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Anishinaabe Design Goes Global

A pattern from the I Am Anishinaabe dress
September 23, 2019

Two UMD professors help connect Native American artists to international clothing design.

I Am Anishinaabe and Gudrun Sjoden: Sun., Oct. 6, 1-3:30 pm, Robert Powless Center, AICHO, 202 W. Second Street, Duluth.


Traditional Anishinaabe apparel and beadwork artists, Lavender Hunt and her mother, Delina White, are members of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. This summer, their work: a dress and a bag, made its way into homes around the world.

Dress designed by Delina White

The dress, which was designed by Delina White for Gudrun Sjoden, is modeled by “Snowy” White.

Hunt describes the patterns on the dress, “There are maple leaves in each section... When you look at it there are four sections. Four is a very sacred number to our people. It is the number of directions that encompass Earth and time, and every direction holds power.” When she explains the features of the embroidery, she says, ”The maple leaf is where we get our sugar. When I put the leaves together it actually makes a snowflake.” 

This maple leaf patterned dress and bag are part of Gudrun Sjoden’s 2019 collection, and are now sold through Gudrun Sjoden's 23 stores in seven countries and on-line to customers in 70 countries.

American Indian Studies Professor Jill Doerfler, who connected Delina White with Gudrun Sjoden, appreciates the attention the company gave the design.

Jill Doerfler

Jill Doerfler

The pieces from the collaboration are beautiful. When I look at the pattern on the tunic, I see an Anishinaabe style. It evokes the beadwork styles that I am familiar with. I also really like the symmetry of it, and the vivid coloration, which is characteristic of both Anishinaabe beadwork styles and other art forms.”

Countries Connect

It took many months for the dress to make it from Minnesota into the Swedish collection. Gudrun Sjoden is a renowned Swedish fashion designer. Because she wanted to respect Native American people, she was hesitant to add Native American products to her line. For a long time, she treaded lightly, even though she wanted to feature Native American designs. 

All that changed when Professor Alison Aune, a UMD art and design faculty member and a Gudrun Sjoden product ambassador, introduced Gudrun's team to Jill Doerfler, a UMD professor in the American Indian program. Doerfler, in turn, connected the team to Delina White and her daughter Lavender Hunt. Along with Lavender’s sister Sage Davis and Lavender’s daughter Nookwakwii “Snowy” White, the four make up the company I Am Anishinaabe, selling their work throughout the U.S. 

Alison has worked personally with Gudrun. An established artist in her own right, Alison has admired the Gudrun Sjoden product line for its innovative and colorful designs. She was asked to become an ambassador and has taken UMD students to the headquarters during study abroad trips to Sweden. “Ojibwe and Nordic women have used sacred images of nature to decorate domestic objects and ceremonial clothing for centuries. Woodland and garden flowers, leaves, vines, and berries symbolize a spiritual relationships with nature,” says Alison. “With this collection Gudrun is celebrating Native and Nordic patterns and colors of nature. I am honored to able to help support this collaboration that celebrates cross-cultural respect and understanding."

Doerfler says, “The I am Anishinaabe group is known for their amazing skirts and modernizing traditional styles.” The I am Anishinaabe group brings a new and credible cultural exploration for the Gudrun company. “In the fashion world we see a lot of cultural appropriation and the pieces from this collaboration have been done in a culturally appropriate way. It is a model for how to do collaboration and how to appreciate other cultures and fashion.”

Design Comes to Duluth

The design partnership between I Am Anishinaabe and Gudrun Sjoden will come together in Duluth on Sunday, October 6 from 1-3:30 p.m. at the Robert Powless Center AICHO, 202 W. Second Street. “This is a positive event that people can be excited about participating in, everyone will have the opportunity to make a pin and explore and express their design style.”

About the UMD Department of Art & Design

About the UMD Department of American Indian Studies

Gudrun Sjoden video about I Am Anishinaabe

Swedish Fashion

This story was written by Britney Leanos, a student majoring in environmental science. Britney works in the University Marketing and PR office at UMD.