From Native Culture to Indigenous Couture

The influence of a variety of non-western cultures can be seen throughout the collections featured in The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. Tonight at Friday Nights at the de Young, we honor the origins of these influences with an evening of Indigenous Couture curated by Native American artist, dancer, and designer Eddie Madril.

Arctic Influences

A member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe of Southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico, Madril is an active member of the Native American community, representing his culture in his work as a dancer, singer, teacher, playwright, and filmmaker. For over 25 years, Madril’s involvement with and commitment to native heritage has provided him the opportunity to share a wealth of information amongst diverse communities. His work has included outreach to Bay Area schools designed to encourage students’ appreciation and respect for American Indian dance, music, culture, history, art, and sign language.

Eddie working

Artistic Director and Designer Eddie Madril working with local tailor

Madril has been awarded several grants for both visual and performing arts, including a nomination for the prestigious Isadora Duncan Dance Award for his 2008 original play SunDagger Solstice. In 2011, he was recognized by KQED as a Bay Area American Indian Local Hero. We recently sat down with Madril to find out more about his work on tonight’s Indigenous Couture event.

How did you come up with the idea for creating Indigenous Couture here at the de Young?

I am deeply immersed in a culture that expresses itself both internally and externally using the strength of imagery. I began to look closely at American Indian clothing—its beauty and power, its meaning and purpose—and wondered about how today in contemporary culture, both native and non-native people use fashion as a mode of individual expression.

Leather paint

Leather painting by Michael Horse for custom leather work

When the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition came to the de Young, I was intrigued. I knew about the influence of indigenous cultures from around the world on his work, and how as an artist he chose to express that in his creations. I then began to wonder if indigenous people in the Americas were to express themselves artistically in a more modern world, what would that look like?


Bay Area artist Gabriela Segovia-McGahan hard at work

How has the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition inspired or informed the work that you’ll be showcasing tonight?

In my opinion, Jean Paul Gaultier chose not to conform to what was expected or what was allowed. I really feel that, from time to time, there is an allowance for limitlessness, when what is expected can be challenged by the expression of an individual, rather than what is imposed by society at large.

What can visitors expect to see and learn tonight?

As with any presentation I do, I always try to bring some level of education to it: to share the beauty of traditions and expose people who may not be aware, or who may need a renewed moment of inspiration, to something to which I am deeply connected. I hope to show that there is true beauty and originality in any style of traditional clothing, and that as times change and people change, there can arise influences that create new instances of beauty.

I am very much a story teller, so this presentation has become more than a fashion show–it will be an adventure for us all, to open our own thoughts and creative minds to the world around us and to find a voice to express that. I am honored to work with an amazing group of people who have given so much to support this project and have helped it come to the stage.

Join us for Friday Nights at the de Young, beginning at 6 pm tonight in Wilsey Court.