At Manic Metallic, we see it as one of our duties to educate our audience about the contributions of different cultures to the realm of fashion. After all, fashion is universal; it is not the domain of the “Big 4” fashion capitals (as we’ve stated extensively in the past; see our Alternative Fashion Capitals series wrap-up for more of our thoughts on this topic). For this article, we decided to spotlight the work of Native Americans in our industry. We’ve chosen 15 individuals who’ve influenced the fashion industry in a meaningful way.
Many fall under the category of designers, models, journalists, or activists. As you read the bios below of these extraordinary people, consider ways that you might be able to support them and the work that they do. And if the link to the fashion industry doesn’t immediately appear in said bios (as with a couple of additions to the list), it will with a bit of independent research.
Bethany Yellowtail, Designer & CEO, B. Yellowtail
From B. Yellowtail:
“Bethany Yellowtail is an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, and was raised in the Mighty Few District of the Crow Nation by her parents Wailes and Lena Yellowtail.
A 2009 graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising – FIDM, she started her fashion career at the BCBG Max Azria Group, moving on to become a lead pattern maker for several private label companies before launching her own brand in 2015.
She is the designer and CEO of B. Yellowtail, and the B. Yellowtail Collective, a brand initiative to support Native American, First Nations, and Indigenous entrepreneurs.
Bethany’s artistic vision and work is irremovable from her social justice vision for her community: not only does she provide employment for dozens of artists, Bethany was active in the No-DAPL and women’s rights movements, fundraising thousands of dollars through apparel sales, teaching ribbon skirt workshops on site at the water protector camp, and creating a silk scarf to represent the women’s march on Washington.”
Kelly Holmes, Founder/Editor-in-Chief, Native Max Magazine
“Kelly Holmes, Lakota from the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, calls herself an inspirational
storyteller, in hopes, to strengthen connections to culture and identity by inspiring and empowering readers while sharing stories with the world.
Kelly is the founder and President of Native Max New Media, an award-winning global multimedia brand with a constellation of platforms and networks that expands indigenous talent across print, digital, web,
mobile, video, events, e-commerce, and partnerships. She is also editor-in-chief of Native Max Magazine, a glossy publication that features the fashion, culture, and lifestyle of Native American and First Nations people.
The idea behind the formation of Native Max Magazine was the brainchild of Kelly. After working as a model, writer, designer, and stylist, Kelly decided to create her own business. Kelly felt that by launching a magazine that features Native talent she can better promote self-esteem, self-respect, and pride in Native communities.
Kelly is also the founder and CEO of Native Fashion in the City, a global network and platform committed to strengthening the impact and influence of Indigenous Fashion around the world by supporting the next generation of Indigenous fashion talents.”
Adrienne Keene, Creator, Native Appropriations
“Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee Nation) is a Native scholar, writer, blogger, and activist, and is passionate about reframing how the world sees contemporary Native cultures. She is the creator and author of Native Appropriations, a blog discussing cultural appropriation and stereotypes of Native peoples in fashion, film, music, and other forms of pop culture.
Through her writing and activism, Keene questions and problematizes the ways Indigenous peoples are represented, asking for celebrities, large corporations, and designers to consider the ways they incorporate “Native” elements into their work. She is very interested in the way Native peoples are using social and new media to challenge misrepresentations and present counter-narratives that showcase true Native cultures and identities.
Her blog work has been nominated for the Women’s Media Center Social Media Award (2011), as well as featured in many mainstream media outlets.
Adrienne holds a doctorate in Culture, Communities, and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on college access for Native (American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian) students and the role of precollege access programs in student success. She has worked closely with a non-profit called College Horizons, which assists Native students in the college application process — as a participant, alumna, faculty member, and now researcher.”