We’ve all heard the terms “tribal trend” or “Native American-inspired” in fashion, but what does that mean, exactly? Cultural appropriation has long been an issue in the industry, and it just so happens to be especially true with shoes. Luckily, there are easy ways to shop authentic First Nations shoemakers (moccasins, here we come).
Read on for five tips:
1. Buy From First Nations Brands
There’s a wide variety of First Nations-owned footwear brands to choose from on the market. Manitobah Mukluks, which is based in Canada, specializes in fur mukluks and moccasins that are handcrafted by indigenous artists (plus, they all receive 100 percent of the proceeds). We also love Jamie Okuma’s custom beaded shoes (click here for our exclusive interview with her).
2. Shop Specialty First Nations Retailers
A new crop of e-tailers is focused on carrying First Nations-made products. Beyond Buckskin, which launched in 2009, is based out of North Dakota and carries a wide variety of products, including handmade moccasins.
3. Look Out for Collaborations
Mainstream fashion brands are starting to embrace the idea of First Nations collaborations, as opposed to simply copying the culture’s designs. For resort ’16, Valentino partnered with Métis artist Christi Belcourt on a series of prints, which were inspired by her paintings.
4. Research Local Artisans
A quick Google search will lead you to a wide variety of First Nations shoemakers. If you’re headed on a trip, research the nearby First Nations reservations, which often have boutiques or stores selling the work of local artists. Supporting the local community and getting amazing shoes out of it? Win-win.
5. Avoid Knockoffs
All things considered, the most important thing to remember is to avoid knockoffs at all cost. Fast-fashion brands such as Zara or Topshop love to push out Native American-inspired shoes, yet these items completely diminish the skill and craft of authentic moccasin makers. It may be cheaper than an authentic pair — but for a reason.