Navajo Designers Penny Singer and Bonnie Woodie Bring Fashion to Coeur d'Alene Country
Post Falls, Idaho--“Be careful when you wear my stuff,” designer Penny Singer laughs. “It draws lots of attention.”
Singer, along with fellow Dine’ clothing designer Bonnie Woodie, recently traveled to northern Idaho to present their native fashions on the eve of Coeur d'Alene Tribe's Julyamsh powwow. Each year an artists-and-buyers reception is held at the Jacklin Arts & Culture Center, about three miles from the powwow site. The fashion show was a new event for this reception.
Woodie spent much of her youth with the Plains Indians and it shows in her use of beads in some of her clothing, as beading was not a Navajo tradition. She even beads her own buttons to complement her jackets, spending up to six hours to create a single button. “As far as I know I’m the only designer to do that,” she says.
“I’m meticulous about my work,” Woodie says. “My designs are very clean and very well constructed. I emphasize that strongly.
She was the first Native American to show her line in Milano, Italy. That was back in 1999.
Woodie caters to a variety of clients. Some may be younger women wanting something special for a pageant but often they are business women or older women who perhaps have a little extra money. “They’re not afraid of the cost,” she says.
Singer was raised at Tes Nos Pos in the Four Corners area. She describes her style as “wearable art” and “eye candy.” “What I like to do is keep the designs safe, and designs people can relate to, like the design of a dragonfly or a corn motif. It’s just big bold eye candy.”
“When I start working into my Navajo culture I like to do corn motifs, goats, rug designs and basic geometric Navajo designs and velvet. But it’s not all Navajo, it’s a variety. It’s very clean wearable art.”
“I tell my clients when they buy my clothing, ‘it’s going to attract people. People will stop you and ask ‘where did you get that?’"
Singer primarily does her selling through Native art markets and from there it spreads by word of mouth. “My two primary markets are Santa Fe and the Heard Museum,” she says.