Patricia Michaels – Native Chanel
Season 11 of Project Runway is underway and for the first time ever a Native American is one of the contestants. Patricia Michaels, a Taos Pueblo native, found herself in the top 3 of the season premier with a ‘New York skyline’ inspired shift that Micheals created by hand-painting fabric to resemble the windows of skyscapers. This draws from Michaels’ aesthetic; she often finds her work blending her traditional Pueblo heritage with inspiration drawn from the ever-changing world around her, including elements from the natural environment, such as feathers and water, and aspects of city life, such as buildings and slick streets.
“My inspiration comes from the beauty of nature, the beauty of Taos and on my heritage at Taos Pueblo. For example, I created a pattern on silk charmeuse simply by looking at how rain falls on a window and interpreting its texture and form in my design,” Michaels said. “When the clouds are rolling in and holding rain – there’s a ‘female’ rain which has hues of lavender that seems soft, and there is a ‘male’ rain which consists of dark thunderclouds that are a combination of black and white. That’s what I love about being a Native American designer is that my designs are are abstract, not literal, because they are interpretations of nature.”
Michaels’ career spans almost 30 years, starting with the Institute of American Indian Arts where she studied graphic design, jewelry and traditional techniques; later working in Chicago at the Field Museum and at an art gallery; and living in Milan, Italy where she apprenticed with a tailor. Michaels later brought her son and daughter with her to New York where she worked in the city’s garment district. After two years there, Michaels developed her own collection, becoming the first Native American to feature a label at New York Fashion Week.
Michaels’ work is available for sale at Beyond Buckskin Boutique, the first ever Native American-operated online gallery store specializing in Native-made fashion, jewelry, and accessories. Hopefully we’ll be seeing much more of Patricia Michaels on Project Runway (and beyond).