SWAIA Native Fashion Week in Santa Fe

Fashion has forever been a part of the Santa Fe Indian Market and the community of Native North American artists (from federally recognized tribes (sic) in the U.S. and Canada) who come together every August to celebrate fine art and Native American culture. Santa Fe Style has its roots in Native Fashion. Every August marketgoers are known for wearing all their favorite designers and jewelers– loudly and proudly. SWAIA’s fashion show producer Amber-Dawn Bear Robe (Siksika Nation) calls Native North Americans the “original couture fashion designers.”

She and SWAIA Executive Director Jamie Schulze (Northern Cheyenne/ Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) have worked hand in hand to create the new SWAIA Native Fashion Week which delivers on SWAIA’s mission to bring Native American arts to the world 365 days a year. They are hoping that by producing a stand-alone event they can bring new audiences to Santa Fe and introduce them to the diverse world of Native American and First Canadian fashion.

Reflections on Indian Market Fashion’s Evolution in Santa Fe

Beloved Taos Pueblo designer Patricia Michaels came of age at the Santa Fe Indian Market. She remembers a time when contemporary fashion design was seen as distracting from and diminishing tradition at Indian Market. Michaels first tried to produce a market fashion show in 1992 and received pushback from SWAIA.

“When I first wanted to do a fashion show, [market organizers] wouldn’t let me. They said I was taking away from tradition, and I had my booth protested … I [remained] headstrong about doing a contemporary fashion show,” said Michaels in a 2022 interview with the online art magazine Hyperallergic.

Native designers created gallery shows and what she calls “tearoom” shows around the Indian Market that were essentially guerilla, do-it-yourself fashion shows. The significance of the first Native Fashion Week is not lost on Michaels who remembers a time before social media when it was very difficult to get her designs out into the world and “the stereotypes were so bad.” Fittingly Patricia Michaels will close Saturday’s fashion show on May 4.

A woman poses in a multi colored and patterned dress against a blue background for SWAIA Native Fashion Week in Santa Fe

Fashion Show Producer Amber-Dawn Bear Robe 2014-2024

Amber-Dawn Bear Robe (Siksika Nation) produced the first fully integrated SWAIA runway show in Cathedral Park in 2014. “I had no budget and had to rent and drive U-Hauls full of designer pieces to get them to the outdoor venue.” Fast forward to 2024 and the first U.S. Indigenous Fashion Week. “Indigenous Couture & Native Fashion Week in Santa Fe celebrates tradition to the runway as 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.”

A woman and man model in designer clothes for SWAIA Native Fashion Week in Santa Fe in front of a pink background.

Celebrate Native Fashion at One of this Year’s Biggest Events

One of the defining aspects of the Native fashion shows, and undoubtedly of this year’s event, is the street style and the design inspiration on and off the runway. The premiere opportunity to get dressed in your favorite Native fashion designers and celebrate the inaugural event will begin with the V.I.P. and Press Reception at the New Mexico Governor’s Mansion on Thursday, May 2. Make sure to be photo-ready for the Step and Repeat and media who will be taking photos of Native fashion, film, and art luminaries.

A marketing image for the VIP and Media Launch party during SWAIA Native Fashion Week in Santa Fe

SWAIA Native Fashion Week Event Schedule & Tickets

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Media Event & VIP cocktail at the Governor’s Mansion, 4-7 PM


Friday, May 3, 2024

All About Indigenous Fashion Symposium, 1-5 PM at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

Free to the public. Must RSVP.

Native American Art Magazine VIP Fashion Launch Party at La Fonda,

Lumpkins Ballroom, 6:30-10 PM


Saturday, May 4, 2024

Fashion Shows, Fashion Popshops & Activation Spaces

Santa Fe Convention Center (doors open at noon)

3 PM Fashion Show Line-up

  • House of Sutai by Peshawn Bread
  • Penny Singer
  • Clara McConnell of Qaulluq 
  • Carrie Wood of chizhii


5:30 PM Fashion Show Line-Up

  • Dehmin Osawamick Cleland
  • Helen Oro Designs
  • Tierra Alysia
  • Patricia Michaels of Water Lily


Sunday, May 5, 2024

Fashion Shows, Fashion Popshops & Activation Spaces

Santa Fe Convention Center (doors open at 11 AM)

2 PM Fashion Show Line-Up

  • Ayimach_Lodge By: Angela DeMontigny, Rachelle Whitewind, Jason Baerg
  • Victoria’s Arctic Fashion
  • Loren Aragon of Towering Stone
  • Lesley Hampton


4:30 PM Fashion Show Line-Up

  • Randy Leigh Barton
  • Maria Hupfield
  • Heather Bouchier X Indi City
  • Himikalas Pamela Baker of T.O.C. Legends
  • Orlando Dugi


Sponsored Content

Story by Keith Recker / Photos Courtesy of Tira Howard for SWAIA

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