TEARS RISE IN AMY DENET DEAL'S EYES when she talks about the first time she entered a room full of people who looked like her—a moment when she felt like she was home. As a Diné person raised off Diné Bikéyah (sacred Navajo lands), I, too, understand that inexplicable feeling of homesickness for a place you hardly know—a longing for red earth, for the undisturbed vista of a moonlike landscape, for brown cheeks that curve like poetry, even when tears dampen them.
Outside 4Kinship, a red neon thundercloud beckons me to enter Denet Deal’s Albuquerque showroom, where I am greeted by the melody of memory that ancient pine floorboards sing. Antique wooden display cases transport me back to a childhood visiting trading posts on the rez with my mother and grandma. On a rainy day in the creaking, breathing womb of 4Kinship, the hero’s journey of this Diné woman—adopted and raised outside her mother’s homeland, triumphant as a Los Angeles fashion executive, and returned to New Mexico to empower her people—becomes personal for me.
Denet Deal launched 4Kinship, then called Orenda Tribe, in 2015 as a sustainable artwear brand specializing in upcycled, one-of-a-kind, and small-batch artisanal clothing and accessories. In 2019 she sold her possessions and moved into what is now the 4Kinship shop. A Santa Fe location is in the works, with a launch expected later this year.
“As Indigenous people, upcycling is nothing new to us,” she says. “What’s right for me is to use things that are already here on the planet. We upcycle vintage, we find old fabric, we find dirty, stinky old things in the back of a warehouse and find the beauty in them and reimagine them.”
The 4Kinship spring-summer collection involves Japanese parachutes from the 1940s and ’50s upcycled into skirts hand-dyed in fluorescent colors, one-off vintage pieces, and hand-dyed, cowl-hood capes crafted from midcentury brocade curtains and handwoven textiles from Oaxaca, Mexico. Yet the seasons are fluid at 4Kinship. Many pieces are created as they are discovered and reimagined. “Everything we do is by hand,” she says.
Denet Deal also uses 4Kinship to support issues and organizations working to improve the lives of Navajo and other Indigenous people. “If I’m going to come back and embrace my Indigeneity, I have to also embrace the trauma,” she says.
On the 4Kinship website, shoppers can donate to an organization providing firewood to Navajo elders; a domestic violence shelter in Chinle, Arizona; and Sheep Is Life, which promotes sustainable livelihoods through traditional Navajo ways.
Recently, Denet Deal has used her unique position as both outsider and insider to draw forces such as DC Shoes, singer-songwriter Jewel, and Tony Hawk’s Skatepark Project to back the Diné Skate Garden, which is slated to break ground this year in Tóhaaliní, in the tribe’s Two Grey Hills Chapter, in western New Mexico. She partnered with Diné artist Vernan Kee to create the logo for a limited-edition T-shirt and donated 100 percent of the profits to the project.
“We’re trying to raise awareness for Indigenous skate culture,” says Denet Deal, who hopes that similar parks can be built throughout the Navajo Nation. “Outdoor recreation is one of the best ways we can help our kids.”