CNN Champions for Change 2024: 4Kinship Indigenous Fashion Brand Founder Amy Denet Deal

This week, CNN is honoring the work of 14 people in its 2024 Champions for Change series, including Amy Denet Deal, founder of the sustainable, upcycled fashion brand 4Kinship.

Denet Deal spent 37 years in the fashion industry, starting at the Fashion Institute of Technology, then as a senior designer at Reebok, design director of Puma International and senior women’s designer for Puma U.S. Adopted by a non-Native family, Denet Deal didn’t discover her Diné (or Navajo) heritage until late in life, when she reconnected with her mother online. She opened 4Kinship in 2022, featuring her own upcycled dyed vintage clothing, and the work of other artists.

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She was profiled by CNN for her work giving back to the Indigenous community through social good projects like the Dine Skate Garden, which she opened with Tony Hawk in the Two Grey Hills chapter of the Navajo Nation in 2023, and events supporting Indigenous designers such as rising star Josh Tafoya, who last year became an interim member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Denet Deal recently partnered with singer Jewel’s 501c Inspiring Children Foundation to create the 4Kinship Indigenous Futures Fund raising funds to support Indigenous designers.

“Certainly 4Kinship is at the forefront, but it just really makes me feel so proud of all the work we’ve done together, whether it was a skate park, or these events we’re running in Santa Fe for Indigenous artistry, and the stuff we’re doing to fast track kids in fashion,” she told WWD of the honor.

CNN filmed Denet Deal at her store in Santa Fe and her runway events, at the Dine Skate Garden, the community school nearby, and at her mom’s birthplace, tracing the story of her coming home to find her roots.

The hardest question to answer however, she said, was what’s next for 4Kinship.

“Because we’re involved in so many things, and you really have to come out here and meet all the family members for to make sense. Like how does skateboarding go with bespoke fashion? And how does bespoke fashion and things we’re doing within the industry shift things? It all has to do with that next generation. How can we support them? How can we give them tools? How can we give them a space from an Indigenous lens instead of from the white lens, which is often what’s expected? Here in Santa Fe, and really all over the world, when you think of how our Native people are pulled into these events.…Like, look at the Louis Vuitton [fall 2024] men’s runway — that shows how they don’t see how spectacular and modern and brilliant we are. They’re still thinking of us as this stoic romanticized colonized version,” Denet Deal said of the work still to be done around understanding Indigenous culture now.

As part of his Western-themed collection shown in Paris, creative director Pharrell Williams invited artists from the Dakota and Lakota nations working under the creative direction of Dee Jay Two Bears of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, to work on some of the accessories. The show was bookended with a performance by the Native Voices of Resistance, a group comprised of singers from Native American nations across North America.

“They didn’t even name the people that were in it…it’s like the erasure of the creatives that were actually part of it. They were all in the background, in the distance,” she said, noting that she was disappointed particularly because Williams is a person of color himself. “If you’re going to take things that direction, honor the people that are doing the work. It felt like something that would have been done in the 1990s, it definitely didn’t feel like 2024 to me.”

Her mission is to continue doing things differently, by hosting events like the one she did earlier this month during the inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week in Santa Fe, and one being planned during Santa Fe Indian Market in August. She’s also rallying the City of Santa Fe to develop more Indigenous enterprise. (There are only four Native-owned businesses in the city currently, she said.)

“The heart of our brand is based in reciprocity. It’s based in legacy, it’s based in conscious consumerism.…If a little store and a little brand that sells one-of-a-kind pieces in Santa Fe and online can do this much for the community, everybody else in the fashion industry needs to wake up. Because this idea of 1 percent back or 3 percent back on Native collaborations, it’s really not about that anymore. It’s about what can you do to create change and wealth in the community? So we’ve built a skatepark, we’re giving away 5,000 skateboards this summer — these are not easy things to do and run a business. But again, if this tiny little brand can do it run by a nearly 60-year-old woman, I think these big corporations can do a lot more.”

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