The PLITZS Designer Showcase at New York Fashion Week 2015 features emerging talent from the UK, France, China, Mexico, Ukraine — and Indian country. Jolonzo Guy Goldtooth, Navajo, will show his creations from his JG Indie label on Thursday, February 19.
Goldtooth, 28, who lives on his family’s ranch on the Navajo Nation, didn’t go to school for fashion; he graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2010 with a degree in psychology. But he began designing looks out of frustration with the job market, and after impressing audiences at a few small shows, he was on his way. He was featured in Native Max magazine, and showed his designs at fashion shows at Gathering of Nations and Santa Fe Indian Market. He’s now identified as the freshest face in the growing movement of contemporary Native designers that includes Patricia Michaels, Orlando Dugi, Bethany Yellowtail and Virgil Ortiz.
These are strong statements for someone so new to the scene, and Goldtooth knows he has much to learn. “I’ve only been doing this for two years,” he told Daily Times. “In fact, it was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing. I’ve always kind of ignored my artistic side, although I’ve always known how to sew. Both my grandmothers are seamstresses.”
PLITZS Chief Creative Director Wayne Shields visited Goldtooth’s JG Indie facebook page on a tip from a model, and liked what he saw. Shields made contact, which led to an interview. “When we interviewed Jolonzo, what we were impressed about was his creativity and the way he was able to incorporate his historical ancestry and vision and still be very fashion-forward,” Shields told the Durango Herald. “I’ve dealt with some designers who try to infuse their heritage, but they were so heavy-handed, it wasn’t fashion-forward. It’s very important for Native designers to convey their historical cultural influences without hampering their creativity.”
Goldtooth is aware that the industry’s enthusiasm for Indigenous designers — “Native fever” he called it — could ebb and any time. Such is life in the world of fashion. But he sees an opportunity to ride the trend while making a lasting and serious statement. “Everything is a huge fusion,” he told the Durango Herald. “That’s what sets us on the edge. We are Native American. We are still here. We are not living in tipis. We are not extinct. We have progressed with society. This is who we are.”