The Kananesgi Fashion Show Highlights Contemporary and Traditional Cherokee Designs | Cherokee, NC

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The Kananesgi Fashion Show Highlights Contemporary and Traditional Cherokee Designs

Tara McCoy recalls a Cherokee saying that if you run your baby’s hands through a spider web, the baby will become creative. Tara, who works at the Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute, is one of the organizers of the upcoming Kananesgi Fashion Show, (kananesgi means spider in Cherokee), along with Hope Huskey from the Sequoyah Fund and Tonya Carroll from the Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute. The group chose the name Kananesgi for a series of art festivals, including the fashion show, because of its unique symbolism. In the Cherokee creation story, a spider spins a web to make a pot to carry the fire of life in the ultimate act of creativity.

At the Kananesgi Fashion Show, there will be plenty of creativity on display with imaginative collaborations between Cherokee designers and sewers. The fashion show will showcase contemporary and traditional Cherokee designs by enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, with custom fabrics created by the artists. Vendors will also be selling their work.

Hope Huskey, who spearheaded the event, drew inspiration from the native fashion shows coming out of the Santa Fe art markets in New Mexico.

“There are more native fashion designers that are gaining traction and becoming more popular, who are doing contemporary things with a traditional aspect to them. And so that is what we wanted to encourage at the Kananesgi Fashion Show. We want to look to the future and the present and represent Cherokee as a living culture,” says Hope.  

Open calls were held in February for anyone interested in fashion design—including jewelry design and accessories—or in modeling in the show, and 40 people showed up. From there Hope matched people who had design ideas with those who had graphic design skills, and sewing skills.

The group then partnered with the Cherokee Cooperative Extension Office, sending interested fashion show participants who wanted to learn to sew to classes provided by the local 4H program (photo above), taught by Sally Dixon. Over the course of the summer, 30 sewing students ranging in age from 8 years old to those in their 60s, worked on their designs for the show, with fabric they custom designed.

Designing the Fabrics

“We held three fabric design classes where we invited people over and gave them colored pencils and graph paper. Some of those designs we digitized straight from their drawings; some we did a little more graphic design work on, to clean them up, and we had fabric created,” Hope shares. In total, more than 40 fabrics were designed and all will be showcased in the fashion show.

Most of the fabric designs are rooted in Cherokee culture and history. “You’ll see the use of syllabary in some design elements, and others pull from traditional arts, including basket designs and pottery stamps, which are heavily used in these fabrics,” says Hope. The finished products will include skirts, bags, and aprons, and one ambitious little boy in the sewing class will be showing his handmade pants.

Sisters Nancy Maney (pictured above), Charla Crowe, and Johnnie Ruth Maney, makers of traditional Cherokee clothing out of their shop, Sew Tsalagi, are also involved in the fashion show. They created four custom fabrics, and sewed some of the creations for other participants. The two are best known in Cherokee for dressing the Warriors of Anikituhwa and creating traditional dress for the Cherokee pageants. Their traditional designs are historically accurate, and representative of the 1700s, which is the era reflected in attractions like the Oconaluftee Indian Village.

Yona Wade, Director of the Center at the Cherokee Central Schools and board member at the Sequoyah Fund, will emcee the fashion show. Yona is the emcee for all the Cherokee pageants, and is well known as a community emcee.

Support for Cherokee Arts

The Kananesgi Fashion Show is made possible by a grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, which has funded all three art shows produced by the Sequoyah Fund this year, including the Kananesgi Pottery Festival that was held earlier this year, and the upcoming Kananesgi Basket Festival taking place November 3. The mission of the Sequoyah Fund is to build the market for Cherokee artists, and to grow the Cherokee arts economy.

Show attendees interested in Cherokee art, including traditional and contemporary design, as well as fabric enthusiasts, are in for a special treat. “We’re going to have swatches of the fabric available for people to look at and there will be a chance to place fabric orders and purchase different fashion accessories and clothing,” says Hope. Attendees will also have the chance to meet the designers, sewers, and models behind all of the pieces on display. Heavy hors d’oeuvres will also be available at the show.

Want to go?

Seats are available at the show on a first-come, first-served basis, and admission is free.

What: Kananesgi Fashion Show

When: Saturday August 25th, 2018, 5–8pm

Where: Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center Lobby, 86 Elk Crossing Lane, Cherokee, NC 28719

For more information on traditional Cherokee clothing, check out the following resource list.


The Museum of the Cherokee Indian

Oconaluftee Indian Village

Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc.


Cherokee Clothing in the 1700 Century, available at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian gift shop, online, or order by phone at 828.497.3481 x208


Sew Tsalagi, located at 652 Paint Town Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719

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