Native Fashion Now Artist Spotlight: Lloyd Kiva New

Kiva dress

Join us here on the blog all summer as we share Artist Spotlights from Native Fashion Now, featuring select artists’ personal stories and inspiration.

Lloyd Kiva New (1916-2002) is featured in the Pathbreakers section of the exhibition for his role in pioneering and leading Native style-makers.

Cherokee designer Lloyd Kiva New (1916-2002) played an important role in revolutionizing Native customary clothing design in the mid-1900s. He worked in textile arts, leatherwork, and fashion design with his own boutique (opened in Dec 1945) and center (opened in 1955), and he was active in the development of Scottsdale as an arts center. New’s handbags and garments were collaborations with other notable Native artists.

New became the first Native American to show at an international fashion show in 1951 with his participation in the Atlantic City International Fashion Show. In 1952 he showed there again, and was featured in the Los Angeles Times (below). In 1957, Miss Arizona Lynn Freyse wore a Kiva creation at the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.

New’s business prospered when opportunities for Native people were limited and bounded. Upper-class Anglo women wore his garments made with Native American designs in a time when Native cultures were being smothered out and dissolved into American cities through relocation and termination government policies. He expressed his ideas as to the importance of Native cultures (especially the importance of Native contributions to American society and identity) while emceeing fashion shows by resort pools, being interviewed for national articles, hosting art or cultural events, or consulting on Indian art educational programs.

Throughout his career as a fashion and accessories designer, New incorporated Native design concepts, including symbols, materials, silhouettes, cuts, and color palettes, from various tribes, sometimes combining them, to create items that would work within Anglo American paradigms of gender, class, and ethnicity. New acknowledged social limitations and cultural expectations and worked within these frameworks to create new possibilities for Native people. New went on to co-found the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe in 1962.

Reprinted with permission from Designer Profile | Lloyd Kiva New, by Jessica Metcalfe.