Category Archives: Fashion

Beautiful Native Fashion Designs Still Remain in Display Cases

“In the world of fashion, elements of indigenous culture are reduced to the latest misappropriated trend called ‘tribal’. N. D. Henry, ICT

Acoma designer Loren Aragon’s Disney princess-inspired gown based on an Acoma olla pot. (Photo- National Museum of the American Indian)

Excerpt: … successful designers remain trapped in display cases, By Niya D. Henry, ICT

“Growing up on the Navajo reservation, television was my only resource to the outside, American world… Today, if you walk into any tribally-owned casino, in the midst of all that beautiful, modern architecture, there is always a section dedicated to cultural artifacts from the past. Similarly, if you are traveling in the Southwest, and you stop by a jewelry shop or dine-in at a local restaurant, you will see a mish-mash of indigenous culture on full display like some curated collection.  Attend any Coachella or Burning Man festival, and you will see this trend run amok via makeshift headdresses, leather fringes, and faux-feathered accessories –

Fortunately, a group of emerging indigenous designers is changing the way indigenous culture is represented on the runways of fashion week. Still, a bulk of their work is reserved for the vacant display case in some newly commissioned project.

In 2017, notable designers such as Project Runway alum Patricia Michaels (Taos), Bethany Yellowtail (Crow & Northern Cheyenne), Jared Yazzie (Diné), Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock) and Orlando Dugi (Diné), were part of a travelling exhibition called Native Fashion Now, which took up residence in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian – New York.  The exhibition featured contemporary works by indigenous designers ‘making their mark in today’s world of fashion.’ As groundbreaking as the exhibit was, it still encapsulated Native Fashion as relics.

Designer Loren Aragon

Fashion designer Loren Aragon created a couture dress for the Walt Disney Company using this traditional Acoma Pueblo pottery as inspiration.

This past summer, and fresh off his 2018 Designer of the Year win at Phoenix Fashion Week, Acoma designer Loren Aragon of the couture fashion brand ACONAV, was handpicked by the imagineers of Walt Disney World to design a Disney princess-inspired gown based off an Acoma olla pot pulled from the Smithsonian. The finished product was nothing short of breathtaking.

Acoma designer Loren Aragon’s Disney princess-inspired gown based on an Acoma olla pot from the Smithsonian. (Photo- ACONAV)

‘This project made me realize that there is support behind what I’ve been trying to push for, as far as representing Native Art, Native Fashion, and Native Culture by Native People. It gave me the confidence to speak to the ideas of us Natives being able to represent ourselves outside of our communities and outside of the usual Native-themed museums, galleries, casinos, et cetera,’  said Aragon. Still, Aragon had some reservations about the inadvertent limitations of museum-based projects. I strongly agree that we can’t let this be our limiting factor. The more people see our work in the modern world, the more visible and existent we are to the world.”

Category: Culture, Fashion

New Look for Fall: Native Wearable Art

Two up-and-coming Southwest designers are releasing highly anticipated new looks this fall.Though Loren Aragon (Acoma Pueblo) and Jared Yazzie (Diné) create fashions on opposite ends of the spectrum—beautifully-designed couture and issue-oriented streetwear, respectively—both designers look to tell the stories of their people through wearable art.” T. Walker, Native Peoples Magazine

loren-aragon-inmaricopa

loren-aragon-inmaricopa

Excerpt:  New Fall Looks from Indigenous Designers, By Tate Walker, Native Peoples Magazine

“Aragon and Yazzie were led to fashion in roundabout ways, and while they both create awe-inspiring clothing concepts, the importance of their work goes beyond style. Indeed, as the popularity of their work grows, the two have stepped into the sometimes stressful but important role of ensuring Native peoples are respected and represented accurately in an industry that often reduces Indigenous cultures to monolithic, tribal-inspired trends.

ACONAV

aconav-creator-loren-aragon-at-his-home-office-photo-by-tate-walker

aconav creator loren aragon at his home office. photo by tate walker

The bold, geometric strokes swirling across ACONAV gowns and dresses make them look like they belong in an art gallery next to priceless Acoma pottery.

Though it may seem Aragon has been creating women’s fashions for decades, the 36-year-old picked up his first needle just four years ago; he had worked as a mechanical engineer doing things like automotive testing and military applications for 13 years.

loren-aragon-designs

loren-aragon-designs

It was more of a wanting to reconnect with family, because I’ve seen my mother and aunts being seamstresses for most of their lives, so I thought I’d go back and learn some of that, says Aragon, who has always had a talent for making Acoma-style crafts, including museum-quality gourd work, jewelry and pottery.

Loren Aragon (Acoma Pueblo) will show his pottery-inspired couture fashions on runways during PLITZS New York City Fashion Week on Sept. 10 and at Phoenix Fashion Week Oct. 13-15.

OXDX (It’s pronounced: Oh-Ex-Dee-Ex. Not Ox Docks).

oxdx creator jared yazzie at his home office. photo by tate walker

oxdx creator jared yazzie at his home office. photo by tate walker

“OXDX stands for OverDose and pays homage to one of Jared Yazzie’s favorite punk rock bands, MxPx, which stands for Magnified Plaid. OXDX describes how we view the world and how we need to pull back and remember our culture and traditions, Yazzie says of his 7-year-old company, which officially launched as he gave away T-shirts to friends at his own birthday party.

Like the punk music he listens to as he works, what Yazzie does to create his T-shirts is nothing short of masterfully rebellious art. His design skill includes all the things you’d expect of a top-notch graphic artist, in addition to expert understanding of pop culture and its impact on Native identity and tribal issues.

design-by-oxdx

design-by-oxdx

People are experts at telling their own stories, and these days everyone’s story is so different, says Yazzie, adding that Natives need to be able to tell their own stories, whether through films, books or fashion, without outsiders trying to appropriate, steal or otherwise misrepresent hundreds of unique tribal cultures”

oxdx-at-www-powwows-com

oxdx-at-www-powwows-com

Jared Yazzie (Diné), known for creating streetwear that Indigenizes punk culture and doesn’t shy away from tough Native issues, will launch his 2016 fall lineup Sept. 17.

“I have bigger challenges for myself; I definitely want to do more with haute couture and have plans to show those designs in the future.”~ Loren Aragon~

“We’re in an age of collaboration…And that’s been awesome.” ~Jared Yazzie~

candletiff

Category: Fashion

The Fearless Fashion of Bethany Yellowtail!

“Bethany Yellowtail is a badass Northern Cheyenne and Crow woman, creator and clothing designer.  The maternal spirit she has is powerful—she has that wonderful spirit of creation—she makes some of the most amazing clothes I have ever seen.  Period.  Not “Native clothing”—but instead ridiculously beautiful clothing that is some of the hottest that I’ve ever seen that happens to be made by a Native women”. G. Ross ICTMN

A lovely fashion creation by Bethany Yellowtail.

A lovely fashion creation by Bethany Yellowtail.

Excerpt: Fearless Fashion Designer Bethany Yellowtail…Gyasi Ross, ICTMN

“She’s amazing.  A creator.  Someone who, within our communities, provides an incredible value as a person who clothes our communities. 

B. Yellowtail with model wearing one of her creations.

B. Yellowtail with model wearing one of her creations.

Historically the seamstresses were amongst the most important people of our communities because, what good would the warriors be without clothes that kept them warm?  They couldn’t fight!  What good are the hunters if their feet get cold?  They couldn’t hunt!

Beautiful dress by B.Yellowtail

Beautiful dress by B.Yellowtail

 

So recently when the brand KTZ made some clothes that closely emulated Bethany’s designs, my thought was, I get it.  Her work is gorgeous and powerful!  Why wouldn’t someone be attracted to her work? 

Men's fashion by Yellowtail

Men’s fashion by Yellowtail

It’s just like hip-hop—of course everyone of all ethnicities is going to want it.  Granted, it would be cool if KTZ reached out to Bethany and said, “Hey, I really dig your style. 

Fashion by B. Yellowtail. Photo-Thosh collins

Fashion by B. Yellowtail. Photo-Thosh collins

Maybe we can work together? Still, designers find something meaningful and necessary in Bethany’s (and other Native designers’) designs.  That means there’s a place for them to work together.”

Visit Bethany Yellowtail’s site here 

“I just want to do what’s inherent to me and do what my ancestors have always done: create beautiful, stunning, meaningful and purposeful wares. By utilizing authentic designs, traditional elements and combining them with my love for fashion, I simply want to create and express myself without anyone else defining who I am. I know who I am better than anyone else!”~Bethany Yellowtail~

Category: Fashion

‘Revenant’ Designer Creates Fashion Scholarship For Native Youth

“Costume designer [Jacqueline West ] has established a fashion design scholarship for Native American youth in partnership with The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, California… The Scholarship is open for entry now and will be awarded in early Fall 2016.” A. Thompson Indiewire

The Revenant - Costume Designer Jacqueline West -

The Revenant – Costume Designer Jacqueline West –

Excerpt: Oscar Contender Jacqueline West Creates Scholarship for Native American. Ann Thompson Indiewire

Oscar-nominated costume designer Jacqueline West and the Fashion Institute Of Design & Merchandising have created a scholarship for an outstanding Native American interested in the study of fashion or costume design… In order to encourage youth of Native descent to enter the world of costume design and to raise awareness of careers in the design arena from fashion to costume design for theatre and film, the Scholarship includes a visiting internship with West.

Coat created by West.

Coat created by West.

After a career as a fashion designer with her own label, sold in such department stores as Barney’s and Fred Siegel, West in the late 80’s started to create costumes for film. Since then her costume designs have been nominated for three Oscars, including ‘Quills’ (2001), ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ (2009) and finally, ‘The Revenant.’

Revenant's Forrest Goodluck.

Revenant’s Forrest Goodluck.

The scholarship is open to youths of Native American descent who are eligible to enter college in the fall of 2016. Applicants should send an essay of why they would like to win the scholarship along with up to five fashion/costume sketches to:

Jacqueline West
C/O Shirley Wilson Public Relations
FIDM/The Fashion Institute Of Design & Merchandising
919 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Sketches may be of fashions or costumes from any time period. All applications must be received by July 31, 2016. This fashion or costume design scholarship is valued at $35,000, including full tuition fees, books, and supplies; it does not include transportation, living expenses, or incidentals. The recipient of The Jacqueline West Scholarship will be announced in August 30, 2016  for matriculation in October 2016.  The winner’s sketches and fulfillment of other requirements will be judged by a panel including West and FIDM officials.”

“We are smack dab in the middle of a Native fashion renaissance…Native fashion increasingly permeates everyday life — across the internet, in stores, skate parks, runways, pretty much everywhere you go. Native Americans have always used clothing and personal adornment as key means for artistic expression and cultural survival.”~Karen Kramer~ curator of Native American art and culture, Peabody Essex Museum.

Category: Fashion

Alaskan Fashion: Fish-Skin Garments

“An Athabascan designer’s fish-skin garments push fashion forward in Alaska. Plus a mask carver designs fashion-statement pieces and another artist creates sealskin slippers, jackets and skirts.” J.B. Begaye,Native Peoples Magazine

A model sports shoe and shirt created by designer Joel Isaak (Athabascan).

A model sports shoes and shirt created by designer Joel Isaak (Athabascan).

Excerpt: Fashion Finds in Alaska… By J.B-Begaye Native Peoples

“Before Joel Isaak (Athabascan) learned to sew fish skin at an Anchorage Museum workshop, he grew up skinning the scaly creatures beginning at age 5. Usually the fish skin went to the dogs. Over time, Isaak realized the beauty of the fish scales, however, and felt they could be of better use. “What can I make out of it?” he recalls wondering back then.

Fish-skin sewing, a traditional art form, survives through exquisite garments like the ones Isaak makes, and it pushes Alaskan Native fashion forward. A jacket from a recent collection, for example, is made of halibut skin, which—like other fish dermis—makes for a thin leather-like material, the artist says.

High Heels Shoes by Joel Isaaks.

High Heels Shoes by Joel Isaaks.

And upon close inspection, it’s clear that high heels show off salmon scales. Working with fish skin is a craft that may have been on the brink of being lost, until something of a small revival emerged in recent years.

This jacket is made out of Halibut skin and Linen.Credit Joelisaak.com

This jacket is made out of Halibut skin and Linen.Credit Joelisaak.com

Even now, there may be fewer than 10 people in Alaska who know how to work with fish skin. That’s according to Trina Landlord, executive director of the Anchorage-based Alaska Native Arts Foundation. She says most artists who have taken up the art form, like Isaak, are self-taught. Throughout the past year, Isaak has kept the art alive through workshops.

Joel and friends prepare fish for art.Credit- akbizmagtiff

Joel and friends prepare fish for art.Credit- akbizmagtiff

Commercial industries for readily available fish skin exist around the world, but they do not exist in Alaska. Instead of having the luxury to buy the material from the store, Isaak gets the raw skin by catching the fish himself.

Where it all begins. Joel Isaak. Credit nativenet

Where it all begins. Joel Isaak. Credit nativenet

From skinning to tanning, preparing one fish for garment-making can take anywhere from 10 to 15 hours. The process includes removing the fat and meat, washing the skin well enough to get rid of the oils, drying it to a point where it does not smell like fish, and, if needed, tanning the skin.

Sewing a fish-skin garment requires long hours, staring with washing the skin well enough to get rid of the oils. Above, fish skin is dried for garments created by Isaak. (Photo courtesy of the artist).

Sewing a fish-skin garment requires long hours, staring with washing the skin well enough to get rid of the oils. Above, fish skin is dried for garments created by Isaak. (Photo courtesy of the artist).

At the 2013 Clare to Clare Fashion Show in Anchorage, 10 designers created wearable art for the “Water Collection,” showcasing their vision of water. For the show, Isaak created a unique line of garments including a halibut-skin jacket, an ombré (graduated shades of color) couture salmon-skin dress, a corset, heels and a vest. His pieces also were shown at the “Wear Art, Thou?” fashion show, part of the Alaska Native Visionary Awards, held in November 2013.

The vest and the corset are Chum salmon skin. The shin covers and the heals are also made form Salmon Skin. Credit Joelisaak.com

The vest and the corset are Chum salmon skin. The shin covers and the heals are also made form Salmon Skin. Credit Joelisaak.com

Though these garments were specifically made for a fashion show, Isaak says they can function as everyday wear. He wears the vest to formal events when he wants to be in Native regalia, and the halibut jacket functions well on chilly days.”

“I strove to work with others and understand the cultural significance of fish and learn about the traditional forms of fish-skin making for all kinds of stuff. I think as a collective Native populace, if we want to keep our materials alive, we need to maintain historical information of the material.” ~ Joel Isaak (Athabascan)~

Category: Fashion