Plenty of new looks are on pre-order, so be ahead of the curve! These familiar, and possibly new to you, brand names are rolling out refreshing fashion with playful bursts of color. Native Max took the opportunity to chat with designers Cheyenne Large (Nehiyawewin/Plains Cree) of Maskawitehew, Norma Baker-Flying Horse (Hidatsa enrolled/Dakota/Assiniboine) of Red Berry Woman, Angela Howe (Apsáalooke) of Choke Cherry Creek and Lauren Good Day (Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara); about their Summer line inspirations. We asked what inspired the collections, how these pieces make them feel, and what special piece of them is embedded in these designs. We also picked some Native Max favorites from the new Lauren Good Day Traditions and Choke Cherry Creek The Matriarch Collection lines. The common trend of these Summer lines are celebrating the highly skilled craft of High Plains fashion, pow wow Summers, culture, and sacred matriarchs.
Cheyenne Large (Nehiyawewin/Plains Cree) of Maskawitehew
Growing up on the Pow Wow trail as a traditional dancer since she was a tiny-tot has inspired and shaped the designer and Nehiyawe Iskwew (Cree Woman) that she is. Large has created a vibrant summer line called just that, Nîpin. Large explains that it is a Plains Cree word that, “directly translates to summer in Nehiyawewin,” and it, “is inspired by my love for pow wow.”
Large explains a deeper connection to this time of year. “Every year, the summer solstice holds a special significance to my tribe,” she says, “it marks the arrival of summer and signifies the time for ceremonies, visiting relatives after long winters, gathering medicines and berries, and attending powwows.” The warm air calls us all outside. This special time of year is when the “skilled seamstresses and beadworkers shine.” Bringing out “their finest creations, meticulously crafted during the winter months.” and finally in the spotlight, “at the very first powwow of the season; their unique masterpieces are unveiled.”
“When I wear my regalia and dance in the powwow circle, surrounded by prayers and the beat of the drum, I feel truly beautiful,” Large shared. It’s that same love for traditional dance and the beauty it brings out in people that Large put into the Nîpin collection. Particularly in how she believes “that fashion can be a powerful way to celebrate heritage, express identity, and resilience. “
Vintage Czech seed beads are long beloved and rare for their colors that embody the Summer flowers. Large describes the floral designs, and geometric patterns in the collection along with “the vibrant colors often found in beadwork, such as periwinkle and Cheyenne pink,” to be what has inspired the distinct style of this collection. Interestingly enough, the Cheyenne pink bead was formulated with real gold to create what we know as the color Cheyenne pink, or so we’ve read on a BeadsWithHistory Etsy listing.
“Ribbon skirt making was my introduction to sewing and sparked my passion for creating.” Large mentions how the The Periwinkle T dress in particular holds a personal element. She has combined her “admiration for ribbon skirts with the dresses I wear for competitions.” The bold dress features rows of ribbons on the skirt and sleeves in celebration, and a nod to tradition with rows of elk teeth and subtly placed brass spots.
Norma Baker-Flying Horse (Hidatsa enrolled/Dakota/Assiniboine) of Red Berry Woman
2022 Cultural Recognition Visual Arts Grammy Award co-recipient, Baker-Flying Horse of Red Berry Woman spoke about the upcoming launch of her new UNITY Dragonfly line. “It’s in honor of the youth UNITY organization,” Baker-Flying Horse explains that she’s been working with UNITY for the fourth year now and in honor of that she wanted to create a collection for the young people of UNITY. Sharing that the dragonfly is coveted by the Dakota, as a messenger from relatives on the other side. The dragonfly design from Red Berry Woman is in honor of Baker-Flying Horse’s late daughter Cameron Sarai.
After losing her daughter in 2020 she started to create the dragonfly design, and slowly started to incorporate it into various pieces. For this line in particular she feels that, “young people are starting to do the work that we never thought we would be able to do as Indigenous people in this country.”
Baker-Flying Horse further explains that:
“It was hard to foresee us at these tables that these young people are starting to get into. The spaces that they are starting to take over; the politics, the entertainment, fashion industry…and they are using every platform possible to have a positive message to educate those who may not know a whole lot about Indigenous people in this country.”
To Baker-Flying Horse, when it comes to “growing a better world, and a better tomorrow… that’s what the UNITY youth do. It’s so cool to see the energy and motivation they all have.” The UNITY Dragonfly line celebrates the strength and vibrance of Indigenous youth. The blessing of relatives on the other side empowering the young minds that shape our tomorrow. Baker-Flying Horse has beautifully created a fun line for the youth with a Plains summer favorite, the dragonfly.
Rolling out on Monday, July 31st, 2023 the Red Berry Woman website will reveal pre-order capability on some of the heartfelt pieces that have not been released to the public. This line communicates a deep love for culture and family. With vibrant hues in geometric detail all celebrating the young people of UNITY that give Baker-Flying Horse hope “because they actually know what they are doing!” Baker-Flying Horse is passionate about her connection with UNITY and the future leaders it fosters. This line celebrates Indigenous youth and the blessings of our ancestors to carry traditions forward.
With strategically placed dragonflies complementing a bright geometric pattern, be sure to mark your calendar for the pre-orders next week. Her website currently features a couple specialty pieces like the Audrey Dragonfly Dress which are not from the UNITY Dragonfly line but are available in the meantime. Specialty pieces are not associated with a specific line, but are “just items I had a lot of fun making,” she discloses.
“It’s hard running a small business in a rural area.” So Baker-Flying Horse likes to run pre-orders prior to launch so everyone can see the clothing details. She also says that it gives them an advantage to get their sizing correct before the product is shipped. This weekend the collection will launch online, and not all of the line products will be pre-order. When it comes to running a business from home, space is limited. That’s why pre-orders are a great option for small business owners. The practice seems to be increasingly common and buyers should know when supporting small businesses, it’ll be worth the wait. Launch date is set to be August 8th so don’t miss the opportunity to pre-order.
Lauren Good Day
Lauren Good Day’s Traditions launched with a plethora of must haves in your wardrobe. This collection is “rooted in the aesthetics of traditional Native women’s dresses.” It celebrates “the adornment of heritage on new silhouettes with ledger art inspirations.” The Native Max staff pick was undoubtedly the Ledger Horses Pants, serving class and culture in every step. The heat waves are not ideal for tight pants and the “flowy loose style” is high fashion in comfort.
Speaking with Good Day on how she sparked inspiration to bring out Traditions for her Summer collection: “With every collection I do… I always start by thinking of a story I want to tell, a teaching that I want to share, or maybe even some history that I want to teach.” The Traditions collection has been very special to Good Day. This collection was inspired by the “Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara ribbon dress.”
Taking the time to educate and share is something intrinsic with the work Native fashion designers do. Good Day sources her memories from childhood when she would see her grandmother and aunties wearing their traditional ribbon dresses. They are often worn with dentillium or elk tooth capes.
Drawing on the first time she saw a stacked ribbon dress in Fort Berthoud as a little girl in the 90’s. “I wanted to do something that was uniquely Fort Berthoud, so I made a skirt,” the contemporary stacked ribbon skirt style. Crafting her skirt felt like a resurgence of pride. Back then she felt she didn’t see them as often and now, “it’s really cool to see how many women are taking cultural pride in wearing a contemporary ribbon skirt,” with moccasins, heels or sneakers.
Good Day focused on the ribbon dress, “a historical style that I knew my people had, and make it contemporary with new silhouettes” as an extension of her cultural pride as a Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara women. Knowing that many Plains nations share a history with ribbon styling, Good Day understood that many people would be able to identify with this collection offering close to home styles of the Northern Plains.
Making a collection more accessible for Native consumers and offering affordable price points was a goal for this line. Offering light and flowing Summer fabrics that carry heritage but also a seasonal cut that’ll keep you cool on a hot day in the High Plains. “I want to be able to empower women with my art, and make it more obtainable to your everyday person.” This collection aims to deliver empowering pieces to a wider audience. Good Day hopes that these clothes will have people feeling that when worn.
Traditions also has a couple gender neutral pieces stepping toward more inclusive styles. “I want anyone wearing my designs to feel empowered while wearing a style with our cultural iconography and design work.” Good Day’s main audience are Native consumers, but she invites non-Native consumers to explore the ready-to-wear pieces available, “If they find beauty in our culture, and want to appreciate it, then I’m happy to share that with them.”
The red dress worn by Good Day, herself, in the Traditions photo shoot, holds a special place in her collection. “It looked so much like a traditional dress even with the cut of it being a T shape.” It’s perfect for Summer as a light, easy to wear fabric she described. “I’m a very modest person, it went past my knees, and also covered my arms and I felt comfortable in it.” She also really enjoyed offering the umbrellas, “it was something new that I’ve done, but I’m always looking for something new and different to add to the collection.” While the red dress is sold out, she assured that they are in the process of a restock. She also has some amazing t-shirts with ledger work that can be enjoyed as gender neutral pieces.
Angela Howe (Apsáalooke) of Choke Cherry Creek
Choke Cherry Creek’s The Matriarch Collection also launched in late May. Our staff pick is the wide leg Love and Affection Elk Tooth Pants. Embracing the wide leg trend of the summer, Choke Cherry Creek is bringing sweet yet fierce looks drawing on the divine feminine of matriarchal societies. This fashion line has plenty of available pieces in a multitude of styles, including a unisex button up. Catching up with Howe on her latest drop the “summer collection titled “Matriarch” showcases the beauty of our matriarchs, our foundation, our mothers.”
“I wanted to honor my mother, aunts and grandmothers who inspired me and share the artistry of my floral designs that are unique to my tribe, the Apsáalooke.” says Howe. In reflection, Howe feels honored to share her vision. “Beading and sewing are a passion of mine and I love it because I have artistic freedom to share my lineage and history through a highly visual expression of my culture, which is clothing.”
These empowering pieces are sure to make you glow. The Native Max team asked what Howe thinks about how these pieces will make people feel: “I hope people feel not only beautiful but have pride knowing the designs have so much meaning behind them.” Howe explained, “The collection is made to mix and match, there are a lot of pieces to choose from and a very bright color palette, perfect for summer.” So you aren’t confined to what you see on the models. These pieces are versatile and bring sweet choke cherry vibes. “Sharing our rich cultural heritage is a way to inspire the world to see that Indigenous people are beautiful, resilient, rich in culture and are still carrying on their traditions today. Each piece is designed respectfully and thoughtfully and can be worn by everyone.”
Howe shares a similar sense of style as our Native Max team fashionistas. On selecting a special piece in the collection, “My favorite pieces are the Empowerment long skirt and the Love and Affection Elk Tooth Bodysuit.”
“These pieces create a sophisticated look when paired together and the elk teeth have a story to tell because they are significant to my tribe and many other tribes of the great plains.” The work put into the collections represent something deeper than being fashionable. Northern Plains women incorporated highly skilled beadwork in their clothes, and tools. Always representing themselves with intentionally crafted pieces. “Indigenous people held great value when obtaining elk teeth and the woman wore them on dresses which spoke to the standard of wealth and status.”
Howe leaves us with something our team at Native Max agrees with, “I would choose real elk teeth over diamonds!”
There you have it, four great designers, and four amazing new collections to shop. What are you waiting for? Indigenize your closet and support small Indigenous owned businesses!