Some of the best Native designers will again do a whirlwind tour de force runway exhibit in about an hour or so on the first day of SWAIA’s Indian Market. The third annual Indian Market Fashion Show highlights Native designers who push the creative exploration of original and unique fashion as inspired by their diverse backgrounds.
The show is an innovated expression of fashion, design and art, featuring award winning and internationally recognized Native designers. The exhibit is both Haute Couture, a designer line of high-end customized fashions, and Pret-a-Porter, what is better known as Ready-to-Wear, lines of standard size fashions ready to purchase and wear.
Fashion has become a touchstone of all things Native American. You can start by calling fashion self-expression and from there it branches out, pride, tradition, family, contemporary, modern, avant-garde, chic, but also outspoken, street, natural, elegant, comfortable, simple and beautiful. Try to avoid trendy which can become appropriation but it is always self-expression and so you have to own it and might as well flaunt it.
Many of the artists are also represented at Native Fashion Now, a major touring fashion show initiated at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA by curator Karen Kramer. It is now showing at the Portland Art Museum, will travel to the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa and end at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. If you cannot make one of the venues, I highly recommend purchasing the exhibit catalog as a teaching tool and important contemporary cultural document.
Designers at SWAIA 2016 Haute Couture Show
Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock) began bead working as a child creating her own dance regalia for powwows near her home, on the La Jolla Luiseño Reservation. At the age of 22, Okuma became the youngest artist in the history of Santa Fe Indian market to win Best of Show, which would become the first of her four Best of Show awards: two from SWAIA and two from the Heard Museum Indian Fair and Market.
Orlando Dugi (Navajo) designs work that embodies a fresh statement through beads and fine materials such as silks, crocodile leather, crystals, feathers, velvet, gold and gems. Ideas of elegance, fashion, and creativity are evident in every piece of evening wear and accessory he creates. Most of his work is a single bead stitch technique utilizing the smallest beads, drawing attention to detail and precision.
Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dene/Cree) 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. Resulting in melding her passion for hip-hop culture with her aboriginal heritage to create a unique, fresh look with an urban-Native twist.
Patricia Michaels is a Traditional Native woman (Taos Pueblo) who is a style-maker at the forefront of modern fashion design and aesthetics. She creates boldly hip designs with a quality of timeless elegance. In 2012, she was asked to join the Season 11 cast of Project Runway.
Dorothy Grant (Haida) 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. After seventeen years in retail and manufacturing, Grant has transformed her entrepreneurial focus to Native art market trade shows and online sales through her website.
Pamela Baker (Kwakwaka’wakw/Squamish) As a single mother, Pamela moved her two children down to Los Angeles, California to study at Otis College of Art and Design where she obtained her degree in Fashion Design. Her newly acquired degree provided her with the technical skills and business acumen to focus her efforts on designing a future that would honour her ancestors. Baker is the creator of Touch of Culture, where modern technology blends with style and traditional values and symbols.
Crystal Rose Demientieff Worl is Tlingit Athabascan from Raven moiety, Sockeye Clan, from the Raven House. She is a child of a Thunderbird and from the Chilkat region in Southeast Alaska. Raised between Fairbanks and Juneau, she was introduced at a young age to her traditional arts, practices, and storytelling. Crystal experiments with kiln-cast glass, printmaking, painting, and silversmithing. She recently began working with fish skin, seal gut-skin, and furs.
David Gaussoin, born in Santa Fe, New Mexico of Picuris Pueblo, Navajo, and French descent, stems from a long line of artists on his mother’s side with various silversmiths, painters, rug weavers, sculptors, and woodworkers. Gaussoin works with gold, sterling silver, and various precious and semiprecious stones, as well as incorporating materials not necessarily associated with jewelry, such as steel.
Wayne Nez Gaussoin, born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is from a family of artist who taught him the art of silversmithing. Nez Gaussoins’ style is a mix of traditional Native American applications with a contemporary flair. He experiments with non-traditional materials in a progressive sense of design that incorporates his interest in art, photography, music, and fashion design.
Celeste Worl (Tlingit) is a visual artist and DJ, from the Northwest Coast, she was surrounded by a family of totem pole carvers, basket weavers. In 1980, Celeste and her family founded the Alaska Native Magazine (ANM). The magazine served as an educational, political and informational medium as well as reintroduced old ways of life and art into the Native struggle for survival in a new system. Celeste worked as the magazine’s graphic artist, art director and its publisher.
Amber-Dawn Bear Robe (Blackfoot/Siksika) is an art curator and art historian who teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. She has been called on again by SWAIA to be the Fashion Show producer and head wrangler of designers, artists, models, photographers, makeup and hair artists, DJ and sound crew.
The event takes place on Saturday August 20 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, starting at 1:00 pm. $10 tickets for up front seating, and free standing room.