A simple inspiration led Dr. Jessica R. Metcalfe to launch Beyond Buckskin: a website & business dedicated to spotlighting, promoting, & selling Native American made fashion.
"The designers themselves are so extraordinary, they deserve greater recognition & a platform to share their work with the world," explains Metcalfe. Beyond Buckskin began as a blog, but readers increasingly wanted to buy & support the designers. Though at that time (about 2011), there wasn't a space to easily access Native-made fashion.
So Metcalfe decided to create that space, even though her background isn't in business; she trained as an academic & holds a PhD in American Indian Studies. "I was on the path to becoming a professor when this happened," she shares.
"I've loved the learning experience of launching a business. The risk, the late nights, the stress has all pushed me to work hard for what I believe in," Metcalfe says. A belief that's to provide as many opportunities to Native people through the creative power of the arts.
Beyond Buckskin now works with over 40 Native artists who create clothing, jewelry, & accessories meant to be appreciated & worn by people of all backgrounds, explains Metcalfe. And that's not all Beyond Buckskin has to offer.
"We always have a lot going on!" begins Metcalfe. She goes on to talk about how they regularly host fashion shows, events, & mixers both locally & nationally. Last month (April), they brought designers together for a fashion & arts mixer in Albuquerque, NM. "Mixers are a great way to bring people together in a casual environment that facilitates patrons meeting & visiting with the artists," she explains.
In May, Beyond Buckskin is hosting an anniversary sales event online & in-person at their retail store located in Metcalfe's home community on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in Belcourt, ND. She says, "the huge sale is our way to thank our customers for continuing to support us. We wouldn't exist without the amazing dynamic between the customers & designers."
Images: In both images Metcalfe is wearing ribbon skirts by Margaret Judy Kakenowash Azure, who's a local elder artist that Beyond Buckskin has been working with for over a year. Metcalfe explains, "the skirts are based on traditional ceremonial skirts of the Northern Plains, but are modernized to be worn in casual or special occasions. These cotton skirts replicate the silhouette of a buckskin skirt, & the ribbons replace where traditional plant & mineral paint pigment designs would've been."