Every August, thousands of visitors arrive in Santa Fe for the annual Santa Fe Indian Market, produced by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), the largest juried Indian art market in the world. Santa Fe hotels fill to capacity and The City Different begins to buzz with Native American art and cultural events. This year, 2023, the Santa Fe Indian Market celebrates 101 years of “bringing Native arts to the world by inspiring artistic excellence, fostering education, and creating meaningful partnerships.” Make your plans to be a part of history, August 18–20, 2023.
Established in 1922, Indian Market began as a vehicle to preserve and showcase the extraordinary Native American heritage, art, and culture of the Southwest, and to offer visitors and collectors an opportunity to browse, learn about, and purchase authentic Native American art. Over the years, the market has expanded well beyond the Southwest to include Nations from across the United States and Canada. Sought after by collectors, the art at Indian Market represents the top work in 10 juried categories, including pottery, basketry, jewelry, painting, sculpture, pueblo wood carvings, and textiles. Not only is the Native American art shown at Indian Market expressed in timeless designs, craftsmanship, and artistry that is passed down through generations, often with roots in cultural history, storytelling, and the natural world, but it is cutting-edge and contemporary, examining the present and future from an Indigenous worldview.
Over the last 101 years, Indian Market has evolved to become a multi-dimensional arts festival that includes performance, music, food, dance, and fashion! It is an unparalleled tourism draw for Santa Fe and the region, yet it is the meaningful exposure to the cultural celebration and diversity at the Market that make it critical to contemporary society. Visitors know they are experiencing something unique, valuable, and potentially perspective changing—Native American art and culture.
A highly anticipated component of Indian Market are the events that revolve around Indigenous fashion and designers. These are ticketed events and will sell out. Learn about the designers here.
Saturday, Aug 19
5:30–9 pm: The Gala Fashion Show features designers Tracy Toulouse, Rebecca Baker-Grenier, Elias Not Afraid, and Clara McConnell of Qualluq.
Sunday, Aug 20
9 am–1 pm: At the time-honored Native American Clothing Contest, contestants compete for prizes as they model their diverse handmade traditional regalia. All clothing must be Indigenous made with raw, organic, natural materials.
3 pm: The Indigenous Fashion Show presents cutting-edge collections from Native America's most talented and sought-after fashion designers: Jamie Okuma, Orlando Dugi, Pam Baker, Dusty LeGrande of Mobilize, Jontay Kham, Lauren Good Day, and Jason Baerg.
(Click here for a complete schedule of Indian Market weekend.)
SWAIA’s Indigenous Fashion Show designers represent a diverse group of Indigenous North American heritages, which have influenced their path of learning, creating, design, and emergence into the global high-fashion arena. These designers share a strong connection to their roots and culture.
The originality and ingenuity of the designs unveiled at the show are breathtaking. From flowing textiles inspired by natural landscapes to graphic prints and sleek sculptural designs, many of the garments are one-of-a-kind works of art.
"I feel excited about the Indian Market fashion getting better every year," says Taos Pueblo designer Patricia Michaels. Michaels is known for her show-stopping "PM Waterlily" Project Runway debut and 2nd place win. "I always look forward to the diversity that individuals express and know that their hard work with many prayers and thought will find their place. I only hope that every aspect of our artistry will always be respected, the old and new. We live in a world where time-consuming techniques and work ethics that have been replaced by the competitive world of fast consumerism. We need a balance and this can be done with grace and respect."
The Indigenous Fashion Show has been curated by its founder Amber-Dawn Bear Robe (Blackfoot/Siksika) since its inception in 2014. Bear Robe, an Assistant Art History Professor at the acclaimed Institute for Indian Arts in Santa Fe, has a passion for fashion. In addition to coordinating the designers, dozens of models, hair and make-up, DJs, light show, and performers, to perfection, Bear Robe herself hosts the event with grand dame-style calm and grace.
For those who are fortunate enough to catch this event while attending the Market, prepare to be dazzled by vanguard style and a stunning presentation of wearable art on the runway. When you enter the Santa Fe Convention Center, where the event is held in a grand ballroom divided by a sleek runway, you will know you've entered the world of high fashion in the Southwest, grounded in diverse Indigenous perspectives. The Show is a huge attraction and fills to standing room only with attendees, including celebrities and dignitaries, and a beehive of photographers who want to be the first to capture and share the influential styles.
"Native North American fashion has always been exciting and innovative and people are finally taking notice," says Bear Robe. "It’s fantastic! I have been producing the SWAIA fashion shows for 10 years now and have seen it grow into one of the most popular and anticipated events of the Market."
The long-term goal is to grow the fashion programming into a SWAIA Fashion Week. In 2021, SWAIA Fashion announced partnerships with Indigenous Fashion Arts (IFA), Vancouver Fashion Week (VFW), and the newly established Supernaturals Modelling Agency. All partners are scheduled to return in 2023.
This blog was written in partnership with SWAIA’s Indigenous Fashion Show Producer Amber-Dawn Bear Robe and Audrey Nadia Rubinstein, longtime publicist of SWAIA. The featured blog header image is design by Patricia Michaels (Taos Pueblo).
If you are ready to plan your trip to Santa Fe for the Indian Market weekend, get a taste of The City Different! Order your Official Santa Fe Visitors Guide now or browse our deals and specials to help you plan your next trip to Santa Fe.