On this day, people across the country will be gathering with family and friends for Thanksgiving. While the much-celebrated American holiday has become a distinct moment for practicing gratitude or preparing for Black Friday, it’s revisionist (and frankly, naïve) not to acknowledge the historical realities of this day. Having to reckon with the documented discrimination, dehumanization, and slaughtering this country’s early white settlers did to Native American populations is not exactly the easiest conversation to have at the dinner table. But rather than avoid it, we’ve decided to honor the ancestors of our land and the history of all American people by highlighting a rising voice from the indigenous community in the fashion world. Ahead, you’ll hear from multitalented creative Shondina Lee about her own journey as a Navajo woman within the fashion industry, including her recent campaign with Wrangler and the rising Native American brands you can support with your wallet. But first, a little about her…
And what do you hope the impact of the Wrangler campaign is?
I was able to shed some light on all the amazing indigenous talents out there. That’s really what made it special for me, to be able to see authentic representation with an iconic brand like Wrangler. They gave me creative freedom, and I appreciated that. I hope it helps or inspires the indigenous youth in some way. I want them to know things like this are possible for people like us, to be proud of who they are and how they look.
What do you wish you could change about the fashion industry, from the perspective of both a model/creative and a woman of color?
I want to see more women of color leading the fashion industry! Whenever I have collaborations that let me include other people, it’s always important for me to have an indigenous lineup.
Shop some of the products from Lee's collaboration with Wrangler:
Emme is a fashion brand based out of New York City by Korina Emmerich. The designer has made waves within the fashion industry by way of her colorful designs inspired by her heritage from the Pacific Northwest Puyallup tribe. As Lee told us, “She made a shirt out of recycled menswear, and it’s one of my favorite things at the moment. Her take on fashion in the indigenous community is like a breath of fresh air.”
Ginew is based out of Portland, Oregon, and founded by husband-and-wife duo Erik Brodt and Amanda Bruegl. It also happens to be the only indigenous-owned denim company in the world. But it doesn’t just sell denim; it offers a variety of androgynous pieces inspired by the founders’ collective tribe roots. “Their clothes align with my sense of style, which is why I’m so drawn to them,” Lee explained, and we get it.
Maya Stewart is a Los Angeles–based designer whose luxury accessory brand has developed quite the following—her quality leather bags have been carried by Jennifer Lawrence, Kerry Washington, and even Lee. In fact, Lee told us, “I have one of her fringe purses, and I swear I used it every day for a good year. It’s still one of my favorites!”