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Carina Dominguez
Indian Country Today

Models strutted down the runway in traditional and contemporary designs at a sold-out fashion show in Downtown Phoenix this past weekend.

The Indigenous Community Fashion Showcase was part of Phoenix Indian Center’s 75-year anniversary celebration on March 5. Phoenix Indian Center, a nonprofit organization, serves the Indigenous community in Phoenix and is the oldest organization of its kind.

Fashion designer Rebekah Jarvey, Chippewa Cree and Blackfeet, organized the event and Jason Coochwytewa with Urias Communications produced the show.

Jarvey is a fourth-generation beader and sewer from Rocky Boy tribal lands in Montana.

She started sewing masks for others during the pandemic and her “night and day mask” went viral on social media, catapulting her brand into business.

“I received like hundreds of emails from people all over the world and they wanted to know who I was and they wanted my product,” Jarvey said. “And so that was kind of the push for me to start my business.”

She started sewing regularly, after her nine-to-five job, to fulfill the orders coming in.

She sews ribbon skirts, beads jewelry and sells scarves and other merchandise on her website.

Before that she would hem for her family and was involved with organizing a fashion show in her community.

“I didn't really put myself out there. I just did it just ‘cause I love fashion. And I wanted to share it with my community and create that safe space for girls and young boys to feel comfortable being Indigenous,” Jarvey said.

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Indigenous Community Fashion Showcase organizer Rebekah Jarvey poses with model Brittanya Yazzie after the event on Saturday, March 5. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, ICT)

Once her brand took off she started hosting an AirBnB experience where she teaches people how to make ribbon skirts.

Last year she started partnering with the Phoenix Indian Center, teaching seven online ribbon skirt sewing classes.

“It feels amazing,” Jarvey said. “My heart is just very complete. And some of the people that I taught how to make ribbon skirts, they actually wore their ribbon skirts on the red carpet tonight.”

The show offered an opportunity to individuals who didn’t know how to enter a fashion show – or were afraid to – as well as designers who are established or up and coming.

Jarvey’s “ribbon drip” was featured in her latest collection “Being Indigenous Is So Beautiful.”

“Being Indigenous is so beautiful. I feel like we need to find that gift and then embrace it,” Jarvey said.

Other designers featured in the show included Joanne Miles-Long of San Carlos Apache and Akimel O'Odham, Wilfred Jumbo who is Diné, and Sage Mountainflower of Ohkay Owingeh, Taos Pueblo and Navajo Nation.

Indigenous Community Fashion Showcase in Phoenix, AZ on March 5, 2022 was organized by Rebekah Jarvey, a fashion designer from Rock Boy, Montana who is Chippewa Cree and Blackfeet. (Photo by Carina Dominguez, ICT)

Celebrating 75 years

Partnering with the center to host a community focused fashion show made sense to Jarvey.

“I think that really met and fit with their mission as the Phoenix Indian Center as serving their people for 75 years,” she said.

Proceeds from the show went towards funding programming at the center, which is the country’s largest urban Native organization.

It offers a mix of cultural workshops and workforce development training, as well as youth programs.

“Our focus has always been serving our people, it is at the heart of what we do, and as we celebrate this year, we want our events to be inclusive for everyone. We hope that our center will continue in its role as a community hub for all,” said Interim CEO of Phoenix Indian Center Jolyana Begay-Kroupa in a statement.

The weekend was full of anniversary activities for the community that focused on culture, including the fashion show curated by Jarvey.

“I'm so thankful for the Phoenix Indian Center, ever since I started working with them I feel so lucky and I don't know other places that really work and do a lot for their people,” Jarvey said.

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