What is in an introduction? So much. We experienced the magic of having an entirely Indigenous crew for a photo session in Portland, OR - the entire team front-to-back being Native...everyone. The day began just like any other photo session with folks each doing their part and preparing...bustling to make certain their element is just right. Then, a magic moment happened.
We, as Indigenous people, are used to introductions - it's how things start...and nothing of importance across Indian Country starts without a certain protocol, or ceremony of acknowledgement and introduction. Everyone included in the photo session joined as a group - we all paused - and did things our way. One-by-one, we each introduced ourselves to the group, like our families have done forever...speaking five languages and setting the tone for what was to be a packed, yet delightful day.
Ginew is the only Native American owned denim brand in the world...but we do not want it to stay this way. We encourage you to read more about our story in VOGUE & GQ - who both take a deeper dive into this with us. Our goal is to see Indigenous people elevated - their talent incubated - in this space...and to share their ideas and talents with the world. Yet, the fact remains that Indigenous people worldwide are glaringly absent from the fashion ecosystem outside of cultural appropriations and non-managerial factory positions. There is an abysmal void of Indigenous representation in the global fashion ecosystem in leadership, design, content creation, creative direction, and beyond. It does not have to be this way AND it was the opposite during our first Ginew collection photo session of 2019.
Native people were represented in every single role during the session...producer, creative director, photographer, models, assistants, styling, hair & makeup, and even the peanut gallery! It was so beautiful - to see and work with Indigenous professionals...and to feel the added element that each brought to the session - their cultures, their ancestors, their experiences.
It was in the moment of pause and introductions that we realized something cosmic was happening...perhaps something that has not happened in the fashion industry before - where Indigenous people exist in the space in a contemporary context, bringing the past and present with them, to share openly as experts and professionals...and everyone is Indigenous.
During the mid-day break, a few of the team went outside into the crisp air. Two happened to have drums. One began singing a song well known across Turtle Island. The AIM anthem song. What happened next was truly magical...three different singers sang the same song with their own variation and tribal style. We heard three different leads of the same song in Northern, Southern, and Southwest styles...same song, but infused with the beautiful variations of style taught and passed down for generations.
We agree wholeheartedly with one of the models who after introductions and five different languages were spoken, looking affirmed, stated, "I have never experienced that on set before. Ever. Wow."
Indigenous representation in the global fashion ecosystem is important...and each of the images created by this team helps move us all forward to a better space which elevates the visibility of Indigenous people.
Let us acknowledge & introduce ourselves, as we all sing this song together.
Chi miigwetch + yawʌ’kó (Ojibwemoin + Oneida "Thank you")