Korina Emmerich, a designer and sustainable fashion advocate is reclaiming Indigenous culture and empowering her Native sisters on the runway.
Growing up, she said she and her family were forced to assimilate to white culture. Having been interested in fashion since she was young, she created her line Emme in 2009 after moving to New York. The colors, materials and aesthetics of the line are inspired by her Indigenous culture and pow wow from her tribe.
“One of the biggest points I like to make as a designer is to talk about how to use Indigenous references in your work without being culturally appropriating,” she said.
84% of Indigenous women in the U.S. say they’ve experienced violence, and one in three Native women in the U.S. says they’ve experienced rape or attempted rape. Emmerich says the appropriation of Native culture is directly contributing to the horrible things that are happening to Indigenous women.
“It’s an epidemic that Indigenous women have been going missing,” she explained. “It almost feels like a modern-day genocide of people, like, women are sacred within our community, and the way that we’re portrayed in the media, in the wrong way—it’s absolutely disgusting.”
Emmerich also tries to produce her clothing as sustainably as possible, by making her pieces to order and using more mindful production methods. She credits her culture for instilling in her the desire to be kind to nature with her work.
“We sue the Earth, and you don’t take more than you need,” she explained.