Recapping SWAIA Native Fashion Week

The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) successfully concluded its first-ever Native Fashion Week in Santa Fe. The landmark event served as a vibrant platform for 17 Indigenous designers from North America and Canada to showcase their artistry and cultural heritage through fashion.

Four-Days of Fashion and Connection

The four-day celebration from May 2 to 5 started with an exclusive VIP cocktail reception at the Governor’s Mansion. Some stunning appearances included Tantoo Cardinal, Wes Studi, Jessica Matten, and Kiowa Gordon, plus many other notable guests. 

The following days were a whirlwind of activity, featuring a symposium titled All About Indigenous Fashion led by SWAIA curator and fashion producer, Amber-Dawn Bear Robe. The discussions highlighted the importance of Native Fashion and featured conversations about the techniques behind these elaborate outfits. Killers of the Flower Moon actress, Tantoo Cardinal, and designer Patricia Michaels, also spoke about the inspiration behind the actress’ dress for the movie premiere.

The Fashion Shows

The Santa Fe Convention Center played host to the weekend’s main attraction of captivating fashion shows. These shows presented designers Orlando Dugi, Himikalas Pamela Baker, Patricia Michaels, Lesley Hampton, Randy Barton, House of Sutai by Peshawn Bread, Towering Stone by Loren Aragon, Vividus by Tierra Alysia, Ayimach Horizons by Jason Baerg, Heather Bouchier x Indi City, Victoria’s Arctic Fashion, Penny Singer, Qaulluq, Chizhii, Dehmin Cleland, Helen Oro, and Maria Hupfield.

Attendees were treated to a diverse array of garments. Some featured bold sculptural elements, while others touched upon ancestral knowledge through their design language. Each piece reflected the unique aesthetics of specific Native cultures.

Beyond the runway, fashion pop-up shops and activation spaces let attendees directly connect with the designers and acquire one-of-a-kind pieces. Guests even witnessed exclusive product demonstrations.

Beyond the Garments

The SWAIA Native Fashion Week wasn’t just about fashion; it fostered collaboration and connection. It served as a platform for established and emerging Indigenous fashion artists, models, fashion enthusiasts, and industry professionals to network and forge lasting alliances.

The inaugural SWAIA Native Fashion Week was a resounding success with 140 models walking the stage. It was a solidifying experience of Santa Fe’s position as a hub for Indigenous innovation in the fashion world. It also served as a powerful testament to the enduring legacy of their cultures.

Check out our videos from the weekend featuring some of the perfectly dressed attendees to this fabulous event.

Story by Kylie Thomas / Photography by Tira Howard

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