Dorothy Grant Vision. I believe it is the impact of my work on other First Nations communities and individuals that matters. In terms of starting something that others can try to emulate or take inspiration from to do their own thing in their own cultural esthetic. This has been extremely – it’s impacted First Nations communities as far away as New Zealand, Maoris. I think that is what I am inspired to do.

“When I am selling to people in shows, in art markets, there is this feeling of pride from my clients that they feel they have arrived, that they are buying something very special. They aspire to buy for themselves or as gifts and they deliver it with pride. This is the most gratifying for me.

“If I have helped to elevate the way a person feels about themselves in my clothing, then I have done my job well.

LUBY: Wow. Dorothy, thank you so much for your time. As a First Nations student, I can say that you’re a real role model for me. A successful business woman and connected to your roots. I hope for as much – to move forward and be true to myself and my history. Meegwetch.

And, with that, I packed away my lap top, savoured the last sip of my tea, and quickly checked the price on Dorothy’s new ribbon scarves. I left an inspired, well-dressed historian-to-be with a story.

August 13, 2010

Event | Central Navajo Fair, INC. Annual Fashion Show

If you can't make it out to the fashion events in Santa Fe during Indian Market, here's a fahsion show happening during the Central Navajo Fair:

Central Navajo Fair, INC. Annual Fashion Show
August 21 · 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Thunderbird Lodge, Chinle, AZ
Featuring fashion designs by Nizhoni Way Apparel, DKC*fx and Dessert Blossom Designs.

For more information about the show, visit Nizhoni Way Apparel's website.

August 12, 2010

Dorothy Grant Vancouver Olympics Fashion Show

Check out these videos of a fashion show featuring Dorothy Grant couture designs during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics -

(note: the videographer seems to be interested in knees and bellies, and misses some of the designs - but the videos offer a nice glimpse of the Vancouver show)

August 10, 2010

Haudenasaunee Shades

Native designers create one of a kind high fashion garments, but they also make less expensive 'off-the-rack' clothing and accessories, which sell for less yet also display a unique sense of creative design and conception (and make it so that their fashion designs are available to more people - the democracy of fashion!). For example, here are some Haudenasaunee shades by Tammy Beauvais - there seems to be no limits for these designers:

The sun is in full force, cover your eyes with our designer sunglasses, for male.

(One size, $40.00)

Click here to see this item on her online store.