Skip to next element

The SWAIA fashion show returns in a modified form for Santa Fe Virtual Market

By Medicine Man Gallery on

By Michael Clawson

Read more Essential West here

The hugely popular fashion component to this year’s SWAIA Virtual Market is now ongoing at Like the market itself, the fashion show will be held entirely online with new collections from different designers dropping daily. The week-long event culminates in the debut of a new film that shows the work of Navajo designer Orlando Dugi.


“It’s definitely not as stressful as a normal fashion show, but I’ve been working on these nine pieces for six or seven months so there’s still lots to do,” Dugi says of the new online format, adding that the designs were unveiled at a super exclusive runway show on August 9. It was at this runway show, complete with social distancing and masks, where the works were unveiled and filmed. “I’ve been working so hard I’ve not even seen the film yet. Obviously, this is not the ideal format to view the new designs. It’s my hope things return to normal soon—we’re all in this together.”


Dugi says his new works will draw heavily on Diné stories and history. “Two of the dresses have gold arrows embroidered on them. They represent the twin warriors that are sons of the sun. They were given weapons to defeat giants or enemies of their time. The arrows are made of sunlight. In one of the dresses, there is a zig-zag and a straight arrow that wrap around the body and offer protection,” he says. “In another piece there are crystals, which were used for stargazing and in ceremonies. Crystals were also used to diagnose ailments in people because starlight shines through the crystal. In another dress I use tulle as smoke to carry prayers up to the sky, to the holy people. The white tulle is sculpted in a way that makes it look like wispy smoke.”


Amber-Dawn Bear Robe walking down the runway

Amber-Dawn Bear Robe walking down the runway


Other designers participating this year include Skawannati (Mohawk), Korina Emmerich (Coast Salish Territory, Puyallup), Sage Paul (English River First Nation), Catherine Blackburn (Dene), Delina White (Ojibwe) and Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo).


The fashion show’s producer, Amber-Dawn Bear Robe (Siksika Nation), says the fashion show is a natural extension to the rest of Santa Fe Indian Market. “The [fashion show] is a venue and outlet for pure creativity. It doesn’t even have to appeal to a certain idea related to ‘Indian design.’ There’s just so much freedom there to create and explore design,” she says. “It also brings in a younger audience, which is very important to SWAIA, as well as a lot of interest from outside the Southwest.”


While much of Virtual Market is free to the public, several key marquee events, including the fashion show, require a $25 membership to SWAIA to view and participate in. The debut of Dugi’s new collection will take place at 2 p.m., followed by a livestream Q&A with Dugi and Bear Robe immediately after.




More information about the designers participating (courtesy SWAIA):



Orlando Dugi design

Designer: Orlando Dugi | Photo: ©James Almanza


Orlando Dugi (Navajo)

Orlando Dugi uses a single bead stitch technique utilizing the smallest beads, drawing attention to detail and precision. From floral motifs to birds and animals, the human physique, and abstract designs, Orlando’s images are lifelike and cutting edge. His work embodies a fresh statement through beads and fine materials such as silks, crocodile leather, crystals, feathers, velvet, gold and gems. Ideas of elegance, fashion, and creativity are evident in every piece of evening wear and accessory he creates. Beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty below me, beauty above me, beauty all around me; I walk in beauty. Garments made by hand, woven of wool or sewn of cotton or silk using traditional techniques in dyeing, weaving, and ornamented with an assortment of accessories, to adorn the body, have always been a part of Navajo culture. And a commitment to continuing those traditions and sharing them with women is evident in the extravagant fashion created at ORLANDO DUGI.



Catherine Blackburn design

Designer: Catherine Blackburn | Photo: ©Gabriella Marks Photo

Catherine Blackburn (Dene)

Catherine Blackburn was born in Patuanak Saskatchewan, of Dene and European ancestry and is a member of the English River First Nation. She is a multidisciplinary artist and jeweller, whose common themes address Canada’s colonial past that are often prompted by personal narratives. Her art merges contemporary concepts with elements of traditional Dene culture that create dialogue between traditional art forms and new interpretations of them. Her work has exhibited in notable national and international exhibitions and fashion runways including; Àbadakone, National Gallery of Canada, Santa Fe Haute Couture Fashion Show, Niigaanikwewag (2nd iteration),Art Gallery of Mississauga, and Art Encounters on the Edge, Bonavista Biennale, Newfoundland. She has received numerous grants and awards for her work, including the Saskatchewan RBC Emerging Artist Award, the Melissa Levin Emerging Artist Award, a publication in Vogue online magazine, as well as her inclusion on the 2019 Sobey Art Award longlist.



Delina White design

Designer: Delina White| Photo: ©Gabriella Marks Photo

Delina White (Ojibwe)

Delina White is a Native Apparel Designer and traditional Anishinaabe Woodland floral beadwork Artist and Indigenous Materials Jewelry Maker. She is a proud member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and lives on the Leech Lake Reservation. Delina is the founder and owner of the Native apparel label, “IamAnishinaabe.” IamAnishinaabe is a Native- owned business built on the traditional philosophy of good health. Anishinaabe values are rooted in the belief of love; to treat everyone and yourself with kindness, forgiveness and generosity. Delina approaches art as a medium to self-fulfillment; a way to wear the dignity and distinction of the original Great Lakes and Woodlands people.



Sage Paul design

Designer: Sage Paul | Giving Life Collection 2018

Sage Paul (English River First Nation)

Sage Paul is an urban Denesuliné tskwe based in Toronto and a member of English River First Nation. Sage is an award-winning artist and designer and a recognized leader of Indigenous fashion, craft and textiles. Her work centres family, sovereignty and resistance for balance. Sage is also founding collective member and Artistic Director of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. Her art and design practice are conceptual, creating narrative-driven garments, crafts and costumes for artistic presentation, fashion, film, TV and theatre. Sage Paul is a sought after and artistically diverse designer. She is creatively curious and informed, with excellent and resourceful craftsmanship. Sage has a strong, broad understanding for how she and her audiences interact with and feel fashion.



Patricia Michaels design

Designer: Patricia Michaels | Photo: ©Gabriella Marks Photo

Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo)

Patricia Michaels of Taos Pueblo is a world-renowned fashion and textile designer. She has her AA, Institute of American Indian Arts; four years of independent studies at Chicago Art Institute, with Nick Cave as her mentor; and worked at Santa Fe Opera costume department and with an Italian tailor in Italy. She was in Season 11 of Project Runway, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian awarded her the inaugural Arts & Designs Award and was a speaker at the Bill & Melinda Gates Scholar Foundation, amongst many other accolades. Her work as a Native CEO of her PMWaterlily LLC, takes her around the world to places like New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Europe and at least twice a year to New York for Fashion Week to do fashion, lectures, presentations, workshops, fundraisers, artist in residency and inspirational speeches. She has a home collection with “Akin Homes” and uniforms for Hotel Chaco. Her biggest driving force are her two beautiful children, Gabriel and Margeaux; the elderly; youth; and empowering women. Her cottage industry encourages a women’s voice and support organizations like Community Against Violence, American Indian College Fund, Big Brother & Big Sister, Art Smart, Preservation of Native Culture and Natural Resources. She is currently being filmed for an unscripted TV series about her and her companion James’ lives. She also sits on Taos Historical Museum Board and her works are in museums, museum shops and boutique galleries throughout the United States. Social media and public relations are key to keep the original Native voice authentic.



Korina Emmerich (Coast Salish Territory, Puyallup)

Korina Emmerich has built her Brooklyn, New York-based brand, EMME, on the backbone of expression, art and culture. Leading the charge to embrace art and design as one and weaving it into her brand story. Her colorful work is known to reflect her Indigenous heritage stemming from the Coast Salish Territory, Puyallup tribe. With a strong focus in social justice, speaking out about industry responsibility and accountability, Emmerich has cultivated a loyal following and successful path as a truly unique contemporary fashion designer and artist. The EMME Team stands with the Fashion Revolution movement and The Sustainable Development Goals and the belief in sustainable action, human rights, fair wage and transparency in the industry. All of our items are made-to-order in our Brooklyn, New York studio. We are strict on our minimal waste policy and are always trying to find ways to re-invent “leftovers” and “scrap” material and turn them into fabulous fashions!


previous article

Award-winning Earl Biss documentary released on streaming platforms