Patricia Michaels (b. 1967)

Fashion Designer, First Native American designer to show collection at New York Fashion Week, Featured in the Wall Street Journal

When we think about Native American fashion design, traditional aesthetics usually come to mind-intricate beading, fringe and feathers, silver and turquoise-elements that have deviated little over time. Taos Pueblo heritage designer and style-maker Patricia Michaels, however, has taken her edgy, sophisticated one-of-a-kind fashions into the mainstream.

In spring 2012, the native of Taos, New Mexico gained national acknowledgment for her designs when she appeared on the television show, Project Runway.

Although she was not declared winner in the competition featuring 16 promising fashion designers, as first runner-up, she received the chance to showcase her collections at New York Fashion week. This historical first for a Native American designer established Patricia Michaels among the elites in the world of upscale fashion design.

Michaels is known for utilizing natural materials and achieves her artistry through blending organic dyes such as algae pigments and soy-based dyes. Michaels also manipulates fabrics by sometimes burning holes in them to distress them. Other Michaels trademarks include silk screening or painting on textiles by hand.

She is also known for integrating dissimilar fabrics such as felted wool and silk organza to create her high-end casuals for both men and women. While nature, she states, is her chief influence, Patricia Michaels is also inspired by iconic Native American mainstays, and she draws insight from the present and the avant-garde.

Michaels grew up between Santa Fe (where her parents operated their own art gallery) and Taos Pueblo. She was educated at the Institute of American Indian Arts and the Chicago Art Institute.

She is a longtime feature in Santa Fe's SWAIA Annual Indian Market. Michaels has also traveled as far away as Johannesburg, South Africa, and lectured and showed her fashions to the New Zealand Maori to expand her skills with different shapes, textures, and other elements of her craft.

Patricia Michaels' many honors include the Eugene Crawford Memorial Peace Pipe Award presented by LaDonna Harris, founder and president of Americans for Indian Opportunity and first person to receive the Arts and Design Award from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. "As an artist you have to be bold enough to put your work out there," she states.

KB Schaller (Cherokee/Seminole heritage) is a journalist, researcher, novelist and illustrator. Her biographical collection 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World was winner of an International Book Award, Women's Issues Category. Also an award-winning novelist, KB Schaller's books are available through and other booksellers. Website: Email:

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