Top American Indian Stylemaker’s Home Base: A Tiny N.D. Town, Pop. 29

By Jenna Ross
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) On her website, “Beyond Buckskin”, Jessica Metcalfe interviews designers, fighting the stereotype that Native fashion is all feathers and fringe. She calls out companies for ripping off Native designs and celebrities for donning headdresses.

BELCOURT, N.D.

Jessica Metcalfe paced the stage in high heels, waiting while they adjusted the lights for a fashion show in an unlikely spot: a reservation in rural North Dakota. Metcalfe, 36, has highlighted Native American-made designs with runway shows in New York City, Phoenix, Santa Fe, big-budget affairs with high-end looks and professional models.

But this time, her models were teenagers from the area, a few of them Metcalfe’s cousins.

This time, her models were nervous.

“These are all reserved for us,” she told two of the young women, pointing to the first few rows of seats in the empty auditorium. “This will be all friends and family.”

This area, marked by rolling hills and yellow fields near the Canadian border, is no fashion hotspot. But to Metcalfe, it’s home.

Sporting big, beaded earrings and a Ph.D., Metcalfe is helping lead a national movement to buy authentic, Native American-made fashion.

On her website, Beyond Buckskin, she interviews designers, fighting the stereotype that Native fashion is all feathers and fringe. She calls out companies for ripping off Native designs and celebrities for donning headdresses. (A typical post: “20 Signs You’re a ‘Native American-Inspired’ Hot Mess.”) She offers an alternative, shipping Native-made works to customers around the world.

Screenprinted tees with political messages. Silk scarves with hand-painted designs. Dangling earrings made of porcupine quills.

“Every time someone buys earrings or a bracelet they are actively supporting the continuance of this ancient, beautiful artistic practice,” said Metcalfe, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. “And I think that’s so cool.”

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