Jontay Kahm was all business backstage on Sunday at the Santa Fe Convention Center, ahead of his debut at the Southwest Association of Indian Arts group fashion show.
“This is the first time my clothes have ever been worn by people or seen in motion,” said the Plains Cree designer.
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His 17-piece BFA graduate collection from the Institute of Indian American Arts was a stunning debut, using dyed duck and turkey feathers in innovative ways to pay homage to traditional haute couture and traditional Native dress, all of it begging for a red carpet.
“Pretty extravagant, huh?” Kahm said of his model flock in fabulous Technicolor straw fringe, in sculpted feather gowns resembling Native headdresses, blanket shapes, or with panniers thrusting forward. Particularly impressive was a feather chain mail technique he used on a blue Empire gown, and on the finale wedding gown with a halo of feathers in back.
“It’s called ‘Regalian Bodies.’ It’s about death, grief and the afterlife, and it’s taking inspiration from fancy dance regalia, fancy straw, ribbon dresses…making bustles, putting the bustle in front, using chain mail technique. It’s all about my dad passing away and me trying to cope,” he explained. “I’m using all these haute couture silhouettes, like the Dior hips with the duck feather dress, a bit of Galliano and McQueen.” The face-obscuring feather and flower masks and headpieces also would make Philip Treacy proud.
Already, Kahm is going places.
“Everything has been a whirlwind; I’m moving to New York to go to Parsons. They reached out to me and wanted me to apply for their MFA program,” said the recent graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts, who is definitely one to watch.