May 18, 2024


Specialists in fashion

Skawennati Is the Indigenous Artist Designing Traditional Clothes for a Virtual World

For her first clothing collection, Skawennati played off the ribbon shirts that she has often made for her digital avatars in the past. She produced a range of ribbon shirts in calico and camouflage textiles, developing the prints herself. “Camouflage has always been part of our wardrobe, especially Mohawk people,” she says. “And calico is also used for our ribbon shirts. I thought it would be interesting to mix them.” The artist also made use of nontraditional techniques and exaggerated the ribbon lengths with ribbons that extend all the way down to the floor—a symbolic move. “I felt like the ribbons represented our through line as native people, from the past to now,” she says. “Our continued existence and resistance. This line connects us, and that’s why I wanted [the ribbons] to be joyous and loud and multiplying.”

Skawennati’s Calico & Camouflage collectionc
Skawennati’s Calico & Camouflage collectionPhoto: Daniel Cianfarra 

Growing up, Skawennati never had a ribbon shirt of her own, and her decision to make a whole collection of them proved to be a full-circle moment for the artist. “My father’s white, and so I think for a long time, I was like, ‘I’m not native enough for a ribbon shirt,’” she says. At IFWTO in November, she will be showing the same collection of eight ribbon shirt looks she presented at the Santa Fe market—and plans to take the concept of Indigenous futurism even further. Her digital runway presentation will feature models holding up activism signs, such as “Water Is Life” or “No More Stolen Sisters,” a reference to the current epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. “The way I imagine the collection is what to wear to demonstrations and protests,” she says.

Having just shown as part of the Santa Fe show, Skawennati says she enjoyed the new challenge of creating a tangible, hands-on product—though the creative process hasn’t been all that different from her virtual works. “I love feeling the fabric, touching it and being with it in the same realm,” she says. “But I also feel like I’m with my avatar when I make them. I still feel that physicality.”

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