Point Lips, Not Fingers: Paul Frank Native Designer Dustin Martin

Point Lips, Not Fingers: Paul Frank Native Designer Dustin Martin

By: 
Lee Allen
6/27/13

On June 18, Paul Frank Industries announced that four Native designers had been selected to collaborate with the company on a line of products. Called "Paul Frank Presents," the collection will debut on August 16 at the Santa Fe Indian Market. Dustin Quinn Martin, who designs T-shirts for his company S.O.L.O. (Sovereign Original Land Owners), was one of the young fashion talents who got the nod.

NAME: Dustin Quinn Martin

AGE: 23

TRIBAL HERITAGE: Navajo

SPECIALTY: T-shirt designer since college days

INFLUENCES AS A DESIGNER: "My contribution to the line was built on the concept ‘Point Lips, Not Fingers.’  When I was growing up, my grandfather taught me it was rude to point fingers (literally and figuratively).  So, like many Navajos who grow up on the rez, I learned that pointing my lips was a polite alternative to conventional hand gestures.  Anyone who’s spent time in Navajo land will know what I’m talking about…

"The design I cooked up uses a cultural quirk (lip-pointing) to embed meaning and humor into the image and remind viewers of what sparked the collaboration. Graphic silhouettes (think Kara Walker) of a Dine man and woman are featured in most of the products.  These figures are met by Julius (Paul Frank’s signature brand character) lost on a hike through Native America.  Their pointed lips show that the monkey’s childish curiosity has been met with patience and respect rather than gesticulating rudeness.  Elsewhere in the design you’ll see the Paul Frank brand surrounded by (and integrated into) familiar ‘Native’ geometry.  But these perfectly symmetrical shapes evolve into abstract fields of modern-looking angles.  These jarring shapes imply new directions -- for thoughts, for friendships, for artistic traditions, for brands.  Fresh trails can only be blazed with the help of patient and forward-thinking guides.  These guides point lips, not fingers."

THOUGHTS ON WORKING WITH PAUL FRANK INDUSTRIES: "Without a doubt I’m very thankful for the opportunity.  Negotiating terms with a multinational brand licensing corporation was an eye-opening experience and a huge confidence booster.   Though I now have an even better idea of how much there is for me to learn, I also know that a fashion collaboration -- no matter how ‘big league’ it may appear at first -- isn’t rocket science.  When I was able to look past 'Paul Frank' and [Paul Frank Industries' parent company] 'Saban Brands' to see the people behind the curtain, it became a lot like working with friends.

"Above all, I went into this experience with this mindset: ‘This is the type of recognition and respect Native artists and designers have been praying for.  DON’T DROP THE BALL.’  I hope all four of us chosen designers make Native America proud."

Learn more about Dustin Martin at the official S.O.L.O. site, solo505.com. Photos of and information about products featured here were provided by Beyond Buckskin Boutique.

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