Panels Series

Colours, Materials and Symbols
November 26, 2020

Colours, Materials and Symbols

The Visual Language of Fashion
Fashion is a rich and complex visual language that communicates meaning. Indigenous fashion embodies our diverse cultural values with aesthetic codes that are intimately known by community members but often falsely represented by the mainstream industry. Indigenous fashion expression employs colours, materials, and symbols through repetition, abstraction, and multi-dimensionality, to ultimately communicate meaning that ensures our survival. This panel explores how and why this language is relevant in today’s global fashion community and its connection to both commercial and artistic fashion.


Barbara Teller Ornelas is best known for her Navajo tapestry weavings and is a Master Navajo weaver, (120 – 126 weft threads per inch).
Karen Kramer is the Curator of Native American and Oceanic Art and Culture at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, USA.
Melaw Nakehk’o is a visual artist who paints, sews and beads, as well as a traditional moose hide tanner based out of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
Nathalie Atkinson is a Toronto-based arts journalist and film critic, and a member of the Toronto Film Critics Association.


Riley Kucheran is an Assistant Professor of Design Leadership at Ryerson University’s School of Fashion and is also Associate Director of the Saagajiwe Centre for Indigenous Research and Creation