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Delina White: Traditional Perspective in A Modern World Style Show and Art Showcase

Delina White’sI Am Anishinaabe fashion designs have walked the runways of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the world-renowned Indian Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And they will soon make their way to the Northwest Indian Community Development Center in Bemidji.

Tomorrow afternoon (Saturday, February 1st)“A Traditional Perspective in the Modern World” includes an artist market showcasing native artists as well as a special style show featuring Delina’s fashion house.  We caught up with Delina on the morning show and discussed several topics from her designs to her highly successful two-spirit fashion show this past summer to her wish that men would try a little harder in terms of their clothing choices.

We asked Delina for some hints on what fashions she will bring to Saturday’s event.  She was fairly secretive, but did comment:

I can tell you that it is going to be a show that culminated… different aspects about the art. And it's going to create an emotional experience. I also do a PowerPoint presentation, which is actually a historic visual presentation using antique photographs, historical photographs of Native Americans and then highlighting the specific historical events in this area…

So it's really a nice education about the native people in this local area, and then it's being brought together with music, with live models and then the textures of the fabrics and the indigenous material. So it's going to be pretty emotional, I think.

For Delina, style shows are not just about showing off the fashions.  In order for models to feature her styles, they must understand her philosophy and the meaning of the pieces:

Oh, it's so important that my models understand what I Am Anishinaabe philosophy is about. It's important that they understand about the indigenous materials that I use and that they understand the different areas in time that we're representing and how it correlates with music to have the movement that really flows and show us the beauty of the fabric, as well as the gracefulness of the beautiful native model, to represent my brand.

Starting primarily as a bead artist, Delina’s fashion designs have been an offshoot of her original work:

I call myself a native apparel designer, jewelry maker and bead work artist. So when I've been making my clothing, my apparel, it has taken me away from doing a lot of the beadwork. That was how I originally started making my art and became known for. So the jewelry that I'm going to have on the show is going to be limited. But I do have like the pink conch cowry shells…And I've got some freshwater pearls. I've got some antlers…and a lot of the birch bark from the …local birch bark trees.

For Delina, fashion is an important part of of everyday life:

…we all know how important exercise is to our health, you know, mind and body and spiritual well-being. Well, that's like the way people think about fashion, but actually fashion is a necessity. And so every day when you wake up in the morning, you go to your closet or you go to your bureau of drawers and you think, what am I going to wear today? So it's a decision that we all make and it's like, OK, what's going to be appropriate for whatever it is? I'm going to be meeting somebody. If I'm going to be doing something that takes a lot of activity, I need to wear the proper shoes and… that kind of thing. So it is always in the forefront of who we are. And a lot of times, people who really appreciate fashion will use fashion as a message to send information to other people about who you are. And I think that subconsciously we all do that.

She doesn’t hold back in her opinion of how men can try a little harder with their fashion sense, tho:

I really want to encourage men to be a little bit more fashion conscious because I know in the native community that women are always fixing their hair so nice and they do beautiful makeup and they just always look at that at the top of their game. And then you see the guy and there wear jeans and baseball caps. Come on. You know, we work so hard to be so beautiful. We need the guys to be beautiful, too.

Check out Delina's fashion show as well as the Indigenous Art Market tomorrow afternoon at the Northwest Indian Community Development Center next to Slumberland in Bemidji! 

John has been listening to KAXE since the early days in 1976, and has worked as our Development Director from 1995-2022. Now semi-retired and writing, sculpting and enjoying the good life, you can hear him on the Morning Show Fridays.
Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. She returned for a second stint in 2016-23. She produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota.