We’re thrilled to announce that Ralph Lauren’s Artist in Residence program has officially launched, featuring the first collaboration with seventh-generation Diné (Navajo) textile artist, designer, and model Naiomi Glasses. The program, the first of its kind in the company’s five-decade history, celebrates and preserves heritage and traditional craft, inviting artisans from various disciplines to participate in an immersive design collaboration with Ralph Lauren’s creative teams. The brand looks to expand its portrayal of the American experience through design processes, product offerings, and marketing campaigns – and shift from inspiration to collaboration with communities that have inspired RL.
According to Ralph Lauren, the brand’s design ethos has long been inspired by the lands, cultures, and artistry that make up the fabric of America. Aligned with its commitment to reexamine what and who is included in its depiction of the American experience, the Company has been on a journey to amplify diverse stories, deepen its sources of inspiration, and ultimately, form creative partnerships within the communities that inspire its designs. This includes the Company’s plans to collaborate with Indigenous artisans, whose heritage craft is important to American art and cultural identity.
The collection celebrates the artistry of timeless Diné traditions through Glasses’ eyes and will be presented in three seasonal, limited-edition product launches through 2024. The first capsule includes men’s, women’s, and unisex apparel and accessories in a color palate inspired by the lands of Dinétah (Navajo Nation), where the Glasses family resides. Standout pieces include woven jacquard blanket coats and wraps crafted with the natural colors of undyed wool alongside reinterpretations of Ralph Lauren styles like ranch coats and thicket jackets. Contemporary adaptations of cherished Diné symbols like spider woman crosses, four-directional crosses, dragonflies, and wedge weave motifs are incorporated throughout the collection, reflecting the tradition, innovation, and creativity of Diné culture. Also featured are beautifully crafted knits, velvet tops, timeless layering pieces and classic Ralph Lauren silhouettes like the iconic polo shirt and baseball cap that complement Glasses’ personal style. The first collection drop is available to consumers on RalphLauren.com, the Ralph Lauren App, Tmall, and select global Ralph Lauren stores.
“Navajo weaving is a craft that has carried on through my family for seven generations and preserving these traditions in new ways has been so inspiring to me as an artist. To now be able to share it with people around the world, as seen through my eyes and brought to life in clothing, is a dream come true,” explains Glasses. “It is only through the power of collaboration and Ralph Lauren’s unique program that this collection was made possible, and the best part is that it brings traditional Diné weaving to a new generation.”
After moving from Phoenix, Arizona, to the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona during her childhood, Glasses began intensively studying traditional weaving under her grandmother. At 18, she began weaving full-time and launched her online custom textile business, focusing her work on bringing attention to the beauty of Diné culture. Glasses’ one-of-a-kind weavings and designs celebrate Diné pattern work and craft pre-trading posts, putting her love for the Diné way of life at the center of everything she creates. Now 26, Glasses is regularly featured at SWAIA’s Santa Fe Indian Market and Heard Guild Indian Fair & Market, where her work has earned a range of awards and acclaim, including multiple ribbons in both textile categories and weaving divisions. In her spare time, she is an avid skateboarder and is passionate about building community among Native youth and the young at heart through skateboarding. Glasses resides in the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona with her parents, Tyler Glasses Sr. and Cynthia Glasses, and her brother and fellow weaver, Tyler Glasses Jr.
This story comes to life beyond the product through a powerful campaign and the inclusion of Indigenous creatives. The campaign was shot by Ryan RedCorn (Osage) and Daryn Sells (Diné/Navajo), with behind-the-scenes footage captured by Lonnie Begaye (Diné/Navajo). It featured a predominantly Indigenous cast and crew of Glasses’ family, friends, and community, set against the striking landscape of the Navajo Nation. An anthemic short film directed by award-winning filmmaker Shaandiin Tome (Diné/Navajo) accompanied the campaign, detailing Glasses’ family life, her introduction to the Diné weaving tradition and sources of inspiration, the making of the collection, and more. Ralph Lauren’s external Native and Indigenous Advisory Council, with members from a range of career disciplines and tribal affiliations, advised the Company on the ideation, approach, and creation of the campaign as part of its ongoing role to share guidance and insights on representation of and engagement with Indigenous communities.
Glasses, an avid turquoise and silver collector, curated a unique selection of handcrafted silver and turquoise jewelry from six artisan families throughout the Navajo Nation, Hopi Pueblo, San Felipe Pueblo, and Zuni Pueblo, showcased throughout the campaign and profiled in RL Magazine. Special pieces from the curation are available for purchase online and in select flagship stores.
In line with Ralph Lauren’s commitment to deepening its engagement with Native and Indigenous communities, a percentage of the purchase price from sales of the first drop of the Polo Ralph Lauren x Naiomi Glasses Collection will benefit Change Labs, a Native-led organization focused on fostering the creation of successful Diné and Hopi small businesses. Full details are available in stores and on RalphLauren.com. This builds on the ongoing efforts by the Company and The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation to preserve cultural heritage and enable access to educational and career opportunities among Native communities through their support of organizations like the American Indian College Fund, Creative Futures Collective, the Institute of American Indian Arts and the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, among others.
Collaborations between established brands and artists from Indigenous communities can be important and can have a tremendous impact. They provide a platform for Indigenous artists to showcase their talent and unique perspectives, promoting cultural representation. By featuring artists like Glasses, Ralph Lauren’s program could contribute to a more diverse and inclusive representation of cultures within the fashion industry. Multi-generational artists like Glasses connect deeply to their cultural heritage and traditional art forms through their designs. Collaborating with mainstream brands allows Indigenous artists to share their traditional practices and helps preserve and continue these art forms. In addition, working with established brands offers Indigenous artists economic empowerment through opportunities. Through collaborations, artists gain exposure to wider audiences and markets, potentially leading to increased sales and recognition for their work.
Collaboration between mainstream brands and Indigenous artists fosters a cultural exchange that can enhance mutual understanding and appreciation. It allows non-Indigenous audiences to learn about the rich cultural heritage, traditions, and stories embedded in the art. In many cases, collaborations challenge stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding Indigenous cultures. They help to redefine and broaden the narrative, showcasing the diversity and contemporary relevance of Indigenous art and design. Such collaborations can have a positive social impact by promoting cultural appreciation and understanding. They may also encourage dialogue around issues related to cultural appropriation, authenticity, and representation in the fashion industry. It’s essential to note that the impact and importance of such collaborations depend on the sincerity, respect, and authenticity with which they are approached by the brands involved.
In the intricate threads of collaboration, the remarkable partnership between an Indigenous Diné weaver and the iconic Ralph Lauren brand unveils a tapestry woven with cultural richness and artistic synergy. This inaugural collaboration not only breathes life into the loom of tradition but also weaves together the yarns of heritage and high fashion. Through the hands of Glasses, each creation whispers tales of resilience, craftsmanship, and a timeless connection to the land; the collaborative yarns form a bridge between worlds, inviting us to appreciate the beauty of diversity and the power of cross-cultural dialogue. In this artistic alchemy, Glasses and Ralph Lauren transcend mere fabric and fashion, crafting a narrative that resonates with the soul, leaving us captivated, enlightened, and forever changed by the profound beauty of their shared vision.