THE NATURE OF A DESIGNER
Innovative. Eco-Friendly. Avant-garde. Distinctive. Fashion-Forward. Organic. Unique. Leader. Showstopper. These are just a few words that come to mind when you hear the name Patricia Michaels.
For over 20 years, Patricia Michaels has been producing one-of-a-kind haute couture that transcends cultures and defies fashion trends. Growing up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she was surrounded by beauty—in culture, landscape, and art, all which greatly influenced her design aesthetic. Her Native American culture is deeply rooted in New Mexico, and as a child, she spent a lot of time at Taos Pueblo where many of her family, including her grandparents, lived. In this majestic, untouched terrain, Patricia received a unique education—the environment became her teacher, and with the help of her elders, she learned to respect and honor the process of working with her hands and heart.
Today, Patricia continues to draw inspiration from nature and her Native roots. She named her company, PM Waterlily, after her Native name, vowing to keep her traditions alive through the interconnectedness of her fashions. In this respect, Patricia has become a forerunner in the fashion industry for practicing cultural sustainability.
PM Waterlily designs are custom made out of Patricia’s Santa Fe, New Mexico studio and include high-end limited edition apparel and casual lines for both men and women. She chooses to work with organic materials whenever possible, and hand-dyes and paints her fabrics, often using algae pigments. Each design she produces showcases nature’s influence combined with fluid textures, creating clothing with movement and individuality. “My clothes tell a story”, says Michaels, "where the wearer gets to incorporate their own history and energy into the garment.”
AWARDS, ACCOLADES, AND HONORS
Most recently, Patricia has gained national recognition for Peabody Essex Museum show, "Native Fashion Now" 2015, and international attention in 2014 after receiving the highly prestigious Arts and Design Award from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian board of directors in New York City. She is the very first recipient of this award, a historic achievement.
After her successful run on the Emmy Award-winning season 11 of “Project Runway” in 2012 where she won the first runner up title, she was asked back to star in “Project Runway All Stars” Season 4. Her “Project Runway” debut was a first for a Native American designer and has brought many new opportunities to showcase her highly sought out fashion and textiles.
In 2013, Patricia was awarded the "Taos Citizen of the Year Award" and was presented with the "Eugene Crawford Memorial Peace Pipe Award" by LaDonna Harris of Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO). She also was awarded the Letter of Recognition of Achievements by the New Mexico State Senator's Office and Senator Tom Udall. She was also Named "BEST of the WEST 2013" by Cowboys & Indians Magazine.
Patricia was the first Native American Designer to have a collection at the Lincoln Center during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. Her Fall/Winter 2013 "TREES" Collection wowed audiences far and wide. PM Waterlily later had a Couture Capsule Collection in September, 2013 during New York Fashion Week as part of “Runway the Real Way” at Yotel Hotel. Her Ready-to-Wear Spring/Summer 2014 "SEEDS" Collection included plus sizes 12-26 and debuted October, 2013 in Santa Fe.
The previous year, she had shown her designs at Bryant Park in New York during New York Fashion Week, as part the production by "UNRESERVED: American Indian Fashion and Art Alliance," funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
After participating in “Project Runway”, actor, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, star of TV'S hit show Modern Family, contacted Patricia to become a guest designer for his line of bowties, JTF Bowties. The proceeds for Patricia’s ties went to The Freedom to Marry Act, in NM. Patricia has continued to work with Ferguson to form “Tie The Knot,” with proceeds to aid the ACLU of NM & Why Marriage Matters, New Mexico. Her bowties are one of the top ten best sellers.
As a longtime featured artist in the prestigious SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, Patricia has been awarded many awards, including Best of Classification in Textiles 2011 (a first for a modern garment or textile); First Place in Garments 2011; and First Place in Contemporary Fashion & Accessories 2011. In 2010 and 2011, Patricia produced guerilla fashion shows during this annual market, as well as being a featured designer in the “Art to Wear” exhibit at the Wheelwright Museum from 2004-2010.
Patricia has been featured in numerous publications including: The Wall Street Journal; "Art Review," interview with Andrea Shea of WBUR (for NPR's Here & Now), interview with Karen Holmes Ward at WCVB Cityline TV studios.
I create highly individualized pieces that are elegant, fluid, sophisticated, and organic by fusing my own aesthetic with Native American and European perspectives.
The detail of every garment, from hand-painted silk feathers, and meshed leather, to textures that echo the natural world, I evoke my own history and culture as part of a larger timeless narrative.
Each design tells a story. Just as a river is pierced by a tree branch, time is momentarily anchored within the garment. Each piece is created, is worn, and continues to create fresh new meanings into the future. Every person brings his or her own sense of self into the narrative and enriches the meaning. In this way, we might defy the consumerist sense of fashion as something we can put on, take off, and casually cast aside.