When Kelly Holmes moved from the Cheyenne River Reservation to Denver as a teenager, she was already pondering the possibility of a future Native American themed fashion publication. “I collected fashion magazines since I was little,” Holmes says. “At 16 I started wondering if a magazine could exist that had Native American stories and models, makeup tutorials that matched our skin tone.”
She started planning a magazine, and opted to shadow local publishers and photographers, as well as take courses on journalism instead of pursuing a formal education. The process was difficult. “When I tried getting into fashion in Denver, people would often say things like, ‘What do Native Americans know about fashion, or even the world?’”
Despite the odds, Holmes, now 24 years old, can officially call herself the publisher of a Native American fashion magazine, Native Max, the first issue of which she complied all on her own, in 2012.
The magazine and blog feature profiles of Native American artists, designers, activists, and fashion icons, as well as sports, culture, entertainment, and fashion news.
Impressively, Holmes still plays the role of jack-of-all-trades for Native Max, juggling writing, editing, art direction and styling, while also taking care of her 4-year-old son. The pieces she’s written for the magazine include some with interest-piquing titles like, “Savages, Settlers, and Slaves: Red, White, and Black Symbolism of Oklahoma Sooners Football” and “Native Women in Film & Television.” While Holmes is a member of the Lakota tribe of Native Americans, other staff members belong to the Navajo, Arapaho, and Apache peoples; the magazine accepts work from all kinds of Native Americans from across the US.
The bi-monthly magazine creates a meeting between Native American issues and fashion, focusing a magnifying lens on both. For example, about the popularity of tribal-inspired trends in fashion Homes comments, “Many of these designers take from the culture but don’t give back in any real way, or even acknowledge the native people their designs are based on. Holmes adds, interestingly, that the fashion industry’s appropriation of the cultural property of Native Americans, without proper attribution of credit, is simply an outmoded continuation of colonialist attitudes.
Native Max has received international attention, which Holmes hopes will connect and bring Native American designers, models, and photographers into the mainstream spotlight.