Native American designers creating own space in fashion

Pictured is the work of Designs by Della, one of the designers to be highlighted during the fashion show.

A special gathering held each year by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, the annual Sycuan pow wow is being held Sept. 9-11, and features hundreds of Native Americans from different tribes in North America. In celebration of its 33rd year, Native American designers will be highlighting their jewelry and clothing fashions at its first Sycuan Fashion Show on Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. at Sycuan Casino Resort’s Retreat Pool and Cabanas. This year’s fashion show designers include Osamuskwasis, Ro Tree, Ashley Garcia, Disa Tatoosis, JD Customs, Designs by Della, Benjamin Leedom, Cheyleen, Yazzie, Collins Provost-Fields, Aresta Tsosie Paddock, KM Originals and more.

Sycuan tribal member Angelica Labrake said the annual pow wow is open to the public, so that they can see traditional dance, drum circles, and singers competing over the three-day event.

“It is a place to gather, have fun, participate in the contests,” she said. “The pow wow is really a ceremony in the sacred circle. One of the contests is the jingle dress competition for women and when you dance in that circle it is healing the people.”

Labrake said another tradition is the playing of peon, which begins at dusk, many times lasting until early the next morning.

“Peon is a gambling game with four men on each side,” she said. “They sing songs, and they have two colored bones on a string in each hand with a fire in the middle. The other team tries to guess what color is in each hand speaking in Kumeyaay. If they guess it right, they get those bones, and get a peon stick and keep going until all the peon sticks are on one side, and that team wins.”

Labrake created the fashion show as she and her aunt thought it would be a powerful addition to the annual pow wow.

“We want to shed light on Native American designers, and it is not only local. We have opened it up to other tribal designers from North America. Originally, I wanted to create confidence in our community,” she said. “We all come from different sizes. We all come from different places in North America. We all look different. We are all mixed now. When I grew up, I never had someone that looked like me on runways or magazines, and I feel that hindered my self-esteem growing up. I want this fashion show to be a catalyst to inspire our youth. To have them dream of becoming a model even if they look like me. I can design clothes.”

Labrake said the fashion show features Native American designers, native hair and makeup, jewelry. She said her videographers, backstage crew, and models are all Native Americans.

“We all have different sizes, different looks,” she said. “I really wanted to emphasize to the youth that you can be confident in who you are and be as confident as the men. The men are confident with their traditional long hair. I want them to see them know that they can rock that long hair on the runway.”

The fashion show is a ticketed event, separate from the free three-day open to the public pow wow.

To purchase tickets to the fashion show, visit sycuanfashionshow. Must be 21+ to attend the event.


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