Portland, OR. The Portland Art Museum’s “Native Fashion Now” exhibition is the first large-scale traveling exhibition of contemporary Native American fashion. It celebrates indigenous designers from across the United States and Canada, from the 1950s to today. Here’s a peek at opening night:

There are lots of events during the run of the exhibit, which runs through September 4th. On August 9th, the museum’s patrons are invited to a special fashion show.

From vibrant street clothing to exquisite haute couture, this exhibition celebrates the visual range, creative expression and political nuance of Native American fashion. Nearly 100 works from 71 designers, spanning the past half-century, explore the vitality of Native fashion designers and artists, from pioneering Native style-makers to today’s maverick designers making their mark in today’s world of fashion.

Featuring contemporary garments, accessories and footwear incorporating a variety of genres and materials, these designers traverse cross-cultural boundaries between creative expression and cultural foundations.

Featuring contemporary garments, accessories and footwear incorporating a variety of genres and materials, these designers traverse cross-cultural boundaries between creative expression and cultural foundations.

Native Fashion Now examines five themes—Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators, Provocateurs, and Motivators—reflecting how designers respond to ideas and trends in the world of Native fashion. Pathbreakers are groundbreaking designers, while Revisitors refresh, renew and expand on tradition.

Native Fashion Now examines five themes—Pathbreakers, Revisitors, Activators, Provocateurs, and Motivators—reflecting how designers respond to ideas and trends in the world of Native fashion. Pathbreakers are groundbreaking designers, while Revisitors refresh, renew and expand on tradition.

In the middle of the 20th century, Native artists began to reach beyond their own communities, and entered the world of mainstream fashion. The Cherokee designer Lloyd “Kiva” New was the first to create a successful high-fashion brand. In the 1950s, he sold his customized clothing and accessories to a specialized clientele across the nation, from boutiques on Fifth Avenue to Beverly Hills, and distributed his line through Neiman Marcus. Since New’s days as a pioneering Native designer, many others have brought his entrepreneurial, innovative spirit into fashion design and Native aesthetics. They source their fabrics globally and bring their designs to wide markets, achieve recognition far beyond their home communities and create fashion that blends cultural iconography and knowledge with mainstream design.

Native Fashion Now includes the work of a number of Native artists who draw on their Pacific Northwest tribal cultures. Dorothy Grant (Haida) was among the first Natives in the region to brand and sell clothing inspired by their tribes’ ceremonial garments, and she has continued to produce compelling ready-to-wear and couture clothing over the past 30 years. Vancouver, B.C.-based artist Alano Edzerza uses the formline style of Northwest Coast indigenous art in work such as his Chilkat tunic (2013), while Seattle shoe designer and cultural identity advocate Louie Gong merges art and activism in his customized, hand-decorated sneakers.

The Museum is organizing a variety of related public programs in conjunction with Native Fashion Now. For more information and updates, please visit portlandartmuseum.org.

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