Native sneaker-heads can rejoice in the creative and breathtaking art coming from Rezilient Soles’ Tracie Jackson (Diné). The brand specializes in jewelry, beadwork, and sneaker accessories, all seasoned with Indigenous representation and charm that blends with sportswear culture in a combination not typically seen in the industry. We sat down to speak with Jackson on their journey to this point and learn more about the ambitious and exciting future in store for Rezilient Soles.
In Jackson’s own words, they were “born into the craft world”. Their family made a living out of traveling to different art shows and selling their silverwork, and one of their first memories is being at the Heard Museum in Arizona and crafting all day until they had to leave. They were encouraged by their family to learn a traditional art form so that they not only had a career to fall back on but to also carry their culture with them wherever they went. Jackson and their family were also all avid sports enthusiasts and athletic, which led to their appreciation for basketball.
They only remember a few instances of seeing Indigenous involvement within larger sportswear brands, these experiences sticking with them and eventually shaping their goal. One particular memory was seeing the medicine wheel paired with one of these brand’s logos: “I never thought about sport and Native culture coming together in that way.”
Jackson then made it their goal to work for one of these brands, enrolling in the University of Oregon in 2013 and focusing on product design, the first Native to ever go through the program. While they were there, Jackson joined Youth Movement, a group dedicated to getting Native youth involved with higher education through physical activity. There they made connections with some influential figures within the Native sportswear industry, eventually getting offered a job in 2018, and have worked as a designer since.
Rezilient Soles began in 2021 out of Jackson’s desire to see more Indigenous involvement and influence in the sports world and sports fashion in particular. “The Iroquois Nation invented lacrosse, we’ve invented sports games, and it’s weird that we’re erased from those games and the recognition…Growing up, I always saw people back home wear pleated skirts with our sneakers. I just thought there was something so beautiful about the rez-fashion that we have in our community, especially with athleisure fashion. Everyone dresses in athleisure wear on the rez!”
Jackson began by painting watercolor portraits of Indigenous people in athletic clothing paired with traditional flair and accessories. These illustrations then gave them inspiration for how they could accessorize their sneakers and blend them with their other art forms. Getting some help from their grandparents for the silversmithing, Jackson began creating jewelry for their sneakers, working on clips and aglets. After posting about them online and receiving feedback, they were excited to see what else they could create.
Since then, Jackson has worked on a myriad of products, focusing on beading and jewelry, though is still exploring the prospect of the brand still being in its early days and all the directions they can take it. “The only way I can describe myself when I’m doing this stuff is I have a flashlight in my hands, I’m on a dark trail, I can only see five feet ahead of me, Creator and my ancestors are like ‘just keep going, you’re on the right path,’ and I’m like ‘ok’!”
Their primary focuses are establishing a brand that blends two major parts of who they are and using it to support the Indigenous community in whatever ways they can. Jackson spoke on the many different ideas and art forms that they want to explore, each project its own form of self-expression. Anywhere from a basketball hoop with a beaded net as an art piece to their current project, beaded earrings with sports and Halloween imagery in time for the holiday season. Another idea they’ve been workshopping is creating new and inventive ways for fans to rep their favorite teams through Rezilient Soles’ artwork.
While they’re still forming the idea of what Rezilient Soles can be, Jackson is adamant about certain aspects of the brand: “I don’t want to get into manufacturing; that’s the last thing I want to do. I want to keep Rezilient Soles smaller and more inclusive. I kind of look at it like sneaker drops, in a way. Seeing that in the industry and seeing how much attention it brings, I’m like, how can we do that in a way to bring attention, but not just trying to get the item, you’re also supporting a cause. I think of it as if you’re going to support me as a Native designer; you’re going to support everything that encompasses me, aka the causes and the things that affect my people and community.”
You can learn more about Rezilient Soles and Tracie Jackson here and on Instagram and Tiktok as Rezilient.soles.