Designs by (l-r) Dorothy Grant, Jamie Okuma with Keri Ataumbi, and Bethany Yellowtail

Native American Fashion's Best of the Best Hit the Runway in Santa Fe [30 Photos]

Alex Jacobs

Native fashions have become common-place, in a good way. It’s no longer a special treat, maybe a once or twice a year thing. It’s now a Real Thing, a Big Thing, and a blossoming industry of many busy hands originating locally with tribal designs, lots of indin-genuity and landing on the international stage.

Santa Fe’s 93rd Indian Market (presented by SWAIA) features some of Native America’s top designers in two contemporary fashion shows plus the Sunday’s Traditional Native American Clothing Contest, the event’s most popular and photographed event. The 2nd Annual Haute Couture Fashion Show, produced by Amber-Dawn Bear Robe, will be Saturday afternoon, Aug. 22 with runways, models and performers; the event will be photographed and videotaped, a production will be posted on YouTube as the documentation is for future study and outreach.

Jamie Okuma is a rising star, the youngest to win Best of Show, winning it twice here at Market and twice at the Heard Museum, all since age 22. Sho Sho Esquiro just makes way cool stuff. Bethany Yellowtail has been noticed to the point of copycat high fashion designers playing cultural appropriation with her designs but she now has a shot at the Martha Stewart Competition. Dorothy Grant has been at it for a generation, an icon in Native Fashion, her focus now is her on-line retail business showing her very sophisticated looks. And of course Patricia Michaels, a Project Runway All-Star, has been riding this wave for the past few years and she will participate with these designers on Saturday and features her PM Water Lily lines and designs at the new SWAIA EDGE inside the Santa Fe Community Center from Aug 20-23.

Amber-Dawn Bear Robe will be producing SWAIA’S new event in its second year in Cathedral Park east of The Plaza directly across from IAIA’s MoCNA. Bear Robe (Blackfoot/Siksika) is an art curator and art historian, currently teaching at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Bear Robe has worked for the Tweed Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. She was the Director/Curator of Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art, the largest Aboriginal artist-run center in Canada.

Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock)

Okuma began bead working as a child creating her own dance regalia for powwows near her home, on the La Jolla Luiseño Reservation. Her fully beaded blue high heel boots have caused a media sensation.

Marilyn Monroe ring by Jamie Okuma and Keri Ataumbi

B.Yellowtail Designs (Crow/Northern Cheyenne)

Yellowtail embraces the experience of breathing new life into ancestral knowledge with modern-day experience, and seeks to redefine Native-inspired design. Yellowtail has contributed to major brands such as BCBGMAXAZRIA GROUP, Kardashian Collections, as well as private labels sold in Macy’s and Nordstrom.

Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dene/Cree)

Esquiro is an award winning artist who is inspired by her Native North American roots and respect for nature, which is derivative of her upbringing in Yukon, Canada. Esquiro uses organic fabrics, as well as recycled leathers, furs, and trims, in vibrant colors, melding her passion for hip-hop culture with her aboriginal heritage to create a unique, fresh look with an Urban-Native twist.

Dorothy Grant (Haida)

Grant has been an internationally renowned contemporary fashion designer for over thirty-two years. In 1988, Grant became the first designer to merge Haida art and fashion utilizing her formal training at the Helen Lefeaux School of Fashion Design. Grant believes that her clothing embodies the Haida philosophy Yaangudang meaning “self-respect.” The driving force behind her clothing designs is “empowerment, pride and feeling good about oneself.” Her website is extensive with several lines; she will have new bags at her Indian Market booth is #759 Lincoln East.

Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo)

Joan Severance in Patricia Michaels; photo by Bill Curry

Joan Severance in Patricia Michaels; photo by Bill Curry

Patricia Michaels with Joan Severance in Patricia Michaels; photo by Bill Curry

DJ Celeste Worl (Tlingit) is a visual artist and DJ, born in in Southeast Alaska. As a Tlingit tribal member from the Northwest Coast, she was surrounded by a family of totem pole carvers, basket weavers and beaders; in 1980 Celeste and her family founded the Alaska Native Magazine (ANM).

Nakotah LaRance is a 6 time World Hoop Dance Champion and Native American Actor. He currently does both public and private performances. LaRance was a principal dancer for Cirque Du Soleil's "Totem" show and now does special projects for them.

SWAIA has a new feature called EDGE, in utilizing the Santa Fe Convention Center which they have booked for events leading up to and during Market. Patricia Michaels will be showing her PM Water Lily designs on Aug. 21-22 in the evening and on Aug. 22-23 all day, at The Edge; Ms. Michaels will also be in attendance at her Market booth # 644 Plaza.

In a recent interview, Patricia talked about Lloyd Kiva New, IAIA’s first President and originally a fashion designer from Scottsdale. It will be Lloyd Kiva New’s 100th birthday in 2016 and she said to expect many shows and tributes next year. Patricia and Lloyd bonded over fabrics, prints and fashions, he was supportive and proud of her first fashion shows in Santa Fe and her trips to Manhattan. When Ms. Michaels was in NYC for Project Runway, she offered her grateful prayers for Lloyd’s mentorship, saying “they” had finally made it to New York.

And if that’s not enough Native Fashions for you, there are lead-in events. There’s the JG Indie Designs Show by Navajo designer Jolonzo Goldtooth, an internationally recognized and emerging Native American Fashion Designer, JG Indie will feature previous collections and a preview of New York Fall Fashion Week Collection with AL Couture Accessories, hair and makeup Artists Goldie Tom & Tecia Jackson; amazing dance performances by Dancing Earth. It’s a free event to the public on Friday Aug. 20, at the new Encaustic Art Institute, 632 Agua Fria St, close to downtown and the Guadalupe District.

IFAM – Indigenous Fine Art Market- will host an event titled PRESENCE, Thursday Aug. 20 and Friday Aug. 21, at the IFAM Performance Stage in the Railyard Park; Dr. Jessica Metcalfe, owner of Beyond Buckskin Boutique, will bring street wear apparel (BBB/Street Wear) Thursday evening. The BBB/Street Wear line-up will include Jared Yazzie of OXDX, Jeremy Arviso, Alano Edzerza, Autumn Dawn Gomez of Soft Museum, Sun Rose Iron Shell, and Nathalie Waldman. BBB & NJS - Native Jewelers Society - will take the IFAM stage Friday evening; the high quality work of NJS Metalsmiths & Jewelers will be accented with select Beyond Buckskin Boutique designer pieces, presenting a mix of innovative and affordable Native made items. Beyond Buckskin is an internet retail store with work from Native Artists around the country, and blogs about current events, trends, and cultural appropriation.

See you at the Markets in Santa Fe!

Alex Jacobs  

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Submitted by alexjacobs on
You can check the website of each designer, I know how Patricia and some work, they buy the best environment friendly fabrics; paint and print their own also using green dyes, paints; search for, hire and pay their workers, often friends, family, artisans from the rez or urban tribal members; and hire the models and photographers, mostly all native, some not, depending on the show or the shoot. They rarely get any help from tribes or casinos, some grants & awards maybe..thats why landing a contract is big, so a fashion house or sponsor will pay for these expenses. I still make vests and once was offered discount printed garments from Bali, which i refused, as would these designers. It would be another thing to deal directly, as in Village to Market go-betweens who can network indigenous fabric workers to designers, native to native to market. Patricia is fund-raising to build a new studio, buy several sewing machines and long tables and then hire the help. Please check the website of each designer.