Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Beyond the Classroom:
The Lasting Effects of the History of Native Fashion at IAIA

In the late 1990s, IAIA no longer offered fashion or clothing design courses; however, this did not mean that the Institute ended its multi-decade connection to fashion. Instead, the fashion shows at IAIA turned from a student focus to a focus on alumni designers.

The fashion shows continued to educate both Native and non-Native people about this diverse art-form, but the events also celebrated the aesthetic aspects and communicative power of clothing. The Institute also sought ways to develop the business and economic aspects of Native fashion. Collaborative projects such as the landmark 2005 partnership with African designers called Tribal Fusions, and the 2004 Power of Fashion event, featured new work by IAIA alumni. These events demonstrated the challenges and successes of Indigenous designers in a global context.

IAIA has produced some of the most innovative and skilled Native fashion designers of our time, and these individuals played a major role in developing the contemporary Native fashion movement. Although the Institute does not offer formal instruction in fashion design, students still create modern adaptations of traditional items of adornment for their courses or independent projects, and they confirm that Native design concepts created at IAIA will continue to influence future generations.

 Tribal Fusions fashion show, 2005. Published in Newswinds, IAIA Newsletter. Courtesy of the Archives of IAIA.