My Interview with Jessica Metcalfe of Beyond Buckskin

This interview was conducted in March 2013. Originally published in the Jicarilla Chieftain

*Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What's your educational background? I am Turtle Mountain Chippewa from North Dakota. After going to college at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, graduating from grad school at the University of Arizona, and various fellowships in New Mexico, I am now back home in the beautiful Turtle Mountains where I operate Beyond Buckskin. *What does fashion mean to you? To me, fashion refers to the items that we use to decorate our bodies. It’s clothing, jewelry, accessories, shoes, and other items. It draws on the past yet is relevant today and always looks to the future. *How would you define native fashion? I define Native fashion as the clothing, jewelry, and accessories designed by individuals who self-identify as Native American and are recognized by their communities as members. They are proud of where they come from and, whether it is ‘obvious’ in their work or not, they have connections to their Native communities. *What is your blog about? My blog is a space dedicated to all things related to Native fashion. I publish designer profiles, links to fashion events, articles about historical Native American clothing, and Native fashion videos, as well as critiques about contemporary Native misappropriations in the fashion industry. *When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion blogger? I launched Beyond Buckskin in 2009 as a means to share my research with a broader audience. I was attending grad school and had been researching this topic of Native fashion since 2005. I had found some extraordinary stuff (brochures from the 1970s, garments from the 1950s, etc) and I was interviewing contemporary designers who gave me pictures from their fashion events and collections. It was too cool not to share with a ton of people. But in academia, your work typically stays within the walls of the institution, and I didn’t like that. Through the blog, I have made wonderful connections with individuals throughout the world – for example, a museum in Spain, a university in Germany, and a fashion designer in New Zealand have all contacted me through the blog. *Who are some of your favorite designers? I appreciate all of the fashion designers that I work with for different reasons. You can never get bored with this topic because there are always new designers doing new things. Even the ones who have been in this industry for decades continue to push boundaries (just look at Patricia Michaels!). *Where can readers buy clothes/jewelry from these designers? Readers can buy Native-made fashion by either checking out our BUY NATIVE page or by visiting the Beyond Buckskin Boutique. The Boutique was launch in May of 2012 to create a space where it was easy for people of all backgrounds to access Native-made fashion. We have over 30 designers on the site, and I add new items every week and new artists every month. *How do you select your designers? I love writing profiles on all the new designers that I come across. I think readers also like to learn about the variety that exists in Native fashion. Different regions, different styles, and different price points are all represented in the profiles. As for the Boutique, I reach out to designers who I think are doing something unique, different, and exciting. They are the ones who epitomize ‘Native fashion’ – they look to the past, but catapult the idea of Native fashion into the future. They include established designers, but also emerging artists. They produce items that we can all wear, despite our backgrounds. *What matters to you most as a fashion blogger? One of the most important things to me right now is creating a space where Native American fashion designers take center stage. There is no other place where they are featured and promoted, where they are interviewed, and their items are for sale. I want Beyond Buckskin to be a platform for Native American artists to take their businesses and careers to the next level. *What are some of your goals? What is next for BB? I have a ton of goals. I have a wish list based on immediate goals and long term goals. I think it’s necessary to think both in the present sense, but also to think of what you want to accomplish overall. Like, where do I want Beyond Buckskin to be in 5 or 10 years? I have those ideas already taking form as wish lists. 2013 is shaping up to be an exciting year, and we have several exciting events and announcements booked through August. I’m also teaming up with various folks to get programs going for 2014. We’re going big. We’re going to shoot for the stars and see where we land. *Any upcoming events? You can click here to keep up on the latest Beyond Buckskin events: http://beyondbuckskin.com/p/events.html *Where can readers find out more about you and your work? Beyondbuckskin.com, of course

*Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What's your educational background?
I am Turtle Mountain Chippewa from North Dakota. After going to college at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, graduating from grad school at the University of Arizona, and various fellowships in New Mexico, I am now back home in the beautiful Turtle Mountains where I operate Beyond Buckskin.

*What does fashion mean to you?
To me, fashion refers to the items that we use to decorate our bodies. It’s clothing, jewelry, accessories, shoes, and other items. It draws on the past yet is relevant today and always looks to the future.

*How would you define native fashion?
I define Native fashion as the clothing, jewelry, and accessories designed by individuals who self-identify as Native American and are recognized by their communities as members. They are proud of where they come from and, whether it is ‘obvious’ in their work or not, they have connections to their Native communities.

*What is your blog about?
My blog is a space dedicated to all things related to Native fashion. I publish designer profiles, links to fashion events, articles about historical Native American clothing, and Native fashion videos, as well as critiques about contemporary Native misappropriations in the fashion industry.

*When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion blogger?
I launched Beyond Buckskin in 2009 as a means to share my research with a broader audience. I was attending grad school and had been researching this topic of Native fashion since 2005. I had found some extraordinary stuff (brochures from the 1970s, garments from the 1950s, etc) and I was interviewing contemporary designers who gave me pictures from their fashion events and collections. It was too cool not to share with a ton of people. But in academia, your work typically stays within the walls of the institution, and I didn’t like that. Through the blog, I have made wonderful connections with individuals throughout the world – for example, a museum in Spain, a university in Germany, and a fashion designer in New Zealand have all contacted me through the blog.

*Who are some of your favorite designers?
I appreciate all of the fashion designers that I work with for different reasons. You can never get bored with this topic because there are always new designers doing new things. Even the ones who have been in this industry for decades continue to push boundaries (just look at Patricia Michaels!).

*Where can readers buy clothes/jewelry from these designers?
Readers can buy Native-made fashion by either checking out our BUY NATIVE page or by visiting the Beyond Buckskin Boutique. The Boutique was launch in May of 2012 to create a space where it was easy for people of all backgrounds to access Native-made fashion. We have over 30 designers on the site, and I add new items every week and new artists every month.

*How do you select your designers?
I love writing profiles on all the new designers that I come across. I think readers also like to learn about the variety that exists in Native fashion. Different regions, different styles, and different price points are all represented in the profiles. As for the Boutique, I reach out to designers who I think are doing something unique, different, and exciting. They are the ones who epitomize ‘Native fashion’ – they look to the past, but catapult the idea of Native fashion into the future. They include established designers, but also emerging artists. They produce items that we can all wear, despite our backgrounds.

*What matters to you most as a fashion blogger?
One of the most important things to me right now is creating a space where Native American fashion designers take center stage. There is no other place where they are featured and promoted, where they are interviewed, and their items are for sale. I want Beyond Buckskin to be a platform for Native American artists to take their businesses and careers to the next level.

*What are some of your goals? What is next for BB?
I have a ton of goals. I have a wish list based on immediate goals and long term goals. I think it’s necessary to think both in the present sense, but also to think of what you want to accomplish overall. Like, where do I want Beyond Buckskin to be in 5 or 10 years? I have those ideas already taking form as wish lists. 2013 is shaping up to be an exciting year, and we have several exciting events and announcements booked through August. I’m also teaming up with various folks to get programs going for 2014. We’re going big. We’re going to shoot for the stars and see where we land.

*Any upcoming events?
You can click here to keep up on the latest Beyond Buckskin events: http://beyondbuckskin.com/p/events.html

*Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
Beyondbuckskin.com, of course