Indian Country’s Style Icons




Nekiah Torres, Hopi-Tewa and a member of the Colorado River Indian tribe, always had a natural interest in fashion. “My mom used to buy fashion magazines and the first time I picked one up and looked through It, I was hooked!”As a little girl, watching old Hollywood glamour movies with her grandmother inspired her to be one of the beautiful, elegant actresses she saw on screen. “Those women looked so well put together, almost perfect. That was foreign to me because I’d never seen any woman in my hood looking like that! Seeing that made me want to learn how to look like that.” Yet, Torres had a love for fashion but was located on the reservation where fashion isn’t a common interest.

When Torres moved to the city from the reservation, she went crazy for fashion. “If I had to categorize my style, I would call it classically chic with a touch of glam and drama.” In an effort to inspire fellow full-figured fashionistas, Torres chose to share her style through her newly-established fashion blog, From the Rez to the City. On her blog, Torres promotes self-love no matter what size or shape her reader is. “I do that by sharing fashion inspiration specifically targeted toward the larger women. Although I blog plus-size styles, I don’t believe that style has a size.”

With From the Rez to the City, Torres archives her daily looks and outfits of the day, and shares her prayers and favorite Bible verses.


Jenna Herne, founder of online fashion blog and consignment shop House of Hawi, is located between two between two fashion capitals of North America – Montreal and New York City. Mohawk from Akwesasne territory, Herne studied fashion and merchandising at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh while supporting her family.

Herne began House of Hawi in 2010 out of her small apartment with the idea that the every woman should be able to express her individual style to its full potential, along with the ability to find quality and affordable clothing. Under House of Hawi, Herne offers personal styling services and a sort of online community of other fashion designers, stylists and “Indigenistas”, a word coined by Herne.

Herne admits finding inspiration for House of Hawi from the growing indigenous movement on social media, as grassroots artists and fashion designers reached global markets through the web. Herne believes all indigenous people are collectively rewriting the history and stories of their culture. “Centuries ago, getting dressed for ceremony, so much love, and care went into to each stitch. The same is true for the modern indigenous woman.”
With House of Hawi, Herne hopes to provide education on negative stereotypes and cultural appropriations, mentorship for students interested in fashion and showcase art and fashion galleries for public viewing.


Crystal Szczepanski, Athabascan, Yup’ik and Colville, recalls the first time she fell in love with fashion and makeup when looking through glossy pages of popular fashion magazines. “I was intrigued by the transformation of makeup.” However, the image of what mainstream society considered “beautiful” was also harmful to young Szczepanski. It was a double-edged sword, as the image imprinted in my mind was unattainable; blue eyes, blond hair and wafer-thin bodies.”

Years later, Szczepanski found her self-confidence again through her sobriety and created a way she could both express herself and teach others the beauty of the Native culture. North Starr Studios is Szczepanski’s online hub made up of tutorials, DIY projects, and language lessons. Even the content Szczepanski touches on is as multi-dimensional as the artist herself. One look through her YouTube channel and you can learn how to create turquoise designs on your nails, create your own beauty products and learn phrases in Tlingit.

As Szczepanski explained, traditional teachings from indigenous tribes all over Turtle Island existed way before what’s trending today, which is why she teaches her fans beauty regiments and fashion tips passed down from generations before her.

Watch Native Max TV: Q&A with Tantoo Cardinal