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Alano Edzerza (Tahltan), Chilkat tunic

Alano Edzerza (Tahltan), Chilkat tunic (2013), cotton [Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, Jun 4-Sep 4] Collection: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA
Photo: Thosh Collins

Native Fashion Now

Portland Art Museum
Portland OR – Jun 4-Sep 4, 2016

Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock), Boots

Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock), Boots (2013-14), glass beads on boots designed by Christian Louboutin [Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, Jun 4-Sep 4] Collection: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA / Photo: Walter Silver

Orlando Dugi (Diné [Navajo]), cape and dress from “Desert Heat” Collection

Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock), Boots (2013-14), glass beads on boots designed by Christian Louboutin [Portland Art Museum, Portland OR, Jun 4-Sep 4] Collection: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA / Photo: Walter Silver

This traveling exhibit of contemporary Native American fashion includes nearly 100 pieces by 71 indigenous designers from across the U.S. and Canada. Organized by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, this will be the only West Coast venue to host the exhibit, which unravels dated notions of what Native American design looks like. From vibrant street clothing to elegant haute couture, the garments, jewelery and accessories on exhibit celebrate individuality in pieces that span the last half-century to today.

The exhibit identifies five themes: Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators, Provocateurs and Motivators. The Pathbreakers are essentially “groundbreakers” including Cherokee designer Lloyd “Kiva” New who is considered the father of contemporary Native American fashion. New was the first to bring his successful clothing line from the 1950s and 60s into mainstream distribution at Neiman Marcus and at boutiques on Fifth Avenue and in Beverly Hills. The Revisitors showcase designs that have renewed and expanded on tradition, like a pair of Christian Louboutin boots embellished by Jamie Okuma, a Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock prize-winning artist who began beading at the age of 5.

The Activators focus is on everyday wear from sneakers to tee shirts that have just the right amount of political flair. The Provocateurs create conceptually driven experimental works, like Portland artist Wendy Red Star, and the Motivators are designers working within companies to shift the business of fashion from Native-inspired back to inspired Natives.

Among the standouts in the show is a white leather cityscape dress created by Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo) who was also a former Project Runway contestant. The dress is an exceptional example of fashion dissolving stereotypes of Native American aesthetic.

Allyn Cantor


 Thu, Aug 11, 2016