NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. – Heruse Tos Handmade Handbags and Clothing’s first line of swim wear, designed by Lea McCormick (Mvskoke) was featured in the Native Max Magazine Fashion Issue 2023. It was released on Aug. 28.
Opening the annual fashion edition of the magazine to the ninth page marks the beginning of the seven-page spread that features a few of the swimsuit designs offered from McCormick’s brand.
The brand’s Mvskoke name translates to “You are beautiful”.
McCormick uses inspiration from the symbols, shapes, and pictures from the old tales of the Muskogean, Mississippian and other southeastern tribes from the pre-colonization era.
Using historic tribal symbolism in her designs, McCormick uses modern and contemporary design techniques to keep the consumer base open. It does not just target Native Americans.
“I think they could appeal to anyone,” McCormick said.
The swimsuit line first debuted during the Muscogee Nation Festival Fashion Show this past summer.
According to McCormick, she created the line specifically for the models of the fashion show due to the heat for the outdoor entertainment.
The swimwear was highly noticeable. In fact, it is what caught the attention of the Native Max Magazine Editor Kelly Holmes.
“I got a call from Kelly just two weeks later,” McCormick said.
After hearing the buzz of McCormicks’ new line, Holmes wanted to showcase it in the fashion edition of the magazine.
McCormick and Holmes had initially met during New York Fashion Week, where McCormick was showcasing her Heruse Handmade Handbags.
McCormick got the opportunity to be showcased in fashion week after Canadian designer Stephanie Eagletail asked for collaboration that included four custom handbags.
After the collaboration on a special runway featuring minority designers, McCormick was contacted and asked to be a “feature designer” at the New York Fashion Week.
McCormick collaborated with other Mvskoke designers Dode Barnett and Amanda Rutland to curate outfits for 20 models at the fashion show.
In the fabrics McCormick created she featured artwork from other known Mvskoke artists like Johnnie Diacon, Dana Tiger, Dan Beaver and Buffalo Gouge.
McCormick has already been invited to next year’s New York Fashion week. She claims she will focus primarily on designing handbags while allowing other Native designers to represent themselves under her brand name, modeling their own work along with her creations.
Each model will design their own clothing while McCormick pairs their handbag. Chris Thompson from Samari designs the shoes, and Amanda Rutland Indigo Designs ties it all together with the jewelry.
“The show will be called ‘Community’,” McCormick said.
As a professional actress for most of her adult life, McCormick loves the friendly atmosphere of the Native fashion industry, but fashion is not her passion.
“If I was young and had a dream I would hope someone would help me too,” McCormick said.
McCormick simply wishes to provide a platform for the young Native fashion designers with the passion and drive for the craft.
McCormick started her handbag-making business in 2021 after she handcrafted her own design using an elk tooth fabric for a work event. During the event, McCormick started looking for a way to showcase her Native identity.
The handbags are delicately handmade by McCormick with special tribal designs.
After pictures of the bag surfaced on social media, McComrick received several inquiries.
Requests for handbags came from actresses from “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Dark Winds”.
That’s when McCormick started making custom handbags. Over the next two years it became another passion for her.
“I have made close to 550 since December 2021,” McCormick said.
According to McCormick, she is interested in designing a line of dresses in the future.