24 year-old Lakota woman Kelly Holmes grew up reading fashion magazines and dreaming of a day when she would see her people represented in their pages.
“At 16 I started wondering if a magazine could exist that had Native American stories and models, makeup tutorials that matched our skin tone,” she recalled in an interview with Buzzfeed.
In 2012, Holmes took matters into her own hands, founding Native Max Magazine–a fashion publication by and for Native Americans.
The mission of Native Max is to highlight the work of indigenous artists, entertainers, and activists. Writers, graphic designers, artisans, models, and photographers from across the country come together to produce a vibrant, celebratory publication.
The magazine’s staff represents a variety of unique visions, hailing from tribes such as the Navajo, Arapaho, Cherokee, Taos Pueblo, and Apache.
Holmes hopes to see a day when a respectful, transparent relationship exists between Natives and the fashion industry. Native Max makes a point of reporting on instances of cultural appropriation in the fashion world and commenting on the line between thoughtful influence and ignorant desecration.
An article on the publication’s website brought up the misguided association of “tribal design” with in-trend music festival garb, as demonstrated through Coach’s forthcoming “A Tribe Called Coach” collection.
“It’s great if they want to honor our culture… but it would be better if they brought on a Native designer who knows the real design and can guide them,” Holmes said in regards to high-profile fashion giants who profit off of these stereotypical motifs.
In the future, Holmes would like to bring the Native Max template to other indigenous populations, such as those in Australia.
The Lakota People’s Law Project commends Kelly Holmes for pioneering such a necessary creative project. Native Max acts as a positive niche for Natives to stake their claim in the industry that tends to exploit them. Holmes’ work creates healthy dialogue and promotes the work of innovative Native artists. We look forward to watching as the publication continues to grow and evolve.