Following her time at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, as well as in various roles at larger brands, Yellowtail launched her own line, B.Yellowtail, in 2014, inspired by her heritage and using images and techniques she grew up with. However most recently she’s become the focus of a new six-part docu-series, alter-NATIVE, which releases its final episode this coming Tuesday, April 3. “To try and crack the fashion business is no easy task—and being Native American offers its challenges,” says the World of Wonder filmmaker, Billy Luther, “but having seen her single-minded focus and determination up close, I wanted to follow her on her journey.”
The timing feels pertinent and exciting for Yellowtail to have a platform to tell her story for many reasons. To begin, with festival season around the corner, we can’t help but anticipate at least one thoughtless attendee wearing a traditional war bonnet to the main events. “That is most definitely cultural appropriation. Wearing ceremonial regalia and being in spaces where there are alcohol and drugs—we don’t do that, and it is very much frowned upon,” Yellowtail explains to us.
However, more important, as the political climate in the world has prompted so many marginalized communities to raise their voices in protest, there’s perhaps no better time for a young indigenous designer to reclaim her heritage on a mass scale.
“We are starting to understand that the old systems that are in place are no longer serving us,” she says of the current worldwide shift. “A lot of the fashion industry, as we know, has done a lot of damage to, not only our environment but our economy. Fashion and art can be revolutionary in that way if they choose to be and choose to do it in an authentic way.”