Tosa Two Heart wears the hearts of his community on his sleeves and hopes others will too.
Alumnus Two Heart explores new niches in fashion by incorporating traditional Lakota designs into modern clothing. She said her work amplifies the voices of Native Americans in Weste’s exclusionary space.rn fashion with an emphasis on Lakota symbols and traditions. In doing so, she said she hoped to raise awareness of the rich culture that shaped her life and to pay homage to the Lakota people.
“Part of Indigenous fashion and art is educating the world about who we are as Indigenous people and what makes us unique, not in a stereotypical way, not in a negative way,” Two Heart said. “But that’s who we are, and each of us has our own story to share.”
[Related: UCLA student celebrates Indigenous heritage through handmade beadwork business]
Two Heart said she is constantly looking for ways to add the history of her community and its members to her designs and also include their usefulness as enablers of Indigenous expression. It’s one of the most fulfilling aspects of her job, she says, as it plays a part in how people proudly express themselves for their cultural heritage. Two Heart alumnus and friend Kenneth Ramos said Two Heart’s clothing represents Native American pride for the people who wear it.
“It’s a way to express pride in myself, my culture, and Native American cultures and broader tribal nations, to assert sovereignty, and to express pride in being tribally sovereign,” said Ramos.
Two Heart said it typically produces about one to two designs a year for a range of clothing such as its “Something Else” collection and utilitarian items such as umbrellas. She said these designs are based on past events and current developments in her life and the Lakota community. For example, Two Heart said her first design was a Lakota-style blue star quilt in honor of her grandmother, Wicahpi Waste Win (translated as “good star woman”), whose star quilts inspired Two Heart. in his childhood.
She said she also draws inspiration from other sources such as Japanese brand tokidoki and luxury designer label Versace, which allows her to blend contemporary and traditional aesthetics. Additionally, Two Heart’s coins function as his version of the Lakota Winter Accounts, a Lakota practice that focuses on commemoration. a year of life through a single visual representation, she says.
Regarding the Indigenous community’s response to her work, Two Heart said it has been positive, whether in person at fashion shows or online through her social media accounts such as ICT Tac and Facebook. Ramos said this can be attributed to the distinct visual silhouette of Two Heart’s work, which functions as a beacon for different indigenous communities to jointly express their cultural pride. Clementine Bordeaux, a PhD student in dance and world arts and cultures and a friend of Two Heart, said Two Heart’s blend of aesthetics has also contributed to the community’s response.
“His work inspires me to think about what we might look like in the future,” Bordeaux said. “It’s still very Lakota. It uses new colors, new fabrics, and new designs, but it’s still very reminiscent of who we are as tribal people.
[Related: Student Simona Konstantinovskaya’s passion for thrifting inspires clothing business]
Outside of her creative endeavours, Two Heart said she is heavily involved in serving her community through her work as a director of a local health board. While at UCLA, she helped create and organize events for members of the Native community, such as the Ms. UCLA Pow Wow Pageant and the Native American Fashion Show at UCLA. Bordeaux said she is always impressed with how Two Heart can balance her creative and personal pursuits while remaining motivated and passionate about serving her community.
However, Two Heart said the road to building their brand and getting their name out there hasn’t been easy. But she said the fulfillment and happiness she feels when she sees people wearing her work has inspired her to keep telling her story. From her first t-shirt design to her current endeavors, Two Heart said she is focused on imbuing her work with her own intent and meaning.
“You end up being cooler than the cool kids if you do your own thing,” Two Heart said. “Be confident. Be proud.”
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