Lifetime TV's Project Runway is underway yet again, and not one but two designers of Indigenous heritage are looking to follow in the footsteps of Patricia Michaels. Michaels, Taos Pueblo, made it to the finals of Project Runway season 11, and many viewers felt she ought to have been the winner. Michaels nonetheless continues to have a thriving career as one of Indian country's leading fashion figures.
This season (the show's 13th) started on Thursday, July 24, with 19 contestants vying to make the "final cut"; four were sent home, leaving Kini Zamora (Native Hawaiian) and Korina Emmerich (Puyallup) among the final 15 who'll duke it out for the remainer of the season.
We will be bringing you more on both of these talented young artists as the weeks go by, but here's a quick look at their aesthetic styles.
In her profile on the official Project Runway site, Emmerich recalled a story that will make Native seamstresses everywhere smile knowingly. "The first thing I ever made myself was my Jingle Dress Regalia for powwows (I was 13 or 14)," she says. "My sister was a Fancy Dancer (shawl dance) and I always wanted to be a jingle dress dancer. I thought they were the most beautiful dresses on the powwow circuit. It was a combination of all of my favorite power colors, red, orange, and yellow with gold jingles (probably around 300-400, it was very heavy). … The first time I danced my jingles started falling off one by one (a nod to my inexperience in sewing). I was devastated. It’s a big deal for regalia to fall apart at powwows. The whole community reassured me it was ok and supported me. I clamped all the jingles and they never fell off again. I’m not sure that I ever would have sewn again if it weren’t for the outstanding support of everyone that day."
Here are some looks Korina created prior to her selection for Project Runway:
Kiniokahokula "Kini" Zamora of Kapolei, Hawaii, says that if he wasn't designing he'd be "Farming and learning more about my Hawaiian culture." Like many Hawaiians (Native and otherwise), he's emphatic about his favorite place to spend time: "Beach beach beach," he says. Here is some of Kini's past work: