Page 1








uch of traditional Indigenous fashion is reserved for sacred or spiritual use; sometimes not appropriate for public display. Moreover, documentation of indigenous fashion history is both limited in scope and complex due to the myriad of tribes inhabiting North America and beyond. No one tribe is alike. Today, despite these hurdles, there seems to be an emergence of robust contemporary fashion – the merging of traditional and modern design – becoming more and more mainstream.

With this debut issue, Indigene is thrilled to embark on a journalistic journey to celebrate and highlight the ever-growing tapestry of indigenous fashion by sharing and presenting our stories, our cultures authentically through forward-thinking perspectives and unique storytelling. To show the world that indigenous peoples are not remnants of the past; we are still here.







PATRICIA MICHAELS SWAIA Haute Couture Fashion Show

ACONAV Spring/Summer 2020

JAMIE OKUMA 2019 Capsule Collection


PE’EH’CHA The Let It Rain Collection by ACONAV


WALKING IN BEAUTY with Orlando Dugi


OPINION: Fashion Still Has A Headress Problem


ARTS & CULTURE: Three Must-See Documentary Shorts about Indigenous Fashion




INDIGENE Editor-in-Chief

Niya DeGroat

Staff Writer

Niya DeGroat


Justin Villalobos Roberto Cordero Jr.

Special Thanks

Elena Eberhard Nadia Vertlib



Photographed by Tira Howard


Designer Patricia Michaels sheds light on missing and murdered indigenous women BY NIYA DEGROAT


s Native country descended upon Santa Fe’s historic Plaza Square for the 99th annual Santa Fe Indian Market, across the street at the convention center, Taos Pueblo designer Patricia Michaels, along with a handful of emerging indigenous designers, debuted collections for the 6th annual Southwestern Association for Indian Arts Haute Couture Fashion Show.

She added, “what makes this (event) unique is that the artists are not restricted to what Native fashion or Native textiles should be or what is expected of them. They are given the artistic f reedom and vision to create.”

Indigenous fashion trailblazer, Patricia Michaels, is all about creative and artistic expression. Ever since her debut on the 11th season of Project Runway, where she came in second, A market favorite, the Haute Couture Fashion the multimedia artist has been turning out Show provides a platform for indigenous de- limited couture collections that draw inspirasigners f rom across the globe to showcase the tion “f rom nature and her Native roots.” latest in contemporary designs, as well as provide aspiring Native models the opportunity to This year, however, Michaels took on a socio-postrut their walks down the runway to a packed litical matter. According to the Justice Departcrowd of their f riends, family, and festival at- ment, Native American women and girls are being killed or traff icked at far higher rates tendees. than the rest of the U.S. population. Moreover, In a promotion video for the event, fashion according to the National Crime Information show producer Amber-Dawn Bear Robe pro- Center, in 2016, 5,712 indigenous women and claimed, “Indian Market Haute Couture Fash- girls were reported missing, but only 116 were ion Show really is about celebrating contem- logged by the U.S. Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database. porary indigenous fashion designers.”


This underreported epidemic inspired the 2017 f ilm Wind River starring Elizabeth Olsen as an FBI agent who enlists the help of a wildlife ranger, played by Jeremy Renner, and a tribal sheriff, played by Graham Greene, to help solve the mysterious murder of a young, Native woman played by Kelsey Chow.

white montage video begins to play showcasing pan- indigenous women of every generation looking def iantly at the camera in solidarity as if to say, “No more.”

Momentarily, models emerge wearing similar designs we saw in the f irst act, only this time, the color On the runway stage, Michaels presented her po- red is introduced to signify pain, murder, and loss. litically-driven collection in two acts. In the f irst act, Red serves as a pop of color in the form of f ringes, we saw an assortment of resort-inspired caftan accents, and tulle. One by one, models leave scarf capes, dresses, and ponchos asymmetrically-cut length-sized tulle at the end of the runway to signiand hand-painted with Michaels’ signature brush fy blood. Some of the models held parasols handstrokes and eagle feather motifs in a color palette painted with abstract eagle feathers as if they were of black, white, and gray with hints of green and shielding themselves f rom the overwhelming cries blue. The screen-printed patterns were reminis- of both the victims and their families. Finally, actress cent of the inkblot imagery found in a Rorschach and model, Sivan Alyra Rosé, the f irst indigenous test. Other silhouettes included form-f itting pants actress to star in a lead role for Netflix’s Chambers paired with f ringed tops and cocktail dresses. A this past summer, closed out the show by dumpstandout design included a one-sleeved, light gray ing paper moccasins in the pile of red tulle. The act and blue, silk-chiffon dress aff ixed with shattered is both unnerving and poetic. Michaels, with tears pottery appliques. Like the music, the collection is streaming down her cheeks, is met with a thundersomber and ominous, yet peaceful and elegant at ous standing ovation. the same time. In a way, Michaels symbolic collection allowed inIn the second act, a group of indigenous female digenous women everywhere, on and off the runelders, Michaels included, dressed in traditional at- way, to f inally let out a much needed sigh of relief; tire, take center stage to sing a song in memory of to join the rest of the country in f inally saying those the missing indigenous women. Red lights envelop two liberating words: Me Too. the entire room. On the large screens, a black and


Photo Credit: Southwestern Association for Indian Arts

“The artists are not restricted to what Native fashion or Native textiles should be or what is expected of them. They are given the artistic f reedom and vision to create.�



Photos Courtesy of Phoenix Fashion Week


On a warm Saturday night, Phoenicians gathered at the stunning Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona to catch Couture Night on the third and f inal day of Phoenix Fashion Week. The three-day event concluded with a night of luxury collections by both emerging and global established fashion brands including Christine Adar, Elevee Lifestyle, and returning audience favorite, Rocky Gathercole, avant-garde and celebrity designer who flew in f rom the Philippines. Among the impressive lineup, PHXFW 2017 Designer of the Year Loren Aragon of ACONAV – an indigenous fashion couture brand based in Phoenix, Arizona – returned to the PHXFW runway for the fourth time to unveil his Spring/Summer 2020 collection.

Since his f irst runway debut back in 2016, Aragon has garnered a number of career highlights including designing a custom dress for Disney World currently on display at the American Heritage Gallery at The American Adventure in Epcot. Over the summer, Aragon also made indigenous fashion history by dressing Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, Arizona’s only Broadway award voter, for the 2019 Tony Awards red carpet.

As the lights came up, the f irst two models turned the corner to reveal the f irst phase of the 15- piece collection – silk, chiffon gowns with billowing sleeves and gathered fabrication reminiscent of cloud formations in a color palette of white, gray, and lavender.

In the next phase, Aragon introduced the idea of rainfall in the form of cascading charmeuse and chiffon dresses with Grecian-inspired silhouettes in a soft color palette of grays, blues, “Having ACONAV return to the runway year and violets. The dresses move with gentle ease after year is truly an and the romance was honor to witness,” said further heightened by Brenna Moses, Director models donning natural of Operations for Phoemakeup and effortless nix Fashion Week. “Our hair-dos. team has been behind him for four years now In the f inal phase, Araand to see him contingon concluded the colue to grow creatively lection with the idea with his collections, as of lightning using the well as grow his brand’s color black in the form footprint with marketof edgy, pleated dressing and sales is thrilles and jumpsuits with ing.” strategically-placed asymmetrical cutouts Brian Hill, Executive Dito mimic the zig-zag rector of Phoenix Fashshapes of lightning. ion, expressed the same sentiment, “His brand For accessories, Aragon has become a staple at partnered with emergPhoenix Fashion Week ing accessory designand speaks volumes er Dotlizhi (the Apache about the success an word for turquoise) who emerging designer can complemented his deachieve.” signs with her intricately beaded jewelry in the Indeed, in the realm form of f ringed earrings, of indigenous fashion, plated cuffs, teardrop Aragon has broken many barriers and his latest accessories, and lightning-shaped necklaces. collection only adds to the growing tapestry of contemporary indigenous design. Known for “I think everyone was expecting to see the same his signature Acoma Pueblo pottery dresses, old pottery motifs, but with this collection, I Aragon deviated a little with this collection and wanted to expand on my culture’s perspective drew inspiration f rom the element of rain. Be- on rain and the prayers surrounding it.” fore his models stormed the runway, principal dancer, Rulan Tangen, of the dance company “I wanted to show the various formations of rain; Dancing Earth, performed a captivating inter- the way it falls, the droplets that form, as well pretative dance set to the indigenous sounds as capturing the cycle that happens during a of drums, gourd rattles, and chanting – all of rainstorm.” which mimicked the soothing sounds of a calm rainstorm. INDIGENE | 11


Jamie Okuma drops a sustainble collection on Instagram BY NIYA DEGROAT

Seven years ago, indigenous visual artist Jamie Okuma (Luiseño and Shoshone- Bannock) made headlines when she applied Native American aesthetics to a pair of Christian Louboutin heels using the traditional art of beading and quilling. At f irst, the art piece became a study on reverse cultural appropriation. For years, the fashion industry-at-large has been misappropriating indigenous culture f rom the thrifty subcultural styles of the Hippie generation to the latest Victoria’s Secret fashion show where supermodels pair skimpy bikinis with traditional-like headdresses. Ultimately, Okuma’s adapted heels became an example of cultural appreciation (and some would argue, cultural collaboration) in that it fused traditional indigenous artistry with European contemporary design.

(relative) is a highlight of the “This Country Tis of Thee” jacket. The jackets harken back to the American Indian Movement of the late 60s when indigenous activists, mostly men, stood up for indigenous rights during the Civil Rights movement. Since 2015’s NODAPL pipeline controversy in the Dakotas, there has been a rejuvenation of the movement only this time women have been leading the effort. Like Okuma, fellow indigenous designers Bethany Yellowtail and OXDX Clothing have created ready-to-wear collections focused on female empowerment and activism.

The only issue with these particular items is that the average Native American consumer can’t afford them, and according to past Instagram posts, most of Okuma’s intricate designs end up in museum-based collections. Fortunately, with Today, as a fashion designer activist, Okuma con- each new collection, Okuma provides a limited tinues to apply this same aesthetic to her street- inventory of ready-to-wear adaptations for the wear and ready-to-wear creations. On Septem- lucky few who are able to swipe them up. ber 28 , the Los Angeles-based designer, with an impressive IG following of 38K followers, an- With this collection, Okuma also released some nounced and released a limited 9-piece collec- sportswear-inspired separates including t-shirts tion on Instagram, three of which were one-of-a- made f rom organic cotton, jogger pants made kind bomber jacket designs. About f ifty- percent f rom stretchy bamboo, and an asymmetricalof the collection is made f rom sustainable and ly cut f ringed dress made f rom silk and hemp eco-f riendly materials including organic cotton, fabric available in both white and pink f ringes. bamboo, hemp, and organic soy. The color palette of the separates is identical to the colors used in the bomber jackets and have These three one-of-kind bomber jackets are a price range of $115 to $395. Overall, the collecpriced at $4,800, $4,000 and $3,500 respectively. tion fuses contemporary streetwear design with The jackets are designed through an interplay of indigenous ingenuity made with the modern mixed media including beading, shells, embroi- woman warrior in mind. dery, mixed fabrics, vintage piping, and Swarovski crystals. A digitally printed applique on organic cotton f rom a painting by Sandra Okuma 12 | INDIGENE

Photo Credit:












Photo Credit: Avenir Museum

FEATURE In Diné culture, the phrase hózhó is Before entering the fashion indusa spiritual mantra that translates to try, Dugi used to work for his father “to walk in beauty,” which means to construction company, while at his live in perfect harmony with every- leisure time he was a competitive thing and everyone. Essentially, it Pow-Wow dancer. He attributes his is incumbent upon Navajo people upbringing on his grandparents’ to practice and adhere to this way sheep camp on the reservation in of life set forth by the Holy People Northern Arizona as a means of in(Navajo deities) in order to achieve a spiration for his fashion development. sense of absolute nirvana. In the vast, painterly foothills of the “Being so far out in the country with Santa Fe high desert, 40-year-old Ar- my grandparents and listening to izona native Orlando Dugi certainly the stories that they told me, the subscribes to this Diné philosophy songs that we sang, and the things and applies it to both his sense of that we did like going to ceremony, is what inspires my work,” said Dugi. style and his craft of fashion design.


He would also watch the women in his family make their own clothing using vintage foot pedal sewing “Whether you are attending a tradi- machines, as well as hand-stitching tional ceremony or a public event, techniques. As a kid, he was drawn to the vibrant color palette and fabyou’re dressing for the Holy People so that you can continue to receive ric choices of traditional Navajo garments which usually consist of veltheir blessings.” vet blouses, satin skirts, turquoise jewelry, sash and Concho belts, or the more traditional rug dress woven f rom sheep’s wool. “When you get up in the morning, you should dress well,” says Dugi.

DUGI “We’re finally telling our stories and our history about our peoples through design and the mainstream world continues to be highly motivated by our presence in the industry.”


“The practice of getting ready for ceremony and other cultural events is what pushed me toward evening wear,” remembers Dugi. In 2010, he began entering his handmade beaded accessories in regional Native art competitions such as the Cherokee Art Market, The Heard Museum Guild Indian Market, and the Santa Fe Indian Market. Eventually, he began sewing women’s clothing, and for his third-year submission at the Heard show in 2014, he took f irst place for his brown wool cape which featured his signature intricate white and gold beaded floral embroidery. Since then, other career highlights include participating in the successful 2016 traveling Native Fashion Now exhibition by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. The exhibit, which featured 70 curated pan-indigenous designs, was so popular that it culminated with a six- month residency at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in the city of New York. INDIGENE | 23

In an effort to further develop his for the chic woman. Luxurious fab- “I was struck by the colors and the inskills, that same year, Dugi began rics, textures, embellishments, and tricate bead work,” recalls Avenir Mutaking fashion courses at Santa Fe extravagance, inspired by and hand- eum curator Megan Osborne, after Community College. After graduat- crafted f rom tradition rooted in Diné she saw pieces of Orlando’s work ing with an associate degree in fash- heritage.” Orlando Dugi meticulously showcased at another exhibit at the Center for South West Studies at Fort ion design in 2018, Dugi was select- threads the past with the present. Lewis College f ive years ago. “The ed to compete in Phoenix Fashion Week’s acclaim emerging designer This past summer, in partnership with work was so beautiful. I immediately bootcamp. The intense three-month the Avenir Museum of Design and started working on a plan to develop training competition introduces Merchandising in Fort Collins, Colo- an exhibition of Orlando’s designs at emerging designers to the business rado, Dugi debuted his solo exhibi- Colorado State University. It was like side of fashion including weekly con- tion, “Walking In Beauty: Designs by nothing we had showcased before ference calls, seminars, homework, Orlando Dugi,” which is currently on here at the Avenir museum,” proand mini-challenges, all of which, display through mid-December. The claimed Osborne. culminates with a runway showcase at Phoenix Fashion Week in the month of October.

“His dedication, his imagination, his drive to continuously learn and evolve are all very inspiring.”

“It was a lot of hard work, but I really enjoyed the bootcamp because it exposed me to business marketing. The program also focused on mass-production of ready-to-wear apparel, project was f ive years in the making. For Dugi, this exhibition represents but since I came f rom a slower pace, The 18-piece collection spans nine years of hard work and the evolution made-to-order format, it was chal- years of Dugi’s career and highlights of his design aesthetic. More imporlenging for me at times to reconcile his signature beading technique on tantly, the collection adds another contemporary couture gowns in a layer to the fabrication of contempothe two,” he confessed. color palette of earth tones, botany, rary indigenous fashion. Despite this minor hurdle, Dugi’s and magenta sunsets. What is fasci12-piece Spring/Summer 2019 cou- nating about Dugi’s aesthetic, is that “We’re f inally telling our stories ture collection based on his love for his creations do not reflect literal in- and our history about our peoples the natural landscapes and sunsets digenous elements the mainstream through design and the mainstream of the Southwest captivated the world is accustom to such as Native world continues to be highly motifashion week audience including the prints and textiles. Instead, Dugi vated by our presence in the industry pulls inspiration f rom his Navajo cul- at large,” said Dugi. Phoenix Fashion Week team. ture, the landscape, and stargazing “Dugi has a strong work ethic,” said while listening to his grandparents’ For Navajo people, when they have Brian Hill, Director of PHXFW. “He stories centered around the universe. accomplished something beautiful, is calculated in his design process Standout pieces include a strapless, when they have reached a state of and has an acute attention to detail. floral-like tunic cocoon dress in hues absolute bliss, they end their daily What I admire about his designs are of f ire red, yellow, and black with ap- prayers with the two simple words of pliques that resemble a star constel- hózhó nahasdlii – in beauty it is done. that they are manifested organically f rom his surroundings in Santa Fe, lation or a Milky Way in the heavens. There is also a silk and metallic silver New Mexico.” organza dress with intricately-placed Today, the Orlando Dugi brand “de- mirror beads based off a prickly pear cactus. signs timeless yet modern elegance 24 | INDIGENE



Photo Credit: Avenir Museum | Phoenix Fashion Week | Orlando Dugi



Photographed by Getty / Dimitrios Kambouris

Eric J Guillemain / Dior

Fashion still has a headdress problem by Niya DeGroat 26 | INDIGENE

Back in 2012, as part of Victoria Secret’s Calendar Girls Fashion Show, supermodel Karlie Kloss stormed the runway wearing a f ringed leather bikini dripping with Navajo turquoise knock-offs, highheeled moccasins, and a massive faux-feathered headdress that even upstaged Cher’s version for the 1973 “Half Breed” music video. As Kloss blew kisses to the audience, the word “Thanksgiving” scrolled by behind her on the screen monitors above. After all, she was the November girl representing harvest. Thanks to social media, the backlash was swift. Cultural appropriation of indigenous peoples had reared its ugly head for the umpteenth time, and like clockwork, both the company and Karlie Kloss issued half-hearted apologies via Twitter. “I am deeply sorry if what I wore during the VS Show offended anyone. I support VS’s decision to remove the outf it f rom the broadcast,” tweeted Kloss. Even if the footage was cut f rom the broadcast, it still existed in the runway photos and blog post articles to come. The damage was done; and like with any other trend, everyone forgot about it and moved on.

Seven years later – just in time for harvest season when little boys and girls across the country dress up as Pilgrims and Indians preparing for some annual Thanksgiving play or another college f rat house puts on yet another Cowboys and Indians-themed party where sorority girls out-do one another to see who can come up with the sexiest “Pocahontas”-inspired Halloween outf it – Dior became the latest fashion label to come under f ire for misappropriating indigenous culture. This time, in the form of a commercial video for its “Sauvage” f ragrance ad campaign. In the video, superstar Johnny Depp, dressed like a Rockstar cowboy with a Mexican poncho to boot, scours the vast landscapes of Monument Valley in search of his guitar. In the background, a guitar solo clashes with indigenous drumming while a Pow Wow Fancy Dancer dances atop a steep cliff. Scene by scene, an indigenous female model wearing a buckskin dress, enveloped in wolf skin, peers through the bushes like a predator observing its prey. Soon, Depp joins the soundtrack with his guitar playing skills and livens up the valley. As the sun sets, the camera pans by Depp sitting next to his man-made f ire as a voice over proclaims, “We are the land,” and the Sauvage logo fades in and out. The video is a blatant display of racial tropes as well as a melting pot of re-interpreted indigenous culture. The only thing missing was John Wayne and his entourage charging in with guns blazing. Did John Ford come back f rom the dead to direct this video?

never – and how could there be or how would there be – any dishonorable [intent]. The f ilm was made with a great respect for indigenous people not just of North America but all over the world. It’s a pity that people jumped the gun and made these objections. However, their objections are their objections.”

Okay, Mr. Depp, let’s talk about the name – Sauvage – which is the French word for “savage,” meaning, “untamed,” “barbaric,” or “uncivilized.” Before it was a millennial catchphrase to imply coolness, the racial slur “savage” was the preferred adjective used by colonialists and white settlers to describe the original inhabitants of the Americas. Even in the Once again, the social media backlash ensued and United States Declaration of Independence, the Dior was forced to pull the ad entirely and roll out original Americans are described as: the same old, template apology: “...The merciless Indian Savages whose known rule “We are deeply sorry for any offense caused by this of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all new advertising campaign, which was meant to ages, sexes, and conditions...” be a celebration of the beauty, dignity, and grace of the contemporary Native American culture. As a With that being said, and cultural appropriation consequence, we have decided not to release this aside, the f ragrance name, in and of itself, is very version of the campaign.” much offensive. Period. Let’s see, aside f rom the Pow-Wow dancer, nothing in the video was remotely contemporary just recycled Western motifs at best. In Dior’s defense, the company sought out indigenous talent through the indigenous-owned company Americans for Indian Opportunity – a company based out of New Mexico that advocates for indigenous representation in media. Still, that partnership was overshadowed by the ad’s perpetuation of indigenous peoples as silent, nameless extras who blend in with the backdrop.

Still, just as Native Americans brace themselves for the next appropriations offense in fashion, football fans in Kansas City are performing the “Tomahawk Chop,” the Washington Redskins have “scalped” the Cowboys yet again, and the President of the United States continues to call Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” on live TV. All in the name of honor, of course.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Depp disagreed with the social media backlash: “There was INDIGENE | 27


THREE MUST-SEE DOCUMENTARY SHORTS ABOUT INDIGENOUS FASHION by Niya DeGroat Indigenous peoples have been challenging stereotypes and misrepresentation in mainstream media and culture since time immemorial. For Native women, the sexualization of indigenous women as submissive caricatures runs rampant and can be seen in Disney’s Pocahontas, any Native-inspired Halloween costume, or on the side of a Land O Lakes butter container, to name a few. Fortunately, with the help of social media and online streaming services like YouTube, indigenous-focused content has been redirecting the narrative on what it is to be indigenous in a post-colonial world. Whether it is a day in the life of a fashion designer, the inspiration behind a new collection, or art as social commentary, the following three docu-shorts explore the topics of cultural appropriation, body image, and missing and murdered indigenous women.

02. //

With a newfound appreciation for her indigenous background, Project Runway alumna Korina Emmerich uses fashion to reclaim indigenous culture. She offers insight into Native culture by differentiating between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.

03. //

01. //alter-NATIVE by World of Wonder This 6-part docuseries offers a behind-the-scenes look at the rising career of political fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail as she travels to Washington D.C. to particiapte in the Women’s March to walk for indigenous rights, address diversity with Vogue’s Anna Wintour, and debut her latest collections around Native country.



Indigenous Artist: URSULA JOHNSON by CBC News

In this documentary short, Canadian mixed-media artist, Ursula Johnson, explores body-shamming f rom a Native perspective. Through a series of fashion shoots, she challenges the misconceptions mainstream society has towards the indigenous female body.




Profile for Niya DeGroat


ISSUE #1 | Indigene is a fashion magazine that celebrates and highlights the ever-changing tapestry of indigenous fashion by sharing and pre...


ISSUE #1 | Indigene is a fashion magazine that celebrates and highlights the ever-changing tapestry of indigenous fashion by sharing and pre...


Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded