Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Tribune
Fashion week is an undeniably prominent week for fashion designers and brands to display and unveil some of the latest and current trends in fashion worldwide. Of the four fashion capitols in the world (New York, London, Milan and Paris), Native American fashion will make its first appearance on the fashion runway on Sept. 7 during New York Fashion Week at the hiTechModa Fashion Event scheduled to be held at the National Geographic Encounter in the heart of Times Square in Manhattan, N.Y.
Cheyenne and Arapaho citizen and designer, Nan Blassingame, was introduced to the world of fashion and runways over a year ago and has since been invited to participate in various shows featuring Native American culture and designs.
With social media booming with opportunities, Blassingame came across hiTechModa’s page on Facebook and started following them, eventually leading her to apply for their upcoming show in the fall.
“I had just started following that page a week prior, I applied at midnight that evening late at night and by 9 a.m. they were already giving me a call the next morning, they wanted me to talk to their curator and they never had a Native American designer before, they were really excited to have an applicant that was Native American … they thought it would go great with the National Geographic never having Native American designers before,” Blassingame explained.
With Blassingame’s design company, Native American Notions, she can design just about anything with a native twist incorporated. Taking great pride in her Native American heritage, Blassingame looks forward to featuring her design pieces during fashion week, the most influential and momentous week in the fashion industry.
“It is so overwhelmingly exciting, I already have all of these ideas of the dresses I want to do, they want to also see powwow outfits and see more of the powwow regalia side of fashion, but I’m also going to put in about five formals also,” Blassingame said.
Since her first fashion show at the Intercultural Fashion Show in Austin, Texas, Blassingame’s fashion statements on the runway have made an impact on fashion as she has continued to gain attention.
“It’s unbelievable because I just started in fashion last year with entering the Austin Intercultural for the first time and right off from entering that I was interviewed by Art Today London Magazine and before the past two this weekend, with every show I was in a magazine, I was in the Native Max Magazine, the American Indian Arts Magazine, before this weekend it was three shows and three magazines, it was crazy,” Blassingame said.
And with the craziness of juggling work, a home life and designing clothes, Blassingame has a lot to look forward to every year as program director at the Austin Powwow.
“I’ve only done five shows, that’s all the time I have, from having a family to take care of and working, I’m the program director for the Great Promise for the American Indians non-profit and that’s who puts on the Austin Powwow, which is Nov. 2 … after September and October I have no time to do anything else, it’s crazy busy, it’s the largest powwow in Texas and brings in about 20,000 people,” Blassingame said.
Blassingame said she’s grown as a designer from within a year as she was invited again for the Austin Intercultural Fashion Show.
“Last year I just showed up, I stayed in my corner, I helped my models get ready and I just kept to myself. I didn’t mingle with the other designers and I was being shy," she said. "I jumped right in this year and I’m like wow I’ve really grown from a year ago. I was up and helping everybody get dressed because you don’t have that much time."
With the hiTechModa New York Fashion Show approaching fast, Blassingame already has her mind set on the fashion pieces she would like to feature.
“I’m going to do some tea dresses, a velvet one, and I was sponsored by TeTon Trade Cloth, they donated some trade cloth, which is 85 dollars a yard for me to make a dress out of, I’ll be making a dress out of that and I’m wanting to incorporate quill work, of course, my husband does quill work so I’ve already told him, ‘you’re going to have to help me, I have this idea in my head, you’re going to have to be a part of it,’ and I want to do a shell dress, jingle dresses and a red collection in honor of the Missing Murdered Indigenous Women,” Blassingame said.
Blassingame said her inspiration comes from working outside the stage at the Austin Powwow when she realized the audience wanted to see powwow dancers and the details of regalia up close and not from the stands.
“You know, they do want to see powwow outfits and what we still wear, so my collection is called Native Wear Today, which will be what we wear in the powwow circle but also what we can make and incorporate into formals, that’s what my collection will be and that’s where I have my inspiration, I was like, ‘okay I get, it they want to see the detail up close and not from the stands,’ I get it now and I’ll probably incorporate dancers on the outside stage this year,” Blassingame said.
While gracing the runway with her native designs and creativity through fashion, Blassingame hopes to bring awareness to the rich heritage of American Indians.
“I hope it brings more awareness that we’re still here, that we can do what any other designers can do from whatever nationality, we can design formals, everyday wear, I just want to show that we’re here and that we can do it too and still incorporate our tribal designs into the everyday wear, anyone can wear it or whoever wants to buy it can work with it, I really want to bring awareness to MMIW, which is catching on more now, we’re here and I feel like being from Texas I don’t get as much recognition because I’m way down here, but there’s the power of the internet and social media,” Blassingame said.
While in their second season, hiTech Moda is a fashion forward innovative runway project that was produced by Pamela Privette, CEO and producer. Privette teamed with Catherine Schuller, creative director, to combine fashion and technology.
“Technology is such a big part of our lives right now and I feel like the fashion industry needs so much help in terms of marketing itself better, it’s too exclusive, it’s too wasteful, it’s too irrelevant and inaccessible,” Schuller said.
From renowned fashion designers to celebrities, New York Fashion Week attracts a notable amount of people each year.
“We want to be that second tier but a high level accessible show that people can go to and enjoy New York Fashion Week, it’s a very popular event, it brings about $500 million into the city, I think more than the World Cup or more than the US Open combined … people come into the city and they want to go to a show so we want to make it an enjoyable experience for them and accessible on some level,” Schuller explained.
“We feel we’ve been able to fill that leash and do it very well, fairly, justly and creatively, and I feel as though it’s really going to set the standards for the industry because it’s changing, New York Fashion Week is not ust going to be buyers, industry insiders, all the people who get to sit in the front row are going to be there for that, it’s really opened up a whole new market, so we’re fulfilling that,” Schuller said.
Blassingame will be featured in the sustainability division set for Sept. 7 at 4 p.m.
“I feel that the sustainable development goals are very important to stress and to educate people about … I feel the inclusivity and the diversity that Nan represents is a very good tie in, plus you don’t get better than mother earth as someone, as an entity that we need to honor and that we need to promote her in a way and not exploit her, so I want to bring it back and really show the whole culture, the climate, the whole feeling of that, that educate people because you have to use the platform, you have to really open up everyone’s mind, so I talked to Nan about her line and I really felt as though I could make it experiential,” Schuller said.
Schuller said fashion could be a powerful tool to education and move people’s minds, heart and soul.
“It opens them up to different concepts and different cultures and allows them to see not in a superficial way but on a very deep level, what it’s going to mean, New York Fashion Week needs to be promoting these kind of things and what it’s about, it doesn’t get more diverse in the cultures that’s happening, I just feel as though the New York Fashion Week platform is very popular and it’s a great way to get a lot of people exposed and to our ideas,” Schuller said.
Latoya Lonelodge writes for the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribal Tribune where this story first appeared. Reposted by permission.