Orlando Dugi's Fashion: Masterpieces of Beads and Silk [20 Pictures]

Orlando Dugi's Fashion: Masterpieces of Beads and Silk [20 Pictures]

By: 
Dominique Godreche
2/18/14

Orlando Dugi, Navajo, is a self-taught fashion designer from Grey Mountain, Arizona who is currently based in Santa Fe. Today, his sophisticated beaded bags decorated with Swarovski crystals have been known to go for $10,000 to his affluent clientele. He created his first gown just four and a half years ago, and quickly found success, culminating in his participation in 2013 New York Fashion Week. To learn more about Dugi and his work, visit his newly redesigned website orlandodugi.com.

What are you working on at the moment?

A beaded silk gown and beaded wool cape -- I've spent near 300 hours on this look and has been one of my more most ambitious garments to date. The inspiration for this look is white flowers, daises, and tiramisu. It is warm and inviting and intricate. Some of the bead embroidery is done in a raised beading much like that of the Iroquois people. In honor of my late father-in-law, who was Seneca from New York State. The photo shoot will take place as soon as it is complete.

Do you derive inspiration from your Navajo upbringing? What about other sources?

I never studied in school, but have been beading since five years old, learning with my father, and my grandmother. In my culture, we dress up in velvet, satin…

And when we go to a social event, we wear silver jewelry, and do our hair: beauty is part of the Navajo culture. We, Navajos, like beautiful things. And when we see something we like, we incorporate it: so inspiration comes from many different places. I get my inspiration from the European couture; I love satin, clothes with a lot of beading. And jewels.

Who are your clients?

My clients are mainly collectors. I started with the beaded handbags, which I don't just design -- I make them by hand. I also recently sold some wedding gowns, and party gowns, to Native ladies.

Do you present yourself as a Native American designer?

No, just as a designer, because I do not like that label -- it would put me in a box, and could also create associations with eagle feathers, or traditional outfits. Which my work does not correspond to: as a designer, my inspiration comes from everywhere. Even from the Southwest sunset, which inspired one of my collections.

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