Clothing line created by Wyola native finalist in American Made competition
Thu, 09/24/2015 - 7:01am admin
By Andrew Turck, Big Horn County News
A former Big Horn County resident who moved to Los Angeles and started the B.Yellowtail clothing line, marked by modern-day variations on traditional Native fashion, is one of the finalists for the 2015 Martha Stewart American Made Awards.
B.Yellowtail business owner and fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail, of Crow and Northern Cheyenne descent, was contacted by the American Made Program team following the start of her business in January 2015. Finalists were chosen by domestic arts specialist and billionaire Martha Stewart, along with the executive editorial team of her magazine, “Martha Stewart Living.”
Yellowtail, who lived on her parents’ Wyola ranch until the age of 17, moved to Los Angeles to attend the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, before working her way through the corporate fashion world for about seven years. She founded B.Yellowtail, she stated in an interview with the American Made team, “armed with my vision and a small team of three.”
Though start-up capital and accumulating a business acumen were challenging, Yellowtail said, she received vital guidance for the project from her business partner Kimberly Meraz.
“There’s not enough hours in the day to get everything done and you have to be quick on your feet,” she said. “I’ll never go back to corporate fashion or working for anyone else. I love what I do, and I think it’s the most challenging and most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.”
The B.Yellowtail shop collection includes a “Duusshile” Maxi dress modeled using the elktooth design often seen worn by dancers during powwows on the Crow Reservation; and the J. Okuma floral scarves, which are decorated with colorful symbols and wrapped around a high-topped hat, commonly referred to as a “reservation hat” by tribal elders wearing them in parades.
Yellowtail stated in an interview with the American Made team that the “founding aesthetic” for her spring and summer brand was based on original beadwork gifted to her from her great-grandmother Irene Not Afraid-Yellowtail. Her spring and summer clothing line is called “The Mighty Few,” another name for the Wyola District.
“They all have indigenous elements to them,” Yellowtail said of her designs. “One of our most popular items, the ‘Duusshile’ Maxi dress…I actually took the traditional women’s wear that we have – it’s an elktooth dress – and tried to [give it a contemporary look].
“For me, it was about showing people in the mainstream fashion world – our buyers may not be Native – sharing a way that our women wear their regalia.”
According to Yellowtail, an American Made representative told her via email that she would be perfect as a finalist, so as per contest rules, she nominated herself into the competition.
“I had a lot of great press early in the year when I launched my last collection,” Yellowtail said. “They found me via the internet or Twitter, something like that.”
The American Made web page states that these awards, which go back to 2012, are used to spotlight “the next generation of great American makers” in the categories of “crafts, design, food and style.” Yellowtail is one of 32 finalists in the category of style and subcategory of fashion.
Of the four categories – all of which include awards for competing finalists in their own right – one overall Audience Choice Winner is selected by popular vote. Winners of the Audience Choice get a free trip for two to New York City, three-day hotel stay, tickets to the American Made Event, a chance to be featured on the Martha Stewart website and a chance to be featured on the Martha Stewart American Made Market. The approximate retail value for the prize is $15,000.
Past Audience Choice Winners include a self-taught metal artist who handcrafts coastal sculptures from Daufuskie Island, S.C.; a couple who makes do-it-yourself paper craft projects with an electric cutting machine in St. Charles, Ill.; and a beekeeper and candle maker in Canastota, N.Y.
“We believe we are in the midst of a shift in our culture where creative entrepreneurs are defining a new American economy,” the awards page states. “From Detroit to Des Moines, Spokane to St. Louis, people are choosing Main Street over mini-malls – supporting the local and the handmade. Our country’s makers are sparking this change by taking a leap, banking on their creativity and craftsmanship, and living their version of the American dream.”
According to Yellowtail, her “big dream” for the future is to establish a manufacturing facility on the Crow or Northern Cheyenne reservation. Native people, she said, have cultivated what she believes to be the best craftsmanship in the world.
“Out here, we manufacture locally in Los Angeles, and there are really incredible seamstresses for cutting and sewing, but I’d much rather give those dollars to people back home,” she said. “I hope one day that I can go home and work for home, and be able to employ our people.”
Public voting for the Audience Choice Award began Sept. 21 and it will end on Oct. 19. To see Yellowtail’s American Made page (which includes a voting icon), go to www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/118010/style/byellowtail. Winners of the contest will be announced on Oct. 23.