National Museum of the American Indian in New York Presents Spring Fashion Events

Programs Focus on Native Design, Issues Related to Cultural Appropriation and Feature Designers, Fashion Scholars and Influencers
March 3, 2017
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This April, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center in New York will present two fashion events in conjunction with the exhibition “Native Fashion Now,” currently on view at the museum through Sept. 4.

On April 20, in “The Power of Native Design,” several designers who are highlighted in the exhibition will hold a discussion and show pieces from their current collections. The second event is an all-day symposium titled “Native/American Fashion: Inspiration, Appropriation, and Cultural Identity,” taking place April 22. It features experts in a variety of specialties for conversation on topics related to Native fashion and the industry. The symposium is cosponsored by the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York. Admission to both events is free.

“With ‘Native Fashion Now,’ the museum is able to offer a vibrant look into contemporary Native design and the motivations behind the featured designers’ aesthetic choices,” said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), museum director. “By setting this stage, the exhibition provides a rich opportunity to further examine the makeup of the fashion environment as it relates to Native designers and the issues affecting their practice.”

The Power of Native Design

From T-shirts to tuxedos, Native fashion designers have had an impact on the world and the fashion industry with creative and innovative designs. Through wearable art, these designers share individual and collective histories and experience. In “The Power of Native Design,” designers Dorothy Grant (Haida), Jamie Okuma (Luiseño/Shoshone Bannock), Bethany Yellowtail (Apsaalooke/Northern Cheyenne) and others will share personal stories of their work and methods Thursday, April 20, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the museum’s first-floor Diker Pavilion for Native Arts and Cultures.

Native/American Fashion: Inspiration, Appropriation, and Cultural Identity

Cosponsored by the Fashion Institute of Technology, this symposium explores fashion as a creative endeavor and an expression of cultural identity, the history of Native fashion, issues of problematic cultural appropriation in the field and examples of creative collaborations and best practices between Native designers and fashion brands.

The program features academic and legal scholars as well as fashion designers and editors, including Anna Blume, Daniel James Cole, Joe Horse Capture (A’aninin), Adrienne Keene (Cherokee), “Native Fashion Now” curator Karen Kramer, Jessica Metcalfe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), Douglas Miles (San Carlos Apache/Akimel O’odham), Lynette Nylander, Virgil Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo), Sherry Farrell Racette (Timiskaming First Nation and Irish), Susan Scafidi and Timothy Shannon. Museum associate curator Kathleen Ash-Milby (Navajo), FIT Fashion Design Department chairperson Eileen Karp, and FIT associate professor Amy Werbel will moderate.

“Native/American Fashion: Inspiration, Appropriation, and Cultural Identity” takes place Saturday, April 22, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the museum’s first-floor Diker Pavilion for Native Arts and Cultures. A reception with light refreshments will follow the event.

Exhibition Sponsors

“Native Fashion Now” is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass. The Coby Foundation Ltd. provided support. The New York presentation of this exhibition and related programming is made possible through the support of Ameriprise Financial and the members of the New York Board of Directors of the National Museum of the American Indian. Additional funding is 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 Follow the museum via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Join the conversation using #NativeFashionNow.

About the Fashion Institute of Technology

The Fashion Institute of Technology, a part of the State University of New York, has been a leader in career education in art, design, business and technology for over 70 years. Providing students with a singular blend of hands-on, practical experience, classroom study and a firm grounding in the liberal arts, FIT offers a wide range of outstanding programs that are affordable and relevant to today’s rapidly changing industries. FIT draws on its New York City location to provide a vibrant, creative community in which to learn. The college offers nearly 50 majors and grants AAS, BFA, BS, MA, MFA and MPS degrees, preparing students for professional success and leadership in the global marketplace. Visit

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