November 27, 2012

Mohawk designer on Victoria's Secret

Mohawk Designer Marlana Thompson Discusses the Victoria's Secret Fashion ShowThe recent controversy over the use of a feather headdress as an accessory during the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show continues to rankle many Natives--some of whom decided to stop buying the company's wares. And pop group No Doubt's racially-insensitive video for the song "Looking Hot," although quickly removed from YouTube, nonetheless alienated many Native fans. ICTMN recently discussed the issue with native fashion designer Marlana Thompson. Thompson is Wolf Clan from the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation territory of Akwesasne, located on the St. Lawrence River between the U.S. and Canada, and lives in Squamish, B.C. with her companion Wayne Gausedis Baker. A mother of two daughters, she is the owner and designer of at Okwaho Creations, maker of custom beadwork, traditional and contemporary clothing, which can be seen online at

What is your professional opinion?

Ok, let’s put the personal motivations aside, assume that was not the case. The clothing choice projected a very poorly done satire.

She’s wearing all Southwest silver and turquoise jewelry and a Plains-Indian-style, made-in-Taiwan turkey-feather headdress, with the obvious made-in-Taiwan beadwork. This in my opinion degrades and undervalues real beadwork handmade by real First Nations artists. And the clothing--the bikini portion of the models outfit--a cheetah-print bottom and bra covered in ultra suede? Since when were cheetahs indigenous to North America? Wait, most mainstream Americans don’t know what "indigenous" means. If they did, most people would know that first Nations people are indigenous to North America, and furthermore we are not all related, nor from the same tribe, we all don’t have the same language and we do not live in teepees and we all don’t have casinos.

How would you tackle the task of designing a Native themes fashion show?

As an FBI--Full Blooded Indian--designer who has done many fashion shows, I would personally never allow any made-in-Taiwan pieces on my runway under any circumstances, and would never dress up a non-native model in a Native “Thanksgiving”-inspired outfit. (I'm being polite to the creative mind at Victoria's Secret who thought up this "inspirational" piece.) I think if the style is to reflect a Native theme, then why not, when there are so many beautiful Native models readily available, hire Native models?! And hire Native designers to assist in the production? We are just as professional in our job as anyone else.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Victoria's Secret Apologizes for Headdress and Victoria's Secret Model in a Headdress.

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