About SWAIA Indigenous Fashion

Beyond Anything Imagined

SWAIA Indigenous Fashion shows are Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) programming. The first show premiered at Santa Fe Cathedral Park during SWAIA Market 2014. Designers for that monumental day were Orlando Dugi, Sho Sho Esquiro, Jamie Okuma and Bethany Yellowtail. The late World Championship Hoop Dancer, Nakotah LaRance, opened the show, performing with the DJ playing A Tribe Called Red in the background.

In 2015, the fashion show moved to the Santa Fe Community Convention Center (SFCC) courtyard, moving to the indoor SFCC ballroom. The first show at Cathedral Park started with four designers, twenty models and approximately 150 people in the audience. The show has showcased numerous designers, with an audience of over 1000 people and 80 to 100 models per show. High profile models have included Quannah Chasing Horse who walked for Lauren Good Day in 2022 to Amber Midthunder of the 2022 film Prey, Kiowa Gordan, Jessica Matten and Eugene Brave Rock of the AMC series Dark Winds, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai of the FX Productions series Reservation Dogs and The infamous Oscar winner, Wes Studi.

The fashion shows provide a platform to showcase the creative and innovative talent of Indigenous designers across North America, but one weekend of the year is not enough. SWAIA Fashion is responding by creating a fashion week to expand the Indigenous fashion industry while representing designers and models across Native North America.

Indigenous Couture & Native Fashion Week Santa Fe kicks off the first week of May 2024. From tradition to runway, Indigenous cultures are continually shifting, responding to the land and modern environment; some fashions reflect this and may challenge the viewer’s notion of “Indian style,” while other designers use fashion as a means for social activism. Contemporary Native American fashion is a vibrant and diverse field that reflects the ongoing creativity and innovation of Indigenous knowledge expressed through material culture.

The annual SWAIA fashion shows are founded and directed by Native Art Historian and Fashion Curator, Amber-Dawn Bear Robe.

Diversity of

Indigenous Fashion & Design

Many contemporary Indigenous designers incorporate intricate beadwork and embroidery into their designs, often drawing on traditional techniques and motifs.  These can be found in everything from garments to accessories, footwear and jewelry.

Modern takes on traditional clothing:  Some designers are reinterpreting traditional Native American garments, such as ribbon shirts, jingle dresses, and buckskin dresses, using modern materials and cuts.

Streetwear and casual wear:  There is a growing trend of Native American designers creating streetwear and casual clothing that draws on both traditional and modern aesthetics.  These often incorporate bold graphics, text and imagery.

Accessories:  Native American designers are also creating a range of accessories, including jewelry, hats and bags.  These often feature traditional materials such as leather, silver and turquoise, but may also incorporate modern materials and techniques.

Overall, contemporary Native American fashion is a vibrant and diverse field that reflects the ongoing creativity and innovation within Native communities.