Innovation is generally forward-thinking, but it can also be a revival of tradition — and then sold through the modern-day e-commerce market. That’s how Harper’s Bazaar is framing the innovation of fashion, while featuring 10 Indigenous designers from around the world from Australia to Nigeria to California. Their cultural heritage and Indigenous knowledge shape their work — and that’s moving the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction, the publication states.
Since Bazaar’s recent appointment of a black editor-in-chief for the first time in the publication’s 153-year-history, more and more Indigenous entrepreneurs are receiving press. Samira Nasr, former executive fashion director at Vanity Fair, started heading the title’s U.S. edition in July 2020.
In its September issue, Bazaar featured Diné-owned Ah-Shí Beauty among its six “Beauty Game Changers.” Raised in Besh-Be-Toh on the Navajo Reservation in Northeastern Arizona, Ahsaki Báá LaFrance-Chachere created Ah-Shí Beauty because she desired to see more people of color represented in the luxury beauty market. “When the world sees Ah-Shí Beauty, they see my reservation, they see my people across Turtle Island,” LaFrance-Chachere shared after her beauty brand was featured in Bazaar.
Now Bazaar is turning the spotlight on more Indigenous creators.
While Bazaar featured a worldwide roundup of fashion, textile and apparel industry professionals, we’re honing in on the North America-based Indigenous entrepreneurs, including The Clique founder Kini Zamora (Native Hawaiian), Eighth Generation founder and CEO Louie Gong (Nooksack), Anne Mulaire creator Andréanne Mulaire (Métis), and and Jamie Okuma (Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock) whose fashion brand is her namesake.
Kini Zamora, The Clique
Former Project Runway contestant Kini Zamora, Native Hawaiian and Filipino, founded The Clique in Hālawa, O‘ahu.
Based in one of the most environmentally pristine inhabited regions on the planet, he sees the way mass-produced fashion is harming the earth.
“In my culture, you don’t make or take more than what you need,” he told Bazaar.
His brand creates designs meant for people to “keep for 10 or 15 years and pass down to their children.”
With each design, he pays reverence to his ancestors. “We always ask our kupuna (elders) about the cultural significance of our prints and the right way to use them,” he says.
Clothing by the The Clique tells the story of his people, and “we create a connection and keep the story of our lineage alive.”
Louie Gong, Eighth Generation
Louie Gong, the Nooksack founder of Eighth Generation in Seattle, Washington, says cultural knowledge and expression is intellectual property. “I always talk about cultural art like a natural resource,” he told Bazaar.
Cultural appropriation, rampant in the fashion industry, is detrimental to Natives. Eighth Generation creates economic opportunity for Indigenous artists, and pays them full price.
“Eighth Generation sets the gold standard for how businesses should align with cultural artists,” Gong previously told Native Business.
In November 2019, Gong sold Eighth Generation to the Snoqualmie Tribe; he continues to lead the company as CEO under a multi-year agreement.
Andréanne Mulaire Dandeneau, Anne Mulaire
Gentle on people and the planet — that’s the focus of Andréanne Mulaire Dandeneau, Métis of Anishinaabe and French descent, the designer and creator of eco-conscious Anne Mulaire in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“Indigenous people have a strong connection to the earth. It’s embedded in who we are,” she tells Bazaar.
The designer hires domestic workers, Canada-based knitters and dyers, to produce her bamboo fabrics. Then she adds embroidery and Indigenous graphic designs that she and her father create.
Jamie Okuma, Jamie Okuma
Jamie Okuma, the Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock creator of Jamie Okuma, hails from the La Jolla Indian reservation in California and continues to reside there today with her husband and two sons.
Her eco-friendly line embraces her cultural heritage. “All of my work has tradition at its core,” she told Bazaar. “For example, [in our culture] every part of the deer or buffalo is used. So I try to utilize everything possible in my work—with my art, supplies, fabric—and not be wasteful. I even save the scraps and find uses for them.”