Above: Santa Fe fashion designer Orlando Dugi (Dine) unveils his new collection at the Santa Fe Indian Market Fashion Show on Sunday. Photograph by Gabriella Marks.
THE INDIAN MARKET FASHION SHOW is one-of-a-kind, a place where the world meets the future of Native fashion and Indigenous designers from throughout the country tell their stories. This year’s event debuts Sunday at 2 p.m. Pre-recorded a week ago, it was produced by Amber-Dawn Bear Robe (Siksika Nation), who has been imagining and creating the Indian Market fashion show since its inception in 2014. A live Q&A with the designers follows the video.
Santa Fe’s Orlando Dugi (Diné) was part of the first show—and this year’s. A fashion designer who finds his muse in Navajo culture, he creates every detail in the pieces he presents. From reviving delicate beadwork techniques to choosing the models, Dugi’s hands-on approach means he works right up to the last second, when the music starts, and his first look hits the stage.
His new collection is both a response to and a product of the pandemic. Made from leftover scraps because new material wasn’t available, the designs represent how much we can do even when things are hard and scarce. “The collection is about memories and remembering a better time,” he says. “Right now, everyone is in lockdown and separated from their families. It is like hope—hoping and praying for a good outcome, that is really where this collection comes from.”
Above: Orlando Dugi's work often combines intricate hand beading and other natural elements. Photograph courtesy of Santa Fe Indian Market Fashion Show.
What inspired this new collection?
The inspirations for each of the garments comes from Navajo stories, mythology, and ceremonies about healing or about defeating an enemy, which is the disease at this point. Coming back to that feeling of missing family, I named each of the pieces after a grandmother, or great-grandmother, or great-aunt as a way to think about them while I am working on these pieces.
How has the pandemic changed your process?
For a while there, silk was not available. So I had to think of how to go about doing what I am doing. I had boxes and bags of scrap fabrics from past collections, and I decided to use all the scrap fabric. It really forced me to go in a direction of making more with less.
It is an upside to what’s happening, and so is doing the virtual shows. It might be good. The fashion industry has been looking into doing less live shows to cut down on emissions, people flying from all over the world to all these different shows. It is the fashion industry’s time to address its impact on the environment.
I saw a video where you were beading a piece with crystals. Can you tell me about it?
In Navajo ceremonies, Stargazers use the crystals as a way to diagnose patients. Starlight shines through the crystals and shows how to go about getting them back into balance with everything.
Look 6 is a white silk metallic thread fabric with beading, and embroidery with yarn and metal. On top of that there are crystals. You know when you look at a crystal, you see rainbows inside, and when they cast light onto something, they create a rainbow. I thought it would be cool to take that rainbow effect and use it in the embroidery. I embroidered over the top of the metal threads and did some colored beads in a rainbow motif and added crystals on top of that. Then there is 3-dimensional beading that takes on the shape of the five flat sides of a crystal.
I thought that was a good way to translate something very personal to me and my Diné people, but not literally translate it on the dress. It also comes back to the pandemic, and healing from that.
Indian Market Fashion Show , Sunday, August 16, 2 p.m.