Native fashion designer icon Bethany Yellowtail (Northern Cheyenne and Crow tribes) just launched a e-commerce retail expansion in partnership with a group of Native American artists on her website known as The B. Yellowtail Collective.
According to a release put out by Yellowtail, the e-commerce retail initiative features jewelry, beadwork, textiles, handbags, and other accessories handmade by each of the artists. All pieces are one-of-a-kind, created through traditional design methods passed down for many generations.
Since the inception of Yellowtail’s clothing line in 2014, the designer says she has envisioned a collaborative project with Native American artists and designers who often lack retail opportunities due to their remote locales.
“What makes The Collective so unique is that the people will now have a direct connection to the authentic, creative source of what they’re purchasing. It is very important to know and understand the artist behind the work,” Yellowtail said.
“There will now be a face and a name behind their work, not just a generic idea of Native American product,” Yellowtail said, “Consumers will be able to see their faces, hear their voices, and understand the significance and individuality behind their designs and concepts.”
Yellowtail tells ICTMN she was inspired to create the Collective when she was moving from Los Angeles back to her home communities on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne nations. Shifting from the fast-pace of L.A. caused her to rethink and re-evaluate her goals for her company.
She says one moment in particular inspired the Collective.
“I was at a gas station in Lame Deer, MT and a man came up to me and asked if I wanted to buy some earrings he made. I asked him, ‘WOW, how much?!’ They were absolutely exquisite. He said, ‘$15, I just need gas money.’ That moment, a light bulb went off. At first, I felt really sad because the earrings were incredible and what he was asking for was so beneath their true value. Poverty, unemployment and lack of job opportunities is so real, especially in the Northern Plains region. So, accompanied by several other moments like that while I was living back home, I decided I need to use my platform as an opportunity to create real sustainable change. Launching “The Collective” is just the stepping stone for the true potential of our brand.
Yellowtail says that she hopes to provide more opportunity for artists in her life. She also offered words of advice to aspiring native designers and young native people in general.
“You deserve to be here just like anyone else and your dreams and aspirations are just as valid as anyone else’s. Don’t be too intimidated to go for it. Your voice and perspective are needed,” she says.
“If you’re truly passionate about making a career in fashion, find a school that fits, take the courses and learn the skills. For me to launch my own brand, I HAD to learn from others. I worked under several women’s companies and paid my dues. I learned from truly incredible industry professionals. I gained the knowledge and skills I needed to launch my own company and it enabled me to have the confidence and competitive edge in knowing my brand will stand with the best of them.”
Yellowtail says overall, The Collective will serve as a direct connection to the authentic and creative source from which they are making a purchase.
“There will now be a face and a name behind their work, not just a generic idea of a Native American product,” Yellowtail said, “Consumers will be able to see their faces, hear their voices, and understand the significance and individuality behind their designs and concepts.”
“It’s really about inspiring hope and creating positive change while preserving cultural continuity,” she continued, “We’ve set out to share indigenous art with the world while providing empowering, entrepreneurial initiatives for Native peoples.”