Couture Goes Native

Modern tribal fashion hits the runway in Phoenix.

Often, what passes for Native American art and clothing at roadside stands are cheap tchotchkes. But now it’s time to see the real deal. For the past half century, Heard Museum in Phoenix has been throwing a great big culture bash, the Indian Fair & Market. It draws about 15,000 people to the desert to see the output of 600 American Indian and First Nation artists.

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Even more intriguing, Heard organizers are rolling out the fashion runway for the second time. The Couture Show will be an unveiling of sophisticated party dresses, fancy shoes, modern clutches, and head-turning coats. The pieces are the work of eight fashion designers who use their tribes’ symbols, colors, and materials to influence the design. Models will slink down the runway wearing Sho Sho Esquiro’s dresses with appliques of Native American beadwork and porcupine quills, Bethany Yellowtail’s stunning patterns that recall her Cheyenne roots, and J.T. Willie Design’s gorgeous beaded shoes. After the evening show, models will circulate throughout the weekend at the fair grounds.

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