C&I takes you backstage and front-row for two vibrant showcases of First Nations culture and creativity.
New York City, often referred to as the fashion capital of the world, is a melting pot of diverse cultures and influences. However, amidst the bustling streets and high-rise buildings, there exists a vibrant and often underrepresented facet of the fashion world — Indigenous fashion.
My recent trip to the city that never sleeps opened my eyes to the rich tapestry of Indigenous fashion, when, during New York Fashion Week, I had the privilege of witnessing the stunning creations of two remarkable First Nations designers: Alyssia Sutherland of Ally's Ribbons Designs and Stephanie Eagletail/Crowchild of Stephanie Eagletail Designs.
The fashion scene in New York City is notorious for its fast pace and relentless innovation. But stepping into the world of Indigenous fashion, I found that tradition and innovation can harmoniously coexist.
Alyssia Sutherland (Dakota, Ojibwe, Treaty 1), the creative mind behind Ally’s Ribbons Designs, showcased a collection that seamlessly blended contemporary aesthetics with prayer and deep-rooted Indigenous traditions.
One of the striking aspects of Sutherland’s collection was her use of ribbons. A symbolic element in many Indigenous cultures, ribbons signify honor, respect, and celebration. Her curations, adorned with intricate ribbon work, told a story of resilience and pride. Each piece was a masterpiece, carrying the legacy of her Indigenous heritage.
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Stephanie Eagletail/Crowchild (Dene, Cree, Treaty 7), another prominent Indigenous designer, showcased her work for the second time in New York. A fusion of modern style and traditional materials, Eagletail reimagines Indigenous fashion by incorporating elements like animal fur, leather, feathers and by repurposing Pendleton Blankets into contemporary silhouettes. Her creations seamlessly bridged the gap between the past and the present.
Eagletail spoke about the importance of passing down traditional knowledge to future generations. She emphasized how each piece of clothing she creates is a way of connecting with her ancestors and keeping their legacy alive.
A remarkable and touching dimension to Eagletail’s awe-inspiring show was the inclusion of her 9-year-old daughter, Naadi. The provocative video that served as a backdrop to the runway presentation featured Naadi doing a lip sync voiceover, adding depth, emotion, and a heartfelt touch to the show. It was a beautiful and powerful testament to the intergenerational aspect of Indigenous culture and the importance of passing down traditions to the next generation.
Beyond the runways, the experience was made even more memorable by the sense of community and inclusivity that permeated the event. Indigenous fashion is about more than just clothing — it's about identity, resilience, prayer, storytelling, and heritage.
Throughout the showcase, there was a palpable feeling of pride and unity among the attendees. It was evident that this was not just a fashion show; it was a celebration of Indigenous culture and a platform for Indigenous voices to be heard.
This experience has opened my eyes (even more) to the beauty and depth of Indigenous fashion, and I am grateful to have been a part of this celebration of culture and creativity in the heart of New York City.
Olivia Sutton is the fashion and lifestyle director of C&I.