Back in 2011, Urban Outfitters unveiled a controversial "Navajo" line (among their products, most controversial was a flask with textile print). The Navajo Nation responded with a public statement and eventually, a lawsuit, dubbing the collection as "derogatory and scandalous."
This past November, Victoria's Secret issued a public apology after Karlie Kloss walked down the runway while adorned in heels, leopard-print lingerie and a floor-length tribal headdress. Basically, the integration of Native American influence into mainstream fashion hasn't exactly been, what's the word...tasteful?
Patricia Michaels is the first Native American to compete on Project Runway. Michaels, of Taos Pueblo, studied under the instruction of Wendy Ponca at the Institute of American Indian Arts before hopping plane to the Art Institute of Chicago. "Native American" is a touchy subject in fashion, nearly taboo, but Michaels effortlessly pairs the old with the new.
In 2010, Michaels' modern textile print was awarded winner at the Santa Fe Indian Market. This feat marked the first time in the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts' 90 years of operation that a non-traditional textile was selected as winner.
To be quite blunt, Michaels is at the forefront of what is Native American today; it's not a trendy flask or a catwalk accessory—it's more sophisticated than that.
Legends Santa Fe is hosting a party and premiere of Project Runway's pilot episode on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 6:30 pm. Meet Patricia Michaels and view her most recent collection. The event is open to the public.