Native Creativity Fashion Show a study of style

SULPHUR, Okla. – Spectators packed the Chickasaw Cultural Center’s Anoli Theater for July’s second annual Native Creativity Fashion Show. A rush of applause and approval filled the theatre as models showcased colorful dresses, dazzling handwoven blankets and sparkling jewelry.

Smoke billowed from behind the runway, creating a sense of mystery as each model emerged on the runway.

The show’s theme, “Native culture and interwoven threads of art by indigenous fashion designers from across the country,” lived up to its billing with a variety of unique wear from the designers.

“We are makers of art, of story – the threads that connect the inspiration of our ancestors to all of us in a modern world,” Margaret Roach Wheeler, one of the designers for the show, said.

The designs were modern while still giving a nod to each of the designer’s cultural identity.

“All of my nerves about having my designs in the show went away when I saw how the whole show came together,” said Brent Deramus, another designer. “It is incredible what they are doing here at the Chickasaw Cultural Center.”

The show featured Native American designers Patricia Michaels, Leslie Deer and Loren Aragon, along with Ms. Wheeler and Mr. Deramus.

Ms. Michaels has been producing haute couture for over 20 years. Her company PM Waterlily, named after her Native name, is inspired from nature and her Native roots. As a Taos Pueblo citizen, and through her company, she is vowing to keep her traditions alive through the interconnectedness of her fashions.

Ms. Deer, a Muscogee (Creek) Native American, likes to work with brightly colored satins and silks for applique designs and use a variety of sustainable fabrics for the garments. Her contemporary attire made using traditional applique techniques stems from her deep desire to honor her mother who taught her to sew using these techniques. It is very important to Ms. Deer that her pieces are passed down from generation to generation, inspiring new experiences and stories.

Ms. Wheeler is a renowned Chickasaw weaver and the founder of Mahota Handwovens and Mahota Textiles. She worked as an artist and sculptor for 50 years in the media before changing when her job required her to teach textiles. She grew up in a household where fibers were a part of daily life. Her mother and grandmother knitted, sewed, quilted and crocheted. The loom and the act of weaving brought memories not only of childhood, but also an awareness of her Chickasaw heritage.

Mr. Deramus is a relatively new designer whose Choctaw heritage has inspired his artwork. He is also influenced by street art, music and skateboarding. He is a self-taught artist who enjoys experimenting with different mediums and techniques.

Mr. Aragon, a multimedia artist from Arizona, headlined the fashion show. His brand, ACONAV, includes illustration, sculpture, jewelry and fashion design. His fashion has been showcased on runways in Santa Fe, Denver, Phoenix and New York City.

A variety of fashion and accessories was available for purchase before and after the show in the Anoli’ Theater lobby, where guests were given a chance to meet the designers.

“Native Americans have been fashion designers for centuries,” Mr. Aragon said. “Our aesthetics are so unique.”