Native POP in Rapid City is an annual native art market that has traditionally included a catwalk, where Great Plains artists showcase their fashion designs.
This year, Native POP has been extended to two days, Saturday and Sunday July 9 and 10, and another parade has been added. The second showcases fashions created in one day by emerging Indigenous designers.
This weekend at the Racing Magpie Native Art Center in Rapid City, several up-and-coming designers spent eight hours Saturday stitching their designs for the upcoming Native POP Catwalk Fashion Design Challenge.
In the cool lower level of Racing Magpie, away from the summer heat, seven women sit at long tables covered with sewing machines, fabric and tape. These designers are working on clothes that could elevate them to experienced indigenous fashion designers.
Lafawn Janis is executive director of Native POP, headquartered in Rapid City. She said fashion designers over the years have come from 40 or 50 tribal areas across the Great Plains and brought something of that tribe’s traditions to their work.
“I really appreciate that every designer that has emerged over the last five, ten years is so unique and so representative of their people,” she said.
Janis said each tribe has its own meaningful symbols, such as lightning or hailstones, and if those symbols have spiritual significance, they likely won’t be included on clothing created for a broad market.
“Certainly, I think designers are aware and respectful of what are, you know, considered traditional insignia versus what they put on their fashion design,” Janis said.
But she said she believes non-natives can wear the marketed clothing without fear of cultural appropriation.
“You know, it’s the whole point of Indigenous artists to educate and celebrate, because we haven’t been able to do that for so long,” Janis said. “And so I don’t think it’s an insult at all if a non-Native had to wear anybody’s designs. But that’s my personal opinion. I can’t say that for everyone. But I do, I think it’s a beautiful way to honor and celebrate the indigenous people of our nation.
Emerging designers compete for one of many prizes awarded during the two-day celebration.
For more information on Native POP 2022, click this link: http://nativepop.org