Fashion Creatives to Support this Indigenous People's Day (And Every Day!)
By Erica Schwartz
Indigenous People's Day was initially proposed at a United Nations conference in 1977 but wasn't federally recognized by the United States Government until 2021. Many organizations, like Indigenous People's Day Massachusetts, work tirelessly to get the holiday officially recognized in various states and territories. Even in places where it isn't recognized, Native communities celebrate the holiday and encourage non-Native people to do the same.
The holiday serves many purposes, both within and outside of Native communities. The day is often a day of both protest and celebration of culture. In recent years, there has been an influx of events to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women.
There are so many ways to be an ally this Indigenous People's Day. One way you can be an ally today is by shopping small and supporting Native-owned businesses. Now, supporting these individual creatives does not rectify the centuries of abuse and maltreatment the Native communities of America have endured. However, supporting these talents is just one way for each of us to give back to the indigenous community on a personal scale. Moreover, all of the following artists specifically note that they create their work to encourage authentic appreciation of culture and spark intercultural dialogue. Their designs are created to be shared with all people, whether or not they are Native-identifying.
Jamie Okuma is a Luiseno, Shoshone-Bannock, Wailaki, and Okinawan “fashion artist,” as she aptly refers to herself. Many of her wearable fashion items are prints of her intricate beadwork art pieces, which can be seen in museums such as the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Crocker Art Museum. Her designs are eye-catching, often incorporating geometric shapes and floral motifs. Okuma's expansive size range, in addition to size-independent pieces like cashmere scarves, ensures that there is something available for everyone. Many of her pieces are available in sizes XS-2XL, with unisex items ranging from XS-5XL.
Jamie Gentry (Jamie Gentry Designs)
Jamie Gentry is an award-winning moccasin designer and member of Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. Her designs are funky and modern yet rooted in deep tradition. Featured in major fashion magazines like InStyle and Cosmopolitan, Gentry’s moccasins are adorned in unique beadwork and embroidery that can’t be found anywhere else. Each pair is made-to-order, allowing for the intentional and ethical usage of hides for their creation. According to Gentry, her goal is to create meaningful connections between the maker and the consumer for the sake of sustainability and authentic cultural exchange. Gentry's tagline is "Reconnecting with our values, feet first."
Bethany Yellowtail (B. Yellowtail)
Bethany Yellowtail, lead designer, CEO, and founder of B. Yellowtail, is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation and descends from the Mighty Few District of the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation. From fine jewelry to silk scarves to soy wax candles, B. Yellowtail has all your accessorizing needs covered. B. Yellowtail partners with Native Wellness Institute (NWI) for their "Rez Girls Mentorship Fund," an empowerment program for women, girls, and two-spirit members of both urban and tribal Native communities. A portion of the proceeds from B. Yellowtail's graphic tees go directly to supporting this fund, but direct donations to NWI are also possible here. B. Yellowtail's tagline is "NATIVE AMERICAN WOMAN OWNED. INDIGENOUSLY DESIGNED FOR ALL."
Amanda Bruegl and Eric Brodt (Ginew)
Ginew is the very first Native-American-owned denim brand, led by husband and wife duo Amanda Bruegl (Oneida and Stockbridge-Munsee) and Eric Brodt (Ojibwe). As featured in Vogue magazine, their denim is crafted using pre-industrial production methods, which have been passed down from generation to generation. Since its inception, Ginew has expanded to feature other items such as outerwear, hand-knit sweaters, blankets, jewelry, and more. According to their website, Bruegl and Brodt utilize "family symbols and teachings" in the design and production process of all of their garments. Ginew is remarkably transparent with its material sourcing and cultivation, rooting its sustainability in ancestral practices. Their tops and outerwear range from XS to 2XL/3XL (varies by item), and their pants range from size 30-38.
Lauren Good Day is an Arikara, Hidatsa, Blackfeet and Plains Cree fashion creative with a list of accolades too long to fit all of here! Her award-winning work has been featured in publications like Vogue and the New York Times, as well as renowned art shows like the Santa Fe Indian Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Good Day sells clothing items, art pieces, and beaded jewelry. Her Summer 2023 collection, "Traditions," features chic silhouettes, intricately beaded bags, and even Barbie-inspired baby tees! Good Day designed the collection in the spirit of "adornment of heritage on new silhouettes with ledger art inspirations." Good Day's "wearable art" items can be purchased in sizes XS-5XL.
As aforementioned, supporting Native-owned businesses is just one of the many ways you can be an ally to the Indigenous community. Take time today—either before or after loading your shopping cart with some new goodies!—to learn about the people on whose land you now live. Attend Native-led events in your community, whether they are celebrations or advocacy events. Let Indigenous People's Day serve as a reminder of all the ways we can and should pay tribute to Native peoples today and every day.
Boston University Fashion and Retail Association seeks to provide all BU students an avenue to authentically celebrate our favorite element of culture: Fashion! With Indigenous students being highly underrepresented at Boston University, it was challenging to find any Indigenous voices on campus to collaborate on this article with. Although a great deal of research was conducted for this article, we believe first-hand representation is always going to be the most accurate. If there was any inappropriately utilized jargon, major names omitted, or any other concerns with this article, please comment below or send a message to our inbox.