Indigenous fashion designers often explore their heritage through a contemporary lens and unexpected mediums, such as swimwear and denim. As a result, their work—from their campaign images to the pieces themselves—has a decidedly modern feel, even if they’re making use of design traditions that go back centuries. One such artist is Lauren Good Day, an Arikara-Hidatsa-Blackfeet-Plains Cree designer. Her vibrant work incorporates the beadwork, quillwork, and ledger art that she learned from her mother and grandmother from a young age, and she utilizes it in a fresh, new way, such as her unisex graphic tees. But when Good Day began designing her new spring 2020 collection last spring, she knew she wanted to go back to a more traditional aesthetic instead. As a result, she paid homage to her own home territory through her designs, as well as spotlit its homegrown talent by collaborating with an all-indigenous crew for the campaign.
Good Day is from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, and is an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation (MHA Nation). “We're a small tribe, but I'm so proud of my lineage and where I come from,” she says. “We have long standing roots historically, as our villages were the trade epicenters on the Plains.” When she started designing her latest assortment of spring ready-to-wear—which is called the Matriarch collection and is available on her website now—she wanted to showcase the beauty of her home and her people, and it resulted in a colorful array of pieces, ranging from printed tees to skirts and sundresses.Photo: Collin Tru Hale
For this particular assortment, Good Day didn’t want to reinvent or modernize her traditions, rather focus on developing prints and patterns that are completely authentic to her tribes. “There is much appropriation in the fashion world when it comes to non-Indigenous designers using or being ‘inspired by’ Indigenous designs,” she says. “I really hope to be an example of culturally-appropriate Native fashion.” She also based many pieces in the collection off a dress and beaded bonnet and moccasins that she made for the Santa Fe Indian Market last year. “All of the fabric patterns have been digitized from my original artwork,” she says.
For the collection’s campaign images, meanwhile, she partnered with fellow creatives from her own MHA Nation to further the authentic feel. It resulted in an all-indigenous cast and crew that saw an impressive representation of indigenous talent and backgrounds. The crew included photographer Collin Tru Hale (Hidatsa/Mandan/Navajo) and models Jocy Bird (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Dakota), Eahtosh Bird (Mandan Hidatsa, Arikara, Dakota, Lakota), Skye Hall (Hidatsa/Mandan), and Jayli Fimbres (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara). “The purpose of the shoot was to show the resilience, rebirth, and resurgence of Indigenous peoples,” she says. “I wanted to exemplify the beauty of matriarchs and the future generations.”