Indigenous creativity takes the stage at Native Nations Fashion Night

As the fourth annual Native Nations Fashion Night approached, designer Delina White offered MPR News a tip.

“It’s got a Victorian gothic influence,” said White.

Models show pieces

Models show pieces by designer Delina White on the runway.

Nicole Neri for MPR News

White is from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and is the creator of the Native Nations Fashion Night. She said in planning for this year’s event that designers wanted to do “something mysterious” to honor shared Native values ​​and beliefs.

The theme for the evening was “Messengers, Protectors & Great Mysteries.”

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Models walk the runway

Models walk the runway during Native Nations Fashion Night at Quincy Hall.

Nicole Neri for MPR News

The event was held at Quincy Hall in northeast Minneapolis and showcased the work of a half dozen designers, welcoming hundreds of guests for a night of Indigenous fashion.

How does a Victorian gothic influence show up in an Indigenous fashion show?

“A strong base in romantic, elegant, Victorian gothic using many material textures, colors, embellishments and accessories,” said White. “You can expect to see veils, silk black roses, platform boots and indigenous natural materials including sage, cedar, red-willow, wampum, bone, bull horn and white tail deer sheds.”

Emcee Grace Goldtooth welcomed hundreds who came out for the evening to celebrate Indigenous design and opportunity.

A model wears deer hooves

A model wears deer hooves as part of a piece by designer Delina White on the runway.

Nicole Neri for MPR News

Christy Ruby is a Tlingit designer from Ketchikan, Alaska, and her collection opened the show. Ruby showed a collection of colored furs she sews using seal and otter skin — materials used by Alaska Natives for countless generations.

To demonstrate the importance of environmental sustainability for Native nations, Ruby took audiences through a short theatrical presentation of subsistence hunting practices.

Model Brady Fairbanks, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, walked the runway for Ruby’s collection. He wore a hand-sewn fur vest and gloves made from skins of animals hunted by the designer himself.

“I’m very honored to wear this beautiful vest and gloves,” said Fairbanks. “This is the first time I’ve done anything like this.”

A model on the runway

Brady Fairbanks models a piece by designer Christy Ruby on the runway.

Nicole Neri for MPR News

Model Jada Aljubailah walked one of the looks from the Restorative Apparel Co-design collection wearing a patterned gold lace dress with Ojibwe floral designs, red willow necklace and birch bark earrings. White worked with designers Sage Davis, Elizabeth Bye and Masnoureh Nikookar to create the collection.

Dakota dress maker Rebecca Mousseau, Spirit Lake Dakota, riffed on the evening’s themes around mystery through her use of color, design and ribbons, putting her collection of dresses and skirts on the runway.

Peggy Flanagan shows off a piece

Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan shows a piece by designer Rebecca Mousseau on the runway.

Nicole Neri for MPR News

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a citizen of the White Earth Nation, made her debut on the runway as a model wearing a glittering black velvet dress by Rebecca Mousseau.

“I love it,” said Flanagan. “It’s velvet, it’s punk rock and I feel amazing. That’s how I always feel wearing whatever she designs.”

Last year, Flanagan, on behalf of Gov. Tim Walz declared April 23 Native Nations Fashion Night. A similar proclamation was made again to celebrate the night this year.

Delina White speaks on the runway

Delina White speaks on the runway while holding a proclamation from Governor Tim Walz.

Nicole Neri for MPR News

Just before she put her collection on the runway, Delina White expressed her gratitude for the proclamation, which highlights the day as an important economic opportunity for Indigenous people working to establish themselves in the fashion industry.

“I am really honored that they recognized me as a businessperson. That part goes unseen,” said White. “I am usually recognized as being an artist and a jingle dress dancer, which I am very, very extremely proud of, but I am also proud of the work I do in bringing in awareness and support and opportunities to our Native creatives, and that’s what tonight does.”

A woman is reflected in a mirror

A woman is reflected in a mirror as artists sell clothing and jewelry during Native Nations Fashion Night at Quincy Hall.

Nicole Neri for MPR News