Fact Sheets

“Native Fashion Now”

December 1, 2016

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York will host “Native Fashion Now,” an exhibition originally curated by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., from Feb. 17, 2017, through Sept. 4, 2017. The showing is the last of the exhibition’s traveling tour.

“Native Fashion Now” is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts. The Coby Foundation Ltd. provided generous support. The New York presentation of this exhibition and related programming is made possible through the generous support of Ameriprise Financial and the members of the New York Board of Directors of the National Museum of the American Indian. Additional funding provided by Macy’s.

Exhibition Facts

  • First large-scale traveling exhibition of contemporary Native American fashion, celebrating indigenous designers from across the United States and Canada from the 1950s to today
  • First exhibition to emphasize the long-standing, evolving and increasingly prominent relationship between fashion and creativity in Native culture
  • Curated by Karen Kramer, Peabody Essex Museum curator of Native American and Oceanic art and culture. Kathleen Ash-Milby (Diné [Navajo]), associate curator at the National Museum of the American Indian, provided curation for the New York presentation
  • 4,000-square-foot exhibition is in the museum’s East Gallery
  • 68 works/ensembles; 67 artists/designers; five multimedia displays
  • One museum-owned object: “Treaty Cloth Shirt,” 2012, by Carla Hemlock (Mohawk)
  • Exhibition has four main sections: Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators and Provocateurs

Artists/designers represented:

Gabriel Mozart Abeyta (Taos Pueblo)
Barry Ace (Anishinaabe [Odawa])
Ray Adakai (Diné)
Pilar Agoyo (Ohkay Owingeh [San Juan]/Cochiti/Kewa [Santo Domingo] Pueblos)
Marcus Amerman (Choctaw)
Jeremy Arviso (Diné/Hopi/Pima/Tohono O’odham)
Keri Ataumbi (Kiowa)
D.Y. Begay (Diné)
Eddie Begay (Diné)
MaRia A. Bird (Diné/Hopi/Santa Clara Pueblo)
Mike Bird-Romero (Ohkay Owingeh [San Juan]/Taos Pueblos)
Caroline Blechert (Inuit)
Dustinn Craig (White Mountain Apache/Diné)
Kristen Dorsey (Chickasaw)
Orlando Dugi (Diné)
Alano Edzerza (Tahltan)
Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dene/Cree)
Nicholas Galanin (Tlingit/Aleut)
David Gaussoin (Diné/Picuris Pueblo)
Wayne Nez Gaussoin (Diné/Picuris Pueblo)
Louie Gong (Nooksack/Squamish)
Dorothy Grant (Haida)
Teri Greeves (Kiowa)
Thomas Haukaas (Sicangu Lakota)
Carla Hemlock (Mohawk)
Terrance Houle (Blood)
Derek Jagodzinsky (Whitefish Cree)
Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag)
Tommy Joseph (Tlingit)
Donna Karan
Juanita Lee (Kewa [Santo Domingo] Pueblo)
Charles Loloma (Hopi Pueblo)
Dustin Martin (Diné)
Dallin Maybee (Northern Arapaho/Seneca)
Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo)
Douglas Miles (San Carlos Apache/Akimel O’odham)
Kent Monkman (Cree)
Lloyd “Kiva” New (Cherokee)
Winifred Nungak (Inuit)
Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone-Bannock)
Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo)
Consuelo Pascal (Diné/Maya)
Niio Perkins (Akwesasne Mohawk)
Jonathan Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag)
Wendy Ponca (Osage)
Kevin Pourier (Oglala Lakota)
Pat Pruitt (Laguna Pueblo)
Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke [Crow])
Maria Samora (Taos Pueblo)
Cody Sanderson (Diné/Hopi/Tohono O’odham/Nambé Pueblo)
Alice Shay (Diné)
Troy Sice (Zuni Pueblo)
Maya Stewart (Chickasaw/Creek/Choctaw descent)
Lisa Telford (Haida)
Denise Wallace (Chugach Aleut)
Samuel Wallace
Robin Waynee (Saginaw Chippewa)
Frankie Welch (Cherokee descent)
Margaret Roach Wheeler (Chickasaw)
Dwayne Wilcox (Oglala Lakota)
Kenneth Williams Jr. (Northern Arapaho/Seneca)
Toni Williams (Northern Arapaho)
Margaret Wood (Diné/Seminole)
Rico Lanaat’ Worl (Tlingit/Athabascan)
Jared Yazzie (Diné)
Jolene Nenibah Yazzie (Diné)
Bethany Yellowtail (Apsáalooke [Crow]/Northern Cheyenne)

Exhibition Sections

Pathbreakers: Since the 1950s and up to the present, indigenous designers have been blazing trails in daring and distinctive ways. They have overturned the simplistic notion that all Native design tends to look the same and marry the worldview and aesthetics of their communities with modern materials and silhouettes. Clothing is their language, and they write it in silks and stainless steel, in rhythm, shape and line. These Pathbreakers increasingly source their fabrics globally and use New York runways as a jumping-off point for their careers. Along the way they create opportunities for those who follow in their footsteps.

Revisitors: One tradition never changes in Native art: things change. Native artists have always brought new materials and ideas into their work. This gallery celebrates fashion designers who refresh and expand on time-honored symbols, forms and techniques even as they adopt new ones. In turn, Revisitors use contemporary and innovative approaches to strengthen and carry forward ancient understandings of the world that sustain their tribal communities. Some make clothing and other objects specifically for powwows and Native ceremonies, while others intend their work for outside markets.

Activators: Self-representation, a recurring theme in contemporary Native fashion, is a major focus for the artists who use fashion to express identity and political ideas. Clothing can help get a message across. Activators design and style casual-chic outfits, blending tribal-specific patterns and colors with street-style sensibilities and bypassing the catwalk and the corporation. Many younger Native designers are activators, constantly responding to trends and current events by way of the internet and social media.

Provocoteurs: Some Native designers can be thought of as provocateurs. They embrace the experimental and erase boundaries between art and fashion. Their one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories demonstrate remarkable craftsmanship and at the same time hurl familiar materials and forms into an entirely new dimension. Some of these works stretch the concept of wearability. How would such garments feel? Can these clothes truly be worn? As these designers work from drape to pattern to fabrication, they deconstruct typical ideals of beauty while constructing new ones. Their fashions dance between the imposing and the delicate. These Provocateurs carry on a question-and-answer dialogue between material and concept, inviting viewers to engage with issues of identity, sovereignty and creativity.


A public opening reception is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, at 6 p.m. featuring a “Curator’s Conversation” with Kramer and Ash-Milby. Admission is free.

A symposium, “Native/American Fashion: Inspiration, Appropriation and Cultural Identity,” held in conjunction with the “Native Fashion Now” exhibition, will bring together Native and non-Native historians, fashion designers and artists working in the fields of fashion, law and indigenous studies. The expert speakers will address fashion as a creative endeavor and an expression of cultural identity, issues of problematic cultural appropriation in the field and examples of creative collaborations and best practices between Native designers and fashion brands. The symposium is co-sponsored with the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York and takes place Saturday, April 22, 2017, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.


In association with the Peabody Essex Museum, DelMonico Books published in 2015 a 144-page catalog with 112 illustrations, Native Fashion Now: North American Indian Style, edited by Kramer with contributions by Jay Calderin, Madeleine M. Kropa and Jessica R. Metcalfe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa). ISBN-10: 2791354698.

The Coby Foundation Ltd. provided support for “Native Fashion Now.” Funding for the New York presentation of this exhibition and associated programming is made possible through the support of Ameriprise Financial. Additional funding provided by Macy's.

About the National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center is located in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green in New York City. For additional information, including hours and directions, visit AmericanIndian.si.edu. Follow the museum via social media on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Join the conversation using #NativeFashionNow.

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Joshua Voda 
(212) 514-3823 

Cape with owl hood/mask
Related photos: 

Native Fashion Now

Woman in flowing gown posed against dramatic sky

Nate Francis/Unék Photography

Orlando Dugi (Diné [Navajo]), cape, dress, and headdress from "Desert Heat" collection, 2012. Silk, organza, feathers, beads, and 24k gold; feathers, beads, and silver; porcupine quills and feathers.

Model: Julia Foster. Hair and makeup: Dina DeVore. Photo by Nate Francis/Unék Photography.

Native Fashion Now

Portrait of designer Jared Yazzie

Thosh Collins

Jared Yazzie (Diné [Navajo]) for OxDx, Native Americans Discovered Columbus t-shirt, 2012. Cotton. Gift of Karen Kramer. Peabody Essex Museum, 2015.11.4.

Photo by Thosh Collins.

Native Fashion Now

Cape designed by Margaret Roach Wheeler

Greg Hall

Margaret Roach Wheeler (Chickasaw) for Mahota Handwovens, The Messenger (The Owl) cape and headpiece, from the Mahotan Collection, 2014. Silk-wool yarn; silk-wool yarn, metal, silver, glass beads, and peacock feathers.

Courtesy of the designer. Photo by Greg Hall.

Native Fashion Now

Embellished blue spike heel boots

Walter Silver

Jamie Okuma (Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock), boots, 2013–14. Glass beads on boots designed by Christian Louboutin. Museum commission with support from Katrina Carye, John Curuby, Karen Keane and Dan Elias, Cynthia Gardner, Merry Glosband, and Steve and Ellen Hoffman. Peabody Essex Museum, 2014.44.1AB.

Copyright 2015 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Walter Silver.