Let’s celebrate September fashion weeks with Indian Country’s designers

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

Native fashion can exist and be appreciated without cultural appropriation.

Its September. That means fashion week has started. More like fashion month to all the fashionistas out there because each week is a big-time fashion week, such as New York, London, Milan and Paris. This is the time designers showcase their spring or summer collection.

Vogue published the schedule of shows at New York Fashion Week, which started Sept. 6 and ends on Sept. 14. Followed by London Fashion Week from Sept. 14 to Sept. 18. Milan Fashion Week starting Sept. 19 to Sept. 25. Paris Fashion Week runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 2.

For Native communities, fashion week can also mean cultural appropriation galore.

Remember when Kokon to Zai appropriated B. Yellowtails designs on the New York runway. The entire collection, in fact, seemed to be inspired by Indigenous cultures. After the 2015 incident, she told Indian Country Today, On a grander scale I would like to see a larger call to action to support authentic Native arts, especially in fashion, and protect Indigenous designers. It is clear to me that there is a space and a want for authentic representation, especially in fashion. I hope to see monumental collaborations with gigantic brands & conscious designers.

From Indian Country Today's archives: Bethany Yellowtail Gutted by Crow Design on Dress at New York Fashion Week

In light of this month and to show non-Natives that Natives can produce powerful wearable art, here is a look at the Native designers who were early to the game at the Santa Fe Indian Market Fashion Show last month -- including a few well-known models.

This years designers included: Cody Sanderson, Maya Stewart, Jamie Okuma and Ataumbi Metals, Sho Sho Esquiro, Decontie and Brown, Pam Baker, Yolonda Skelton, Adrian Standing Elk Pinnecoose, and Shayne Watson.

Cody Sanderson, Navajo, creates award-winning silver jewelry with a contemporary edge. His work has been worn by Sophia Turner from the Game of Thrones, published in Vogue China, highlighted in the Los Angeles Times and photographed by GQ Taiwan on actor Jeremy Renner, also known as Hawkeye from the Marvel series.

Maya Stewart, Chickasaw/Creek/Choctaw, returned to Santa Fe. Her bold work has been to the Paris, New York, and Los Angeles Fashion Weeks, and featured in W Magazine, Vogue, Elle, and Vanity Fair. Celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence from The Hunger Games, Anne Hathaway from The Princess Diaries and Oceans 8, and Kerry Washington from Scandal wear her fashion line.

Model wearing Maya Stewart's design. (Photo by Ruth Bazhnibah Kawano)

OXDX Clothing Owner Jared Yazzie, Navajo, and Jamie Okuma, Shoshone-Bannock and Luiseño, of J.Okuma gave us a sneak peaks of their new couture collaboration on social media. Their two silk dresses with digital prints were debuted at Indian Market accompanied by Ataumbi Metals by Keri Ataumbi, Kiowa. Fashion has a way of birthing the most unlikely, but surprisingly extraordinary pieces. Many have seen or may own OXDX Clothings ready-to-wear line. Yazzies work speaks out about Native issues, such as Columbus Day with his infamous Native Americans Discovered Columbus t-shirt. Recently, Facebook ads would not allow him to make his Support Indigenous Resistance shirt a promotional ad because his page is not authorized to run ads with political content.

Models, Pachynne Ignacio & MT Garcia, are wearing the latest collaboration of OXDX and J.Okuma. (Photo by Hannah Manuelito)

He just released a new wool blanket in collaboration with the Seattle-based company Eighth Generation.

Along with OXDX, part of Sho Sho Esquiros, Kaska Dene and Cree, new collection is about making statements. Her black leather jacket with Pope Francis positioned upside-down on the back addresses the denial of an official apology from him. Esquiro, a second generation residential-school survivor, wrote in a Facebook post, We carry a trauma and it's time for our own healing, not by the Catholic Churches acknowledgement but by our own accords. Sure an apology would be nice, but if we aren't receiving it we need to acknowledge that will never happen. Us as a people need to be accountable for our own healing journey, that is why this Collection is a direct message to the Pope and the Catholic Church. No Apology Necessary.

Sho Sho Esquiro's newest leather jacket. (Photo by Ruth Bazhnibah Kawano)

As a husband-wife team, Jason Brown and Donne Decontie-Brown, went to Indian Market with 20 years of experience in fashion and jewelry. Their company, Decontie & Brown, brings inspiration from their Penobscot culture which fashion-show attendees witnessed. For instance, a Penobscot elder and medicine woman inspired their opening piece, a black and white plaid trench coat with pink lining (as shown in the video above).

Jason Brown and Donne Decontie-Brown pose with their models after the 2018 Santa Fe Indian Market Fashion Show. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)

Pamela Baker, Kwakwaka'wakw/Squamish, returned to this years show with a beautiful collection of First Nations designs. As a single mother, Baker received her degree in fashion design from Otis College in Los Angeles and went onto to her line of jewelry and clothing.

Models walk down the runway wearing Pam Baker's designs. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)

Since 2001, Yolonda Skelton, Loni from Gitxsan Nation, has been creating. Mostly textile. Skeltons retains the traditional North Coast culture through her contemporary designs, which are not only colorful and bold, but functional. If you are more about remaining settle, her company, Sugitt Lukxs Designs, created some clothes to suit your taste.

Yolonda Skelton poses with her models after the 2018 Santa Fe Indian Market Fashion Show. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)

As a 2017 fellow of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts Discovery Fellowship, Adrian Standing Elk Pinnecoose, Navajo/Southern Ute, wanted to fabricate a line for the haute couture fashion show. And he did. The digital artist said in release last year that he cannot wait to show everybody this collection. He didnt disappoint.

Adrian Standing Elk Pinnecoose's collection showing at the 2018 Santa Fe Indian Market Fashion Show. (Photo by Ruth Bazhnibah Kawano)

Shayne Watson, Navajo, isnt new to the fashion game, but he is to this years showcase. Models, students, and fashion shows on the Navajo Nation have been circulating photos of his Pendleton and velvet combo work on social media for years now. Using his grandmothers teachings, who was a seamstress, Waton designs outfits for men and women for a various events, such as weddings, graduations, and the cold weather.

Of course, fashion shows would not be possible without the models to wear the clothes and accessories. Attendees might have recognized three models this year: professional volleyball player Lauren Schad, Cheyenne River, and the WNBAs Shoni Schimmel, Umatilla, and actor Wes Studi who modeled for Cody Sanderson. Schad plays for the French Pro A League and Schimmel finished her first season with the Las Vegas Aces.

Professional volleyball player Lauren Schad models for Cody Sanderson. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)

WNBA player Shoni Schimmel models for Cody Sanderson. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is a staff reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter@jourdanbb. Email: jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com