Watch Native designer Dante Biss-Grayson (Osage) explain why appreciation over appropriation in fashion is necessary: “My culture is not your costume.”
DANTE BISS-GRAYSON: We need more native fashion designers, period. There’s not a lot of them in the fashion industry. So it’s really important, so that other communities and cultures understand that we’re still here and that we can also succeed in these spaces.
Hello, my name is Dante Biss-Grayson. I’m from the Osage Nation. My Osage name is [? Ouasayaca, ?] which means the first son of the Eagle Clan. I’m a fashion designer, also, the founder of the Sky-Eagle Collection, which will be debuting at New York Fashion Week in 2023. The Sky-Eagle Collection launched late 2019.
It’s only in a few years, the brand. We feel like I saw them, like, leveling up, leveling up, leveling up. The main theme of my collection is empowerment, and for me, that means the new warriors, men, women, whomever, walking in the modern world who still want to hold on to their tradition, their culture, and as a way to feel empowered to lead.
The designs, the details are based out of Osage ribbon work, and my tribe, Osage Nation. So I kind of took that idea, the concept of the linear structure of the lines. I really made it modern and blew it up, simplified it, and then I applied it to my new canvas, which is fashion. And that’s the details of the pattern.
So it’s all these different patterns that are native, but they’re also– it’s all designed for everybody to enjoy as well. There’s big movement out there for clarifying the difference between appropriation and appreciation. Native inspired, there’s so much out there. It’s very cliche, and even on the runways and the whole thing. And it says, OK, my culture is not your costume. My culture is not your fashion statements and all of that, but it’s important to know that brands, like myself and design houses, like us, that we are coming in and top down.
OK, we can design it, but we also can do it in a tasteful, respectful, some couture, some ready to wear, a whole mix, and different areas too. Like we can be high end gala. We can be sportswear. We can be all these different things. That’s another component of this whole movement and pushing my brand into these spaces is to educate and be like, look, you know, I’m a native designer. I grew up doing my ceremonies, and now, I’m sharing the difference with you.
I’m educating you along this journey. So on my journey and how I got here, a big part of Native culture is eventually becoming an elder, being able to give back, and also, educate the younger generations. So my advice on any new designer or young designer, whoever, native designer who wants to get into this area and to these spaces is, one, never give up and be, like, laser focused, just do your vision, be you. And the other one is don’t wait around to be discovered. You’ve got to put in the work every day.
So the outcome of this show in New York for Sky-Eagle Collection is very simple. It’s just a very simple message that a Native American, veteran owned fashion house team can compete for the biggest fashion houses out there. It’s a simple message that just kind of broadcasts that we’re still here, and we are definitely taking care of it, you know?