Indian Market 100: Indigenous fashion trendsetter
This year, the hugely popular Santa Fe Indian Market Native Fashion Show will be a two-part event.
It is one of the most popular tickets in the Indian market. This year, the SWAIA Indigenous Fashion Show will take place Saturday-Sunday August 20-21.
More than a dozen designers will participate, including Catherine Blackburn (Dene, European, English River First Nation), Jamie Okuma (Luiseno, Shoshone-Bannock, Wailaki, Okinawan, La Jolla), Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo), Lesley Hampton ( Anishinaabe), Orlando Dugi (Navajo), Sho Sho Esquiro (Aboriginal Kaska Dene, Cree, Scottish) and Cody Sanderson (Navajo). We spoke with fashion show producer Amber-Dawn Bear Robe (Siksika/Blackfoot) about what to expect.
Wes Studi models for Cody Sanderson
Cowboys & Indians: How will this year’s show be different?
Amber Dawn Bear Robe: It will expand by extending over two days, with different creators for each, followed by a trunk evening. The goal is to turn fashion programming into a SWAIA Fashion Week.
C&I: How has the series evolved and what does it take to be successful?
bear dress: Blood, sweat and tears! [Laughs.] The first SWAIA track was outdoors in Cathedral Park. I set it up with hardly any resources in 2013.
THIS : What will we see this year?
Bear dress: Couture, ready-to-wear and wearable art. The vibe and energy will be different. Saturday evening will be more lounge with a “chill” atmosphere. I encourage guests to have fun, dress to perfection with bling, sparkle and glamour. Saturday’s show will be luxurious, a very social evening. Sunday is more of a traditional track style. Both will be at the Santa Fe Convention Center with wine and appetizers.
THIS : How are you preparing?
Bear dress: It’s a huge production, and I wear many fashionable hats, from model manager, art director, administration, liaison, and the list is endless. Ideally, I would have a team overseeing each department in running the show, but that takes resources. Getting track lighting is difficult and expensive! Lighting, of course, can make a spectacle, from good photos, filmography, presenting each designer in a visual way that highlights collections and models. On the day of the show, the models have their hair and make-up done, the stylists make the final fittings and adjustments. When you reserve 100 models, there will always be no-shows or last-minute cancellations. It’s last-minute controlled chaos, and it keeps me on my toes. Aboriginal modeling agency Supernaturals in Canada returns here. They bring a great eclectic energy to Santa Fe and the track.
Patricia Michaux. ©image courtesy of the designer.
C&I: Another novelty?
Bear dress: Last year we experimented with designer chest exhibits and it proved extremely popular. This component is planned for 2022 with more room for structuring. People can meet designers and models and buy or order directly from the designer.
C&I: Great idea! What trends do you see in Indigenous fashion?
Bear dress: There are different pockets of trends in Aboriginal fashion. Street clothing. Ready to wear. Top of the line. Ready-to-wear clothing based on Aboriginal sewing is in high demand. Another fashion trend, across all areas of fashion, is to represent all body sizes, ages, genders, and all expectations of the mainstream industry – to be diverse in size, color, shape, shape and sex.
C&I: How is the fashion industry moving forward with diversity, especially the inclusion of Indigenous designers?
Bear dress: In America, the representation of Indigenous designers is much more minimal compared to the Indigenous fashion and art scene in Canada. I don’t see any real long-term commitment from apparel and major fashion houses to Aboriginal designers. I’ve seen huge changes happening in Canada, like Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week, Toronto Indigenous Fashion Week, now called the Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival, magazine covers, news and media coverage outside of the native niche bubble.
C&I: What don’t people realize about Indigenous fashion?
Bear dress: If I can get one thing across, it’s that Indigenous peoples are extremely diverse in their expression, art, and design. A Native designer, artist, or model does not speak or represent all North American Indians. It’s ridiculous [to think] that a region can represent the wealth of creativity in Canada and the United States. There is not a single sentence, word or box that can answer “What is Indigenous fashion?”, a question I am asked many times. It’s like asking, “What is American fashion?” We could see during the recent Met Gala theme on American fashion how it presents itself in many ways and manifestations. In fact, Indigenous design is at the heart of American fashion. Most people don’t realize this foundation of design in the United States. We need to get away from this pan-Indian idea of Native North Americans. Indigenous fashion can be fun, serious, political, conceptual, historical and futuristic.
C&I: What about the next market?
Bear dress: I love SWAIA market time. It is a place where people from all regions can come together to celebrate Indigenous arts in all their diversity. We reunite with old and new friends and family. People put on their native bling, Okuma dresses, statement jewelry, power shoes and strut their stuff. SWAIA fashion shows are a unique experience that you won’t get anywhere else in America.
Track image by Patricia Michaels courtesy of SWAIA.
SHO SHO ESQUIRO
Living today in a condo in New Westminster, British Columbia, fashion designer Sho Sho Esquiro grew up in Canada’s remote Yukon.
“It’s quite drastic and extreme. It’s just a nice place to come from. I am a proud Yukoner,” she says.
During her frequent two-day drive from Vancouver to the Yukon, she may see bears, moose, foxes, a herd of caribou, beavers, porcupines, eagles, owls and magpies. .
“It’s always a blessing when animals come to you,” she says.
And it’s a long three-day drive for Esquiro, 41, from Vancouver to Santa Fe, with his car loaded with his fashion clothes. She specializes in Aboriginal couture streetwear and Aboriginal luxury, using recycled furs and different leathers. She shows in museums and on the runways, including fashion shows in Paris and at New York Fashion Week. Socio-political statements appear on his recent clothes. An ombre wool cashmere dress features the statement “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” which is beaded upside down, giving it an almost abstract look.
“It’s a quote from Richard Pratt, who was responsible for opening boarding schools in the United States,” she says.
A bustier top in 24 carat gold, sealskin, wool and mother-of-pearl called “Worth Our Wait in Gold”.
The spelling is, of course, intentional: “As if we are seeking justice for the murder of missing Native women,” says Esquiro. “I live by a river and a large eagle was sitting on a tree outside of the two months I made the piece. There were times when I cried, I beaded.
At her SWAIA show, she will be selling unique and upcycled denim jackets.
“[Indian Market has] been everything for my career,” she says. “I made incredible friendships. There was networking and opportunities and I pushed myself as an artist.
The market has only recently begun to admit First Nations artists, and for Esquiro this is an opportunity to represent Canadians, First Nations, Kaska and the Yukon.
“I’ve mentored up-and-coming Yukon artists,” she says, “so not only has SWAIA helped me, but indirectly others.
Design by Sho Sho Esquiro; SWAIA Fashion Show 2018
Design by Sho Sho Esquiro; SWAIA Fashion Show 2018
Design by Sho Sho Esquiro; modeled by Joleen Mitton; SWAIA Fashion Show 2018