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By Alexandria Beyer
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
–Chief Seattle, leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes
Historically, Native American clothing has varied greatly from tribe to tribe, based on the materials that were most available to the different tribes on the continent. Tribes were (and still are) easily recognised by what they wore and how their garments were embellished.
In the past, Native American clothing was heavily reliant on animal products, but from Alaska down through to Mexico and Guatemala, woven plant-based products were also often worn from head to toe. Hats, capes, dresses and even shoes were all made from eco-friendly materials, and today, this is still the case.
The sartorial history of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas is diverse and interesting, and is being kept alive today by several indigenous-owned fashion labels.
Here are 6 fabulous brands that are supporting indigenous peoples through ethical fashion.
This Métis Fashion House empowers women and inspires pride. If you don’t know who the Métis are, it’s an ethnic group that is half French and half Native American. Unsurprisingly, Voila’s styles combine French style with Native American prints to make a unique statement. They are strong believers in the slow fashion movement and continue to grow their company using only sustainable practices. They make organic cotton jersey designs, but their core value remains“buy less, buy better”.
Trickster promotes innovative indigenous design from the Northwest Coast natives of the U.S.. Through fashion, they explore themes and issues within Native cultures and support civic engagement, too. Trickster celebrates the Northwest Coast culture as it lives today. The company offers a range of products including apparel, jewelry, home goods, skateboards, fine art, and even paper products.
The name Hiptipico came from the Spanish word, “tipico,” which is the traditional clothing worn by the indigenous Maya people in Guatemala. Today, Hiptipico is dedicated to preserving indigenous culture throughout Guatemala and creating dignified job opportunities through the promotion of the traditional art form of weaving and embroidery. The brand is also unique in that you can learn all about the exact weaver who created your product before you buy it.
This is an extremely stylish Native American owned fashion and accessories brand that uses wearable art as a means of storytelling. Everything is created using traditional methods passed down from generation to generation with the intention that each product will last and be cherished as if it were an heirloom. Indigenous peoples design all of the textiles and clothing while all of the accessories are handmade by a collective of Native American artisans from Tribal Nations and First Nations communities. You can meet every artisan on their website, too.
This brand creates Native American made clothing, jewelry and accessories for real; it’s not “native inspired,” in mass production. The company offers consumers the opportunity to genuinely support over 40 indigenous Native American Artists and their traditional craftsmanship. Their work is incredibly unique and all aspects of every piece are connected to the land where they were made – North Dakota, by artisans from the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe. Visit their site and you can find everything from hand woven baskets, beading, prints, jackets, and more.
This is a branch of the non-profit group Reviveolution. In addition to offering retreats, intentional eco-cultural exchanges within the Qero community of the Andes and experiential learning programs for permaculture practices, Reviveolution also supports and sustains the Watana Weaving Collective.
Watanas are traditional Andean bead strands hand dyed and spindled from sheep or alpaca wool. The beads represent the stars, and the weavings themselves represent the Earth and the heavens. They are infused with unique cultural prayers and other elements of intention set by the weavers. These are Fair Trade and ecologically crafted, and make for beautiful hair accessories, multi wrap bracelets, string for bundles or gifts, hat bands, purse straps, and other adornments.
This may be the most eco-friendly brand on the list! Indigenous family owned and operated company, since 2015, the majority of their products are constructed from natural materials and are made with authentic Haida and Kwakwa’kwakw designs from the Northwest Coast.
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