Fashion in Focus: Indigenous Fashion Scholars

Indigenous People’s Day is coming up on Monday so I’ve decided to use it as an excuse to share the work of four Indigenous fashion scholars that I profoundly admire. Actually, to say that I admire them might fall a bit short. Their work has been absolutely instrumental to my own research and thinking about fashion.

I have added their contributions to the Library at The Fashion and Race Database, I often assign their writings in my classes, and just try to always keep up with their wealth of knowledge and learn from them as much as I can.

1. Dr. Jessica R. Metcalfe

Dr. Jessica R. Metcalfe (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) holds a Ph.D. in American Indian Studies with an emphasis on art, education, and culture. Her research focuses on Native American art and adornment, with a special focus on contemporary Native artists and fashion designers. She presents frequently at conferences, lectures at museums, contributes her writing to book anthologies, and (co-)curates exhibitions.

View one of my favorite talks by Dr. Metcalfe (which was actually recommended to me by her).

2. Amber-Dawn Bear Robe

Amber-Dawn Bear Robe (Siksika) is Assistant Faculty of Art History in the Museum Studies department at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico. As a fashion curator and art historian focusing on Native American fashion, she produces the Southwestern Association for American Indian Arts (SWAIA) Fashion Show and the upcoming Indigenous Fashion Week (May 2–5, 2024) in Santa Fe.

Listen to an interview with Amber-Dawn on Dressed: The History of Fashion.

3. Riley Kucheran

Riley Kucheran (Biigtigong Nishnaabeg) is Assistant Professor, Design Leadership at Toronto Metropolitan University. Riley applies previous experiences in fashion retail and Indigenous theory to propose that fashion is a powerful tool for decolonization. Riley’s Ph.D. research explores how Indigenous creative industries like fashion can mobilize cultural and economic resurgence.

Read Riley’s work on luxury and Indigenous resurgence.

4. Justine Woods

Justine Woods is a garment artist, designer, creative scholar, and educator based in Tkaronto (Toronto, Ontario). Her research and design practice centres Indigenous fashion technologies and garment-making as practice-based methods of inquiry toward re-stitching alternative worlds that prioritize Indigenous resurgence and liberation. Her work foregrounds all of the relationships that make up her identity as a Penetanguishene Halfbreed.

Read more about her practice-based research.


Please bear in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of resources and I would love to know the work of even more Indigenous scholars of fashion and the arts more generally. Please feel free to drop your own recommendations in the comment section.

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