Ancestral Chops: Paul Frank Native Designer Louie Gong
This is the third of four features on the Native designers who have been selected to collaborate with Paul Frank Industries on a line of clothing and accessories. Called "Paul Frank Presents," the collection will debut on August 16 at the Santa Fe Indian Market. (To read the first two installments, see "Point Lips, Not Fingers: Dustin Martin" and "The Definitive Hoodrat: Autumn Dawn Gomez".) Gong's contribution to the lineis a silkscreened handbag.
NAME: Louie Gong
TRIBAL HERITAGE: Nooksack
INFLUENCES AS A DESIGNER: "My art reflects a merger of influences from my mixed heritage (which also includes Asian and Caucasian) and upbringing in the Nooksack tribal community. The “Same Boat” illustration featured on my high-end tote bag includes creatures from earth, land, and sky all moving in the same direction. It represents the undeniable connections between all living things, and the idea that the pathway to sustainable change is one we must travel together. Paul Frank’s whimsical branding helped me share this message with lighthearted enthusiasm rather than a sense of somber responsibility."
THOUGHTS ON WORKING WITH PAUL FRANK INDUSTRIES: "I feel the same way my grandma did when she cooked bannock: you do the best you can with the resources and opportunities available to you and feel thankful.
"It's important to acknowledge that the artists are not passive recipients of this opportunity. I’m a self-taught artist and entrepreneur who has worked 12 hours a day for many years so I would be prepared to capitalize on an opportunity to work with a national brand like Paul Frank. I recognize that this will help introduce my artwork to a wider audience and increase my capacity, by providing access to industry connections and knowledge that would take years of trial and error to develop. I believe in the quality of my hustle and the appeal of my artwork, so I’m excited about taking opportunity as far as possible.
"The fact that the collaboration was generated by the Native community raising its collective voice only makes the story of this project a better teaching tool for both aspiring artists and companies that want to work with us.
"This shouldn’t be seen as a “special project”. This collaboration represents what would already be commonplace if we lived in a meritocracy. After all, it’s our cultural capital and our community’s ancestral design chops that are the basis for so many current fashion trends. Now, a fraction of the work is going where it should be going, instead of to in-house designers whose creative process starts with a Google search."