“Native Fashion Now” Makes Its Final Stop in New York
The first large-scale traveling exhibition of contemporary Native American fashion design ends its tour.
Ravers getting wasted at a festival, wearing cheap beaded headdresses adorned with gaudily colored phony feathers--this is not Native American fashion. These offensive (not to mention totally tacky) facsimiles conflate a variety of unique cultures into a stereotypical "Indian" identity, and ignore the headdress' traditional importance for the plains people, who reserved its use for male chiefs in ceremonial settings. But Native American cultures have of course evolved along with the rest of society, while still maintaining strong ties to the varied traditions and histories that have shaped them.
"Native Fashion Now", a traveling exhibit that highlights contemporary fashion from artists representing a wide variety of indigenous peoples, is an example of this merging of tradition and modernity. Incorporating over seventy works spanning fifty years of design and organized into four themes--Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators and Provocateurs--the exhibition is the first of its kind, taking the rich and innovative fashion produced by contemporary Native American designers on the road, with New York City as the last stop.
Do you need to wash the images of cultural appropriation from your brain by viewing the real thing? Need a reminder not to pack that headdress to Coachella? Maybe you just want a bit more cultural breadth than New York Fashion Week provided? Either way, catch "Native Fashion Now" before it's over. The exhibition will be at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian from Friday, Feb. 17, 2017 through Sept. 4.
Image: 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.