In honor of the 100th anniversary of the Santa Fe Indian Market, discover some of the event’s top fashion talent.
A hundred years of fashion can feel like a long time, with styles evolving and, more often than not, coming back. (We see you, low-rise jeans.) But for the designers who attended the 100th Annual Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico, clothing is more than just trends.
“Today’s fashion is just a continuation of who we are as people and how we’ve always expressed ourselves,” says Lauren Good Day, one of 15 designers from Canada and the United States who staged the shows at the world’s largest show Native American Art of the World. August market. Styles ranged from those with traditional Haida imagery, as in the work of Dorothy Grant, to Orlando Dugi’s menswear that was inspired by the story of creation in Diné culture. Celebrity models added to the festive mood and included Prey’s Amber Midthunder, Dark winds cast members Kiowa Gordon, Jessica Matten and Eugene Brave Rock and model Quannah Chasinghorse.
“Indigenous fashion is created with so much care and intention,” explains Jason Baerg, who designs under the label Ayimach_Horizons. “We go through the canons and there’s a very rich visual archive of each nation that speaks to our great pride and connection to place, history and ancestors.”
Designer Melanie LeBlanc says everything contemporary designers do has roots in what has come before. “With fashion having evolved over the years, while it may not be quite as it was when our ancestors made clothes, we’re still bringing aspects of their beading and silhouettes into fashion today,” she says. “We’re just making it into a way people of our generation will wear it.”
Here, we spotlight some of the brands that took part in the 100th Santa Fe Indian Market.
Catherine Blackburn and Melanie LeBlanc
Brand: Catherine Blackburn and LeBlanc Apparel
Background: Melanie LeBlanc lives in Saskatoon and, despite being Dene European and a member of the English River First Nation, was adopted and disconnected from her Indigenous roots. For her inaugural collection, titled Convergence, she collaborated with her aunt Catherine Blackburn, who created all of her accessories. Blackburn, who is also a Dene European and a member of the English River First Nation, is a multidisciplinary artist and jeweler. Her work has appeared in various venues, such as the first indigenous woman US Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, and in collaboration with streetwear designer Mobilize.
Design ethics: A recent graduate of the Saskatoon Academy of Fashion Design, LeBlanc focuses on slow fashion. She aims to honor her Dene heritage, through color and fabric (like lining the hood of a coat with electric blue fox fur), and also her grandmothers (both adoptive and biological), through her quilting and her motifs. .
Blackburn’s practice includes jewelry and commercial and conceptual art, but the common elements in her work are ornamentation and techniques specific to the Dene people of northern Saskatchewan.
Background: Based in Montreal, Skawennati is a cutting-edge visual artist from the Kahnawa:ke Mohawk Territory who has been making films from virtual worlds for years. He also creates textiles, still images and sculptures with a focus on indigenous futurism, depicting indigenous peoples thriving and revitalizing their languages.
Design ethics: The artist first created his looks – camo tape shirts and calico pants – on avatars and then brought them to life. She came to the designs after some introspection: “What is the future of the calico and the shirt with ribbons? At what point can it change? It’s the same question for us. What can we leave in the past? And what should we take with us?
Brand: Emme Studio
Background: Brooklyn, NY-based designer Korina Emmerich brings bright colors and designs to everything from beanies to vests. She is a native of the Pacific Northwest—and an unofficial member of the Puyallup tribe—She often uses Pendleton fabrics in her lei patterns, and while the textile company is not an indigenously owned brand, her blankets have been appreciated by many natives.
Design ethics: Emmerich works with fibers (including wool and linen) from his homeland and incorporates social and climate justice wherever possible, using the catwalks as a form of protest. In Santa Fe, he showed off a dress made from a red banner about missing and murdered indigenous people that he made in collaboration with RISE.
Background: From Prince Albert, Sask., Toronto-based Jason Baerg is an interdisciplinary artist, curator, and faculty member at OCAD University who brings his Northern Saskatchewan Cree Métis heritage to everything he does.
Design ethics: Baerg’s artistic pieces incorporate movement and bold color and transcend stereotypes such as gender dualities. “As a two-minded person, I welcome my teachings and try to abstractly filter them so that it’s safe for my community to share,” he says.
Lauren Good day
Brand: Lauren Good day
Background: Artist and stylist, Lauren Good Day is Arikara, Hidatsa, Blackfeet and Plains Cree. She lives and works in North Dakota, although she has spent time with her family in Sweet Grass Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan.
Design ethics: Family and a longstanding devotion to art and fashion are the common threads of Good Day’s work. Each of her collections is inspired by her children, and relatives sometimes appear on her runways: her daughter danced the dress jingle at the opening of her fashion show at the Santa Fe Indian Market.
This article first appeared in FASHION’s Winter number. Find out more here.