OKLAHOMA CITY – In case you missed it, the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City opened its doors to the public in September 2021. In recognition of its grand opening, a full schedule was set out from entertainment, cultural demonstrations and activities for the whole family.
During the exciting weekend of events, the museum hosted a fashion show welcoming several different Indigenous designers including some representing Muscogee (Creek) Nation. One particular designer was Muscogee (Creek) citizen Louisa Harjo.
Harjo, who was one of the youngest designers in the show, is from Okemah, Oklahoma. Her tribal town is Fish Pond and she attends Springfield Indian United Methodist Church.
Growing up in her household, Harjo was taught by her mother to do arts and crafts as a way to stay out of trouble in the outside world. Harjo was about seven years old when she was inspired to become a designer. Her aunt had gone into fashion at Clary Sage College.
“I drew a lot, not of body figures but of clothes,” Harjo said. “But as I got older, I wanted to focus more on drawing body figures because that is one of the main things for becoming a fashion designer.”
As her passion for fashion grew, Harjo learned to hand sew before she actually worked on a sewing machine. Former interior designer and Muscogee (Creek) citizen Eli Grayson donated Harjo’s first sewing machine.
“It’s a really good sewing machine so I started sewing on my own. I started looking on YouTube and taking classes,” she said. “From there I started getting patterns from Walmart, the simple ones and I was still learning the terms of sewing.”
Harjo decided since she already had them, she would work off of the designs she had drawn when she was seven. Her most recent designs come to her spiritually or through dreams.
“When I dream, that is most of my design then I go draw it before it becomes reality,” Harjo said.
Right now Harjo is working on expanding her business, because she feels it has come a long way. She began her business at the 12 years old when she was in middle school, at the time it was therapeutic to her.
“I like how I am becoming a stronger woman and independent, focusing on what I need too,” she said. “I’d be an inspiration to others, because I do teach youth how to sew. They pick it up and keep it going, they are really happy at starting their own trends with wearing traditional vests or skirts.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Harjo’s designs have not been able to get much exposure, the FAM fashion show provided an opportunity to show off her work. She designs for all ages and for both male and female.
“That was really exciting and Leslie Deer got to go,” Harjo said about the show. “I was right after her. She was also one of my mentors growing up.”
Deer is also a Muscogee (Creek) citizen and fashion designer.
Harjo and Deer had always talked about collaborating since she mentored her.
“It was a great honor,” Harjo said.
Harjo’s business can be found on Facebook at Ember HaCo. Ember means sparkling light that glows and sparks from fire.