SULPHUR – Spectators packed into the Chickasaw Cultural Center’s Anoli Theater for the second annual Native Creativity Fashion Show. Applause greeted models carrying oversized umbrellas, colorful dresses, dazzling handwoven blankets and sparkling jewelry.
The July show’s theme, “Native culture and interwoven threads of art by indigenous fashion designers from across the country,” lived up to its billing with a variety of unique wear from the designers.
Loren Aragon, Native American fashion designer and multimedia artist from Arizona, headlined the show. Aragon’s brand, ACONAV, includes illustration, sculpture, jewelry and fashion design. His fashion has been showcased on runways in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Denver; Phoenix; and New York City.
“Native Americans have been fashion designers for centuries,” Aragon said. “Our aesthetics are so unique.”
Another show favorite, renowned Chickasaw weaver Margaret Roach Wheeler, who established Mahota Textiles, has done extensive study of the history of weaving among Southeastern tribes.
“We are makers of art, of story – the threads that connect the inspiration of our ancestors to all of us in a modern world,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler worked as an artist and sculptor for 50 years before changing when her job required her to teach textiles. She grew up in a household where fibers were a part of daily life. Her mother and grandmother knitted, sewed, quilted and crocheted. The loom and the act of weaving brought memories not only of childhood, but also an awareness of her Chickasaw heritage.
The show’s designs were modern while still giving a nod to the cultural identity of each of the designers.
“All of my nerves about having my designs in the show went away when I saw how the whole show came together,” said Brent Deramus, another designer. “It is incredible what they are doing here at the Chickasaw Cultural Center.”
The show also featured Native American designers Patricia Michaels and Leslie Deer.
Michaels has been producing haute couture for over 20 years. Her company PM Waterlily, named after her Native name, is inspired from nature and her Native roots. As a Taos Pueblo, and through her company, she is vowing to keep her traditions alive through the interconnectedness of her fashions.
Deer, a Muscogee (Creek) Native American, likes to work with brightly colored satins and silks for applique designs and use a variety of sustainable fabrics for the garments. Deer’s contemporary attire is made using traditional applique techniques, which stems from her desire to honor her mother, who taught her to sew using these techniques.