This month, we celebrate and honor Native American people and commemorate their histories and cultures. But the time to support Indigenous artists is year-round. Sustainability and tradition are often at the forefront of Indigenous design, whether it’s the way Keri Ataumbi uses visual storytelling in her jewelry or the history behind Jamie Gentry’s bespoke moccasin boutique. For Amy Denet Deal of 4KINSHIP, creativity is also about telling Indigenous stories, which have so often been misunderstood or not told at all. “I want people to know we are limitless,” she says. “Our creativity has been highly coveted by the fashion industry, and for decades has been appropriated. It’s our time to step into the fashion space to tell our own stories and present our own creative visions ourselves.”
By uplifting Indigenous, Native American, and First Nation-owned brands, you help grow small businesses, spread inclusivity, and encourage authentic art. “There is such a pan-indigenous view of native people, yet we are over 574 different tribes, so there is certainly not just one point of view,” Denet Deal says. We hope to see more and more of these talented visionaries sharing their perspectives in the years to come. For now, here are 11 designers to support this Indigenous Peoples’ Day—and always.
Korina Emmerich descends from a long line of Coast Salish Territory fisherman on her father’s side, and her designs for EMME Studio often reflect that legacy. She is known for crafting beautiful jackets and shirts in bright sunset and oceanic colors, and in patterns that pay homage to the sacred relationship between humans and animals. Celebrities and politicians like Deb Haaland have worn Emmerich’s designs, and one of her creations, a wool skirt and coat, was even featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” exhibit. At the height of the pandemic, Emmerich used her sartorial skills to help her community by crafting hundreds of face masks in traditional patterns and hues. “[Indigenous] masks can carry heavy ceremonial responsibilities in recovery and healing,” Emmerich told ELLE at the time. “Everything created is meant to be used and masks help share traditional teachings in a sort of theatrical way.”
Lauren Good Day
Lauren Good Day, an Arikara-Hidatsa-Blackfeet-Plains-Cree designer, learned beadwork from her mother as a child. She then took that passion for art and traditional design and incorporated it into her eponymous contemporary clothing brand, which is known worldwide for its bright unisex graphic tees, hoodies, and pants. Her latest collection honors the “aesthetic of the flourishing Northern Plains” and features traditional floral and elk patterns in bright colors.
Growing up on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Keri Ataumbi developed a love for contemporary Native American design at an early age. The Kiowa fine jeweler categorizes her work as “wearable art,” because it incorporates conceptual narrative and often features juxtaposing materials. “In the Western world, there’s been a real separation in terms of what’s art and what isn’t art,” she said in an interview. “There’s not an integrated feeling about jewelry, that jewelry is actually art and can have all the same stories and potency that a painting does.”
Renowned beadworker Jamie Okuma is thoughtful and eco-conscious when she comes up with her luxury designs—which often incorporate intricate patterns of florals and animals. Okuma—who is Luiseño, Shoshone-Bannock, Wailaki, and Okinawan—keeps production quantity relatively low in order to avoid overstock. “We all have those go-to pieces in our closet that we keep for years and literally wear out before we retire them,” she said in an interview. “I’m here to make the go-tos, the keepers.”
Lesley Hampton, who landed a spot on ELLE Canada’s list of designers to watch, credits her Anishinaabe and Mohawk heritage for shaping her work. Hampton’s sleek designs, which bring to light issues like mental health via phrases and sayings emblazoned on them, have been spotted on runways and red carpets (Lizzo is a fan). But that’s not why Hampton got into fashion. “I’ve been doing a lot of growing up and discovering my Indigeneity,” she told ELLE Canada. “I use the collection as a catalyst for figuring out my identity. Being able to present that with beautiful garments on the runway is just a bonus.”
Jamie Gentry is from the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, and grew up immersed in a world full of traditional culture and art—particularly sewing, beading, and weaving. She took that deep-rooted passion for all things handmade and turned it into a bona fide bespoke moccasin-making business. Each pair is custom-made and, Gentry says on her site, says “infused with love.”
As a teenager, Tania Larsson immersed herself in her Gwich’in culture—teaching herself how to make traditional jewelry and beaded garments. She found a mentor in Ataumbi, featured above on this list. After apprenticing under the designer for two years, Larsson began making her own beautiful jewelry under her brand Gwich’in Fine Jewellery, which she described in an interview as “a conduit that creates connections between the land, animals, elders, hunters, community members, and the wearer.”
Amy Denet Deal
Fast fashion didn’t suit artistic designer Amy Denet Deal. So in 2018, she left her corporate fashion job in Los Angeles and headed to New Mexico. Inspired by the sense of sustainability of her native Navajo community, Deal launched 4KINSHIP as a woman-led “artwear” brand focused on upcycling and producing one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories and uplifting Indigenous communities, particularly those in the Southwest where 4KINSHIP is based. She also founded the 4KINSHIP Indigenous Futures Fund to help incubate emerging talents and encourage Native creativity and expression.
Thundervoice Hat Co.
ThunderVoice Hat Co. is one of Denet Deal’s personal favorites for its “exquisite upcycled luxury products.” ThunderVoice does offer an array of high-end hats and jewelry, but you can also find a wide variety of smaller items that would be perfect for gifting, like stickers, pins, and fanny packs. One thing that is particularly special at TVHC is the art. You can find classic works like “Girl With a Pearl Earring” and “American Gothic” reimagined through a Native American lens. The results are stunning.
There’s only one Indigenous denim brand in the entire world—one!—and it’s Ginew. This brand takes modern Native American style and adds inflections of Ojibwe, Oneida, Stockbridge-Munsee motifs. All of Ginew’s apparel and goods are made of the highest quality and with the utmost care and tradition. All leather goods are made with pre-industrial techniques informed by generations of craftsmanship.
From northern Arizona’s Diné (Navajo) people, comes Di’Orr Greenwood. Greenwood specializes in hand making bespoke wooden flutes, skateboard decks, and longboards. Her designs are colorful and, more importantly, meaningful. “Any art that comes from me is definitely ancestral based,” she said in a Navajo Times interview. “It’s more of a feeling.” Themes and symbols Greenwood incorporates include the four directions, elements, mountains, and the seasons.
Rose is a Senior Editor at ELLE overseeing features and projects about women’s issues. She is an accomplished and compassionate storyteller and editor who excels in obtaining exclusive interviews and unearthing compelling features.
Associate Fashion Commerce Editor
Meg is the Associate Fashion Commerce Editor at ELLE.com where she researches trends, tests products, and looks for answers to all your burning questions. She also co-writes a monthly column, Same Same But Different. Meg has previously written for Cosmopolitan and Town & Country. Her passions include travel, buffalo sauce, and sustainability. She will never stop hoping for a One Direction reunion tour.