When Native American designer Dante Biss-Grayson (Osage), founder of Sky-Eagle Fashion House, envisioned his fashion retrospective in Santa Fe, N.M., last month, he wanted to infuse a sense of history and meaning into the looks that hit the runway.
“The Sky-Eagle Fashion House is more than just a brand, it’s a way to bring awareness to issues with the hope to inspire action,” Biss-Grayson told In The Know by Yahoo via email.
The Sky-Eagle Retrospective: Redefining Native Avant-Garde Fashion, a three-day event at Bishop’s Lodge resort in Santa Fe that was co-sponsored by Yahoo, included not only a runway show featuring 100 designs from Sky-Eagle’s various collections, but also a panel spotlighting Native entrepreneurs.
As part of those 100 looks, a lineup of Native models served as a visual representation of issues affecting Indigenous people and tribes, including the Osage Reign of Terror, in which Osage citizens were murdered for their wealth in 1920s Oklahoma, a subject that’s gaining more attention due to the book and film Killers of the Flower Moon; the missing and murdered Indigenous women and people crisis; and the so-called warrior paradox, focusing on the complexities of Natives serving in the U.S. military.
A ‘complex’ history
Featuring a violin performance by Geneviève Gros-Louis Salamone (Huron-Wendat) and a traditional fancy dance by Royce Jarvey (Chippewa-Cree/Blackfeet), the runway show also saw models wearing hooded capes as Biss-Grayson spray-painted “No more stolen sisters” across the fabric. In another segment, models wearing black Sky-Eagle Collection dresses held folded American flags to their chests.
“The history of Indigenous Peoples is a long and complex one,” Biss-Grayson, who is also a military veteran, said. “Like the many threads in clothing, it creates a tapestry of identity of who we are. By creating new and contemporary designs, based in traditional motifs, I am honoring our ways and the past while looking toward the future in a bold way. This is the ethos of Sky-Eagle and of the new warriors living in the modern world.”
In addition to addressing the past, looking toward the future served as an equally strong touchstone in the three-day event, with proceeds from ticket and pop-up-shop sales going to Native Forward, an organization that provides scholarships for Indigenous students.
“With the success of the Sky-Eagle Collection I understand that a key value should always be to give back, to share knowledge, to uplift voices. On this journey I don’t want to be territorial, I want to share the success of all our people in a positive way,” Biss-Grayson said.
The Taos, N.M.-based designer also chose to spotlight Native entrepreneurs and artists, with In The Know by Yahoo hosting a panel that included Osage artist and gallery owner Addie Roanhorse (Biss-Grayson’s sister); Cece Meadows (Yaqui/Comanche), founder and CEO of Prados Beauty; songwriter-musician Marx Cassity (Osage); and Hud Oberly (Osage), founder of the Here’s to You fashion brand and a board member of Native Forward.
“By increasing visibility for more Native brands, I hope to pave the way for more projects and business for them,” Biss-Grayson said. “There is plenty of market for all, and I am happy to support, facilitate, and collaborate to show the world we are still here! And that we can keep up with the biggest fashion houses on the planet!”
(Video footage provided by Dark Whisper Productions)
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