Naiomi Glasses for the fusion of Native American art, skateboarding and Ralph Lauren

In a remote house in the northeast corner of Arizona, among the red rocks and vast expanses of the Navajo Nation, you’ll hear a beat so steady it keeps almost perfect time. Hour after hour, day after day, artist Naomi Glasses sits on the floor in silence and weaves on her loom. “It’s very meditative,” she said. “And when you have to do these repetitive movements, you just go into a trance. It really is a great time to just sit and think.”

Indian weaver Naomi Glasses.

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The 26-year-old thinks of the six generations of family weavers who came before her, passing on this rich Native American tradition. Now these designs (which can take months to make and cost thousands) have caught the attention of the fashion world, specifically Ralph Lauren, an eyewear brand she always wore as a child and dreamed of working with someday, but never she thought it was possible. “I must have dreamed it while I was weaving,” she said.

It might seem like an incredible journey for a shy Arizona girl who was mercilessly bullied as a five-year-old because she has a cleft palate. To escape the torment, Glasses found solace on a skateboard. “It’s always been a safe place where I feel like I can be myself, learn how to be even more confident,” she said.

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She carried that confidence to the loom, first trying her hand at weaving at 16. Her brother Tyler showed her their grandmother’s ways. And soon the siblings started selling their pieces at the local trading post. But their parents encouraged them to think bigger. So, in 2020, they turned to social media. Using the booking as a set, Tyler posted Naomi showing off her colorful creations – and those impressive skateboarding skills.

This video became a worldwide sensation:

“And then suddenly it exploded!” Glasses laughed. “And he traveled everywhere.”

Including, amazingly, Ralph Lauren, a brand known for embracing Native American culture. In Glasses, the fashion house happened to find a like-minded partner for its first artist-in-residence.

Designs by Naiomi Eyewear for Ralph Lauren.

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“He always loved the West,” said Ralph’s son, David Lauren, the fashion house’s chief branding and innovation officer. “He was always looking for the art and culture that Naomi loved and appreciated. So the ability to come together to create something and be inspired together is beautiful. And it’s getting better every day.”

These days, Glasses is busy launching its new collection, which is out this month. She calls it a love letter to her people. She hopes to promote her culture in other ways as well. The Ralph Lauren ad campaign, shot at her family’s home in Arizona, created dozens of jobs for the native Navajo. “This is a big moment in the history of indigenous design,” she said.

To which she admits a sense of duty: “I feel it’s important to be presented in a beautiful way. And I’m really excited to be able to share these designs with the world.”

She also feels a responsibility to use her newfound fame to raise money for skateparks on her reservation. “Skateboarding has done a lot for my own mental health,” Glasses said. “And I feel like it can do so much more for so many other people in their mental health.”

Naiomi Glasses’ late grandmother once told her that weaving could create a life for her. He sat quietly on the loom and wondered what he meant. Now, she says, she finally understands: “The dreams I dreamed here in the camp have come true.”

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The story produced by John Karas. Editor: Lauren Barnello.

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