Designing Culture

By Karim Orange / March 25, 2017

“The layering and flowing silhouettes are part of my vision of what I see in the forest.”

Patricia Michaels is the talented designer who first shared her eclectic style with us on Season 13 of Project Runway. Each week, millions of viewers were glued to their seats to see what Michaels would come up with next.

The Native American designer from Taos Pueblo in New Mexico combines her sense of fashion with art, nature and Native tradition. Her designs are deeply rooted in her culture, and her environment became her teacher at an early age as taught to her by her elders. Michaels describes this as “honoring the process of working with your hands and heart,” and vows to keep these traditions alive and connected through her fashion designs and her company PM Waterlily (, which is her Native name.

We caught up with Michaels at her Spring/Summer collection at the Style Fashion Week show during New York City Fashion Week. Here is what she shared with OSM.

Organic Spa Magazine: What was your inspiration for the collection?

Patricia Michaels: My 30-piece collection for Spring/Summer 2017 showed a few pieces for colder climates as my woman travels to regions where, during the summer, the climates tend to be cold. She is a world traveler so she may need that special look to freshen her palette. All of the fabrics in the collection are unique to PM Waterlily.

My trademark is creating looks inspired by the Modern Native who frequents her walks in nature. To be present at a Patricia Michaels Fashion Show is to experience the rich cultural upbringing of my traditional roots of Taos Pueblo alongside the modern art world that mingled with the Taos Pueblo Natives, thus bringing the Santa Fe Opera, Agnes Martin, Georgia O’Keeffe and other mediums together from the fine arts.

How does your upbringing inspire your work?

Knowing the unique, strong ancestry I come from without having to wonder who I am gives me the ability to be honest with who I am and respect the talents that I have been given.

I was raised in a traditional upbringing where we spoke Tiwa in our home. When we would dance and perform around the U.S.A., as a child, I knew from the get-go that my village and people were special, as were our audiences. I learned from a young age that we are all unique and to embrace what different regions and cultures have to offer. There is nothing to fear when you know where you come from and you have respect for the people around you. TRUTH!

How long did it take you to complete the collection?

The collection took six months. Techniques are created in my studio, and I teach local artists and craftspeople how to do the piecework from my collection.

There are over 30 techniques I use to fabricate the textiles that then became garments in the collection. The layering and the flowing silhouettes are part of my vision of what I see in the forest. I also create designs and techniques to create contract work so people have an income.

Northern New Mexico is one of the top 10 economically challenged places in the U.S. We have a lot of talented hands that I train, which, in turn, lets people know that there are other artisans and craftspeople that can do their own work. It’s part of my way to encourage people to come and visit northern New Mexico.

Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for the makeup?

The makeup is about how, in our day-to-day lives, we all wear a face that doesn’t necessarily tell us what is going on. I recently lost a nephew to a car accident. As an aunt coming from a huge, close family it hurts. My family and I continue to work hard and be strong for each other, but, as our saying goes, “We Walk This World With Laughter And Sadness.”

What sustainable fabrics have you used in your collection past and present?

Local wools from the farmers in northern New Mexico.

If you could sing a duet with any artist, who would it be?

Al Green

If you could have a meal and conversation with any fashion designer, who would it be?

Coco Chanel

What’s up next for you?

I’m working on February Fashion Week in NYC, and World Indigenous Fashion Week in Malaysia. I’m also creating a moccasin collection and uniforms for a resort opening in April called Chaco Resort, with World Heritage Hotels.

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Karim Orange

Karim Orange

Karim Orange, aka That Girl Orange, is a two-time Emmy Award nominee for her makeup artistry on The View. One of the most respected pioneers in the sustainable beauty industry. She advocates more choices for real women who presently sacrifice beauty for fear of harmful chemicals. She is an on-air host for About.Com. She is an active urban farmer in New York City and is currently exploring South American beauty, culture and biodynamic farming practices.

Follow her on Instagram @thatgirlorange
Karim Orange

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