Jamie Okuma and Other Native American Designers Show New Fashion Collections
Yaamava’ Resort & Casino at San Manuel in Highland, California, east of Los Angeles, hosted two days of collection presentations by Native American designers April 20 and 21.
Produced by fashion publicist, bestselling author and TV personality Kelly Cutrone, the event featured a runway show by Jamie Okuma, the first Native American designer to be admitted to the Council of Fashion Designers of America, alongside shows from Indigenous creators Jennifer Younger, Orlando Dugi and Section35.
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Freak City L.A., Custo Barcelona and others also showcased collections, with models walking around the resort pool and guests seated on either side.
Paris Jackson, “Prey” star Amber Midthunder and TV host/stylist Jeannie Mai were among the guests who came out for Yaamava’ Fashion Daze, which the property hopes to make an annual event.
“For me, it’s very important that more people get a chance to get their work shown, and that’s not just for fashion, it’s for all art…the more diverse the better,” said Jackson, dressed in a Jean Paul Gaultier “naked” dress, and taking in Okuma’s collection.
Known for her silk dresses and robes in bead, floral and ribbon motif prints, Okuma went more graphic and streamlined for this collection with stretchy minidresses and matching leggings mixed in with her more breezy styles.
“The black and nude is something I love, it’s based off our parfleche designs on our luggage and carrying cases. There’s a real specific aesthetic to it, very bold and graphic,” she said backstage of the artistic inspiration she brought to her pieces.
On becoming a new CFDA member, the first Native American designer to do so, she said the rule change to allow applications from those who sell only via e-commerce helped pave the way. Next up, she’s showing another new collection in August at the annual Santa Fe Indian Market Fashion Show. A New York runway show is also on her wish list.
“I beaded these myself. It’s something my dad taught me when I was 8 years old,” said Freak City L.A. cofounder Valerie Campbell, showing off an alien-shaped beaded necklace from the spirited Y2K-looking collection, which featured Barbie pink “Real” and “Fake” slogan track suits, graffiti and “I Love L.A.” graphics. “And then we did the Minnetonka moccasins with crystals because I also grew up wearing Minnetonkas,” the mixed Japanese and Comanche designer said of bringing her heritage to the runway.
Tlingit artist Jennifer Younger, who came in from southwest Alaska, showed her armor-like jewelry and shields. “I was envisioning empowering women, showing protection…and I wanted to incorporate Formline design, which is a Northwest coast style of art,” she said of her inspiration.
Representation was the theme of a panel discussion during the event hosted by Ojibwe author and Vogue magazine contributor Christian Alliare with the actress Amber Midthunder, Okuma and others.
“I had a stylist I did not like at all and she’s gone now,” Midthunder said of having to convince her team to mix Native American designers with luxury brands during her press tour for the “Prey” film. “It’s about having people understand even though it’s something that hasn’t been seen a lot, it should be accessible. Maybe I wear Prada to one event and then I wear Jamie’s dress to another. They should be on the same level because they are. The more people who wear it the more people know it’s out there.”
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