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Indigenous fashion designers, models & vendors converge on Billings for 2nd annual Big Sky Indigifest

"It's the beauty of our culture being shown and expressed through fashion”
Posted at 1:38 PM, May 12, 2023

BILLINGS - Thirteen indigenous fashion designers, 100 models, runway makeup artists and dozens of vendors are in Billings for the 2nd annual Big Sky Indigifest event on May 11 and 12 at the Doubletree hotel.

The event, open to the public, is a fashion show as well as a business symposium, and it has helped launch many businesses from local to global over the past year.

Angela Howe-Parrish is an Apsaalooke fashion designer who we first visited with one year ago when she officially launched her fashion line, Choke Cherry Creek at the first-ever Big Sky Indigifest in Billings.

“Last year was my first fashion show,” said Howe-Parrish. “I didn’t really know where it was all going to go, but I started getting invited after the first show to more shows.”

Since then, she’s traveled the world from one runway to the next from Paris to New York, and everywhere in between.

“Indigenous fashion is just blowing up everywhere,” said Howe-Parrish.

"Indigenous fashion is just blowing up everywhere."

In addition to traveling, she’s also launched two collections: Honoring Our Mothers and Resiliency. The third collection drops May 20 with a preview at Friday’s fashion show on Saturday.

“My third collection will be coming out on May 20th, which is the Matriarch collection, just to time around Mother’s Day,” said Howe-Parrish. “Where else are you going to see clothing that has an indigenous influence? It's the beauty of our culture being shown and expressed through fashion.”

Howe-Parrish’s creations aren’t the only amazing indigenous products you’ll find at Big Sky Indigifest, being held on the 22nd floor of the Doubletree in Downtown Billings where the Petroleum Club was previously located.

Indigenous Eyecon is a makeup line designed for the runway and everyday wear, complete with highly pigmented war paint for men and even horses.

“My slogan is transcending indigenous beauty,” said owner and founder Jen Atchico. “When I started this company I just wanted to start with this one pallet and it just flourished into, I have many more, but flourished into what you see here. I have a line of men’s war paint for the pow wow trail."

Atchico is originally from Fort Peck and currently lives in Seattle. Her business has her jet-setting from one fashion show to the next, doing indigenous runway makeup.

“I travel the world, so I'm an international makeup artist now. After this show, I'll be going to Cannes, France,” said Atchico.

Atchico's creativity paired with her MBA makes her an entrepreneurial role model for up-and-coming indigenous designers like 21-year-old Taeshon Mirage Scheaffer, who’s debuting her upcycled couture line at Big Sky Indigifest this year, and following her dreams.

“My main focus of all my fashion is upcycling, so I take something from thrift stores or somewhere like Goodwill and make it my own. I’ll take certain cuts, make my own patterns and add either applique or paint on top to make it my own,” said Scheaffer. “To have flexible paint on top of fabric, I take acrylic paint and mix it with laundry detergent until I find the right mixture, and that allows it to be washed safely.”

All of these designers have elevated their businesses, thanks to one woman’s dream to bring an indigenous fashion show to Montana.

“Our designer wear and all of these items are not just for native americans, but we do have a way of sharing our culture with non-natives that want to wear our items, so that’s a really fun part of it too,” says Cora Kay Chandler, Big Sky Indigifest Founder and Executive Producer at Cora Kay Productions.  

"Where else are you going to see clothing that has an indigenous influence and it's the beauty of our culture being shown and expressed through fashion."

The Big Sky Indigifest fashion show is Friday May 12 from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Doubletree in downtown Billings on the 22nd floor, where the petroleum club was previously located. Anyone is invited to attend. VIP or general admission tickets range from $30 to $50 and may be purchased online or at the door. Guests are also invited to shop 30+ indigenous vendor booths from vendors all across the United States and Canada.