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Behind the Design

Introducing our new two piece men's suit: a minimal collarless design with enlarged edge beading that appears and disappears throughout the collar, hems, and sleeve cuffs. Each suit is made to order for our customers and colors of both the jacket and beads can be customized. This suit is inspired by the beauty of American Indian beading as a decorative art form and its potential for modernity. This blog post goes "Behind the Design" to what is inspiring us, the historical references and particular artifacts. 

not by jenny lai mens suit

The Metropolitan Museum of Art brought me into contact with the incredibel Charles and Valerie Diker Collection of Native America; the beading details on these below pieces created by the Plains and Plateau Indians made a particular impression on me.

This boy’s jacket, created circa 1880, was probably worn for ceremonial occasions. Beaded images of deer or elk heads, stars, and abstract floral motifs provided protection.

metropolitan museum charles and valerie diker collection native america

This sash by the Wendat/Huron people combined wool yarn in a chevron pattern, with the pattern emphasized by the most delicate white glass seed beads.

metropolitan museum charles and valerie diker native america

I was drawn specifically to the tiny edge beading on this bow case and quiver by a Nez Perce artist.

metropolitan museum charles and valerie diker collection native american nez perce

Beads were one of the earliest goods Europeans traded with the Native Americans, from as early as mid 16th century. Before their interactions, Native Americans decorated with paint, shell, and porcupine quill. During the mid 1800s, beads were readily available through trade. The colorful seed beads Europeans brought were used to decorate clothing, moccasins, tobacco bags, and many articles of everyday and ceremonial life. It was when Native Americans were forced to relocate to reservations, that Plains Indian beadwork reached its artistic apex. 

I have several pieces in my personal collection of beading from around the world. In 2010, I had the opportunity to design in Rwanda, innovating with jewelry made from rolled up slices of recycled paper. In 2014 during my project with photographer Chris Saunders in South Africa, I picked up a beautiful beaded Zulu wedding skirt in Johannesburg. Also in my possession is an intricate lace-work vest made from long thin bamboo beads from Asia. Each piece immerses me in a particularly tactile way, the combination of soft and hard materials bringing clothing to the level of armor? Sculpture? Something spiritual? 

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