As Indigenous artists, we are beginning to ignite quite the spark in the fashion industry, and the synergy between Art and Native Culture is getting stronger. This is our time, and it couldn’t have been more apparent then at the “Native Fashion Now” event in Portland, Oregon’s prestigious Art Museum. It is with incredible honour to be participating, yet alone invited, to such a large scale event among dozens of emerging and established designers; pushing the boundaries and giving new meaning to “Native Fashion.” Words such as: Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators, Provocateurs, and Motivators were scattered throughout, representing the many themes infused within the art.
The exhibit, flooded with exceptional talent, offers a platform for many rising artists to showcase and represent themselves in a respectable and fashionable way. From Haute Couture to Street Chic, designers certainly didn’t hold back their identities and political views – showcased and revealed in many of the pieces. One of the very first artists I was introduced to was Navajo Clothing Label Designer Jared Yazzie. His prints deliver a striking urban native look along with a strong political message – most know-table in his “Native Americans discovered Columbus” T-Shirt under the Label OXDX.
However, It was Orlando Dugi’s couture dress, featured below, that gave the show a ton of sizzle and pure, current native expression. With his vibrant colours and exquisite craftsmanship, Olando brought an element of glamour and “high fashion” to the exhibit. What I loved most about his piece was that it offered a unique spin on contemporary adornment, combining traditional elements such as feathers with other cultural mediums such as african quills intertwined in avant guard way.
Part of what makes this exhibit so wonderful is the accumulated efforts of all the artists involved, proudly highlighting their identities and acknowledging traditional, cultural and political statements beyond the beauty of their work. The event allowed us to bridge and give voice to the many different cultures throughout North America, all gathered in one place as a community. Because after all – we are stronger together. Captured within the exhibit is a blending of our two worlds – the modern and traditional through our personal artistic lens. A chance, for many of us to stand tall and proud of our accomplishments and recognize our incredible light as indigenous artists; capable of great heights. For once, it truly felt like we were making a mark in our economic society, and taken seriously as innovative designers relevant with today’s fashion.
(Left: Jewellery Designer Kristen Dorsey, Middle: Me, Right: Jewellery designer Maria Samora)
Rather than watching other designers represent our culture down the runway and in the mainstream media, It is refreshing to see First Nations stepping up and creatively expressing ourselves in the big fashion world. So for those of you in the Portland area, I hightly recommend checking out and supporting this truly inspiring exhibit running from June 4th – Sept. 4th. Hopefully this exhibit will not only inspire other native artists, but encourage those to look at “Native Inspired” pieces with a little more scrutiny when shopping and supporting other designers and re-focus the attention on authentic representations of native designs and labels.