Native Fashion Now: Favorites
Our 26th episode, entitled: "Native Fashion Now: Interview with Peabody Essex Curator Karen Kramer," hopefully opened your mind to a new narrative about Native Americans as individuals and as tribes. If you haven't listened yet, you can listen to the episode here. Native American talent that has consistently tried to break through to the ready to wear and high end markets. Native Fashion Now is one of the most dynamic exhibitions this year because it shines a spotlight on marginalized people that goes beyond Native trauma. Listening to Dana's interview, it was clear that the decision to choose different garments was important to Kramer and the Peabody Essex Museum. (Alternate sentence: It is clear from Dana's interview that the decision to showcase different garment was important to Kramer and the Peabody Essex Museum.) Here are some of our favorite designs from the exhibit.
Native Fashion Now will be open until September 4, 2017. The exhibition is located at National Museum of the American Indian George Gustav Heye Center, Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, 1 Bowling Green, NYC.
The Lloyd "Kiva" New dress
The green, yellow and brown "Kiva" dress from the 1950s is one of my favorite objects in the show. I love that Kiva's designs were represented so prominently in the show and in the context of current day native fashion design. The silhouette is just a classic and beautiful "new look" silhouette combined with southwestern influences and just looks so comfortable. I think Kiva is too often (or very often) ignored when fashion in the 1950s is covered, particularly when the focus is on playsuits or casual wear.
Sho Sho Esquiro's Wile Wile Wile dress
I love the dramatic lines and movement inherent in the design of the dress. I also love the combination of the different furs, beads and feathers and bones and carp skin and how the different textures all play against each other and provide dimension and tension and excitement. The dress is from Esquiro's "Day of the Dead" collection and the use of animal furs, skins and bones perfectly play on the idea of the transition between life and death in this beautiful and elegant gown.
Dustin Martin's "Ceci n'est pas un conciliteur" t-shirt
I think this shirt both makes a strong political statement and has beautiful graphics. A simple printed t-shirt like this, has the ability to challenge the generally accepted American history narrative, while the black delicate lines of the "peacemaker" and printed and script words are elegant and stark against the white of the cotton t-shirt. It's sobering and beautiful.
Wendy Ponca, "Osage" from the 2015 Oklahoma Dresses Collection
What a striking garment and display! What makes this piece so intoxicating is the drama and the use of materials the dress is made of mylar. The couture like drama of some of the pieces in the exhibition are what inspires me to read more about native designers that we have forgotten or pushed to the side. According to the artist the mylar's reflective and auditory properties (the fabric makes a crinkle sound) is a tribute to the home of the ancestors in Osage creation stories.
Margaret Roach Wheller, "The Messenger (The Owl)" cape and headpiece.
Looking at this look by Wheller, created in 2014, gives me a sense of reverence which may be a cliche to say when describing a Native American exhibition but the objects are not the only reason. The placement of the look in the exhibition makes the piece look scary but protective. The cape is made from a silk-wool yarn and has luxuriously golden tassels.
Llloyd Kiva New, Dress from 1950s
I am most inspired by this dress and Dana's pick because of the designer's story. Lloyd Kiva New (1916-2002) was a Cherokee designer that was more of a household name in the 1950s but never rose to critical acclaim. He created clothing that would rival post war ready to wear but he was not able to compete in the market next to white designers. Much like black designer Ann Lowe, Kiva New created a niche for himself in the expanding custom clothing design market. I am a little embarrassed I did not know about him sooner.