Editorial Note: This post was originally published at an earlier date. Since our support for Indigenous-owned brands and creatives is a forever kind of thing, we thought we'd update this story.
Soon people across the country will gather 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 holiday. 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 journey as a Navajo woman in the fashion industry and the rising Native American brands you can support with your wallet. But first, a little about her…
Meet Shondina Lee
How long have you been interested in fashion, and what made you launch your blog?
I became interested in fashion once I got into college. The start of my blog was a creative outlet for me to write and combine my love for fashion, modeling, writing, and photo shoots.
You worked with Wrangler on a campaign in 2019—what do you think you could accomplish through that collaboration?
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 would you say influences your personal style the most? How has growing up on a reservation impacted how you approach style—if at all?
Growing up on the reservation definitely had an influence on my style, and it still does because I get a lot of my inspiration from the older generation and looking at old pictures.
What clothing items can you not live without?
My daily uniform is my denim jacket, high-waisted pants, turtleneck sweaters, boots, and a hat. When I'm feeling fancy, I love to pair an earth-toned slip dress with layered jewelry, boots, and even a fringe coat or blazer.
Lee's Favorite Brands
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.
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.