Amy Denet Deal’s retail store on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has become an incubator for Native fashion talent, including Taos designer Josh Tafoya, who this year became an interim member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Last Saturday, Tafoya showed his collection alongside others at “We Belong Here,” an intimate backyard runway show filled with Native creatives, including Joleen Mitton, a former model, founder of Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week and cofounder of Super Natural Modelling, which is heading to New York Fashion Week in September and shooting a TV series.
Indo-Hispano designer Tafoya is a Parsons School of Design graduate who worked for New York designer Charles Youssef, and moved back to his hometown, Taos, during the pandemic.
“For the longest time, there’s been SWAIA and nothing else,” he said, referring to the established Southwest Association for Indian Arts event also held over the weekend during Santa Fe Indian Market. “We wanted to do something rebellious and my whole collection is about going against the system.”
Tafoya said he was inspired by CFDA executive vice president Lisa Smilor, who was in Santa Fe last year, to up his game, and plugged into the organization’s resources for incubating young designers.
His new collection, titled “Riot,” was inspired by the Taos Pueblo Revolt and punk rock, from a handwoven patchwork American flag shawl to studded cactus cowboy pantsuits, fringed metallic bouclé sets to layered, multipaneled, Rio Grande and Chimayo style woven ponchos, which themselves are an act of rebellion against the mass-produced weaving that sells in much of the tourist market.
“People come to New Mexico for the rebelliousness, and to live out their Wild West fantasies. Billy the Kid was roaming around here, and even now all activists are rebelling against the gentrification,” Tafoya explained after the show, over a beer by Navajo-owned brewery Bow & Arrow. “So I correlated all this inspiration, as well as some punk rock emo 1990s, because I was an emo kid.”
“We Belong Here” also featured Kewa Pueblo silversmith Thomas Coriz’s first body piece, a dramatic four-piece silver and hand-cut turquoise breast plate representing the four compass points, and Indi City’s traditional Cree medicine floral-inspired and Thunderbird laser-cut acrylic jewelry.
Denet Deal spent 37 years in the fashion industry, starting at the Fashion Institute of Technology, then as a senior designer at Reebok, design director of Puma International and senior women’s designer for Puma U.S. Adopted by a non-Native family, Denet Deal didn’t discover her Diné (or Navajo) heritage until late in life, when she reconnected with her mother online. She opened 4Kinship in 2022, featuring her own upcycled dyed vintage clothing, and the work of other artists.
The store supports several community initiatives, including the Diné Skate Garden Project, which opened with Tony Hawk in April, and Denet Deal recently partnered with singer Jewel’s 501c Inspiring Children Foundation to create the 4Kinship Indigenous Futures Fund raising funds to support Indigenous designers. Much of the work featured in the fashion show is for sale at the 4Kinship website or in-store. And Denet Deal hopes to make the runway event annual.
“As we grow into this, we want to be able to give out grants because the city doesn’t do anything here. Josh is ready to have his own shop, Thomas is ready to have his own shop. It’s just getting that first round of funding to get first and last months’ rent and infrastructure; the tourism will support what they do.”