top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichael Christian

Kiera Pyke: The Flight of Fashion

Photo: Courtesy of Kiera Pyke

Kiera Pyke, also known as Kawénna or "Big Words," emerges as a compelling figure from the historic region of Akwesasne, a blended Native district that straddles the open border between the United States and Canada.

Kawénna's unique identity effortlessly spans both territories, challenging the Western idealization of dual citizenship. As a proud member of the Mohawk people, a vital constituent within the esteemed Iroquois Confederacy of Indian Tribes, Kawénna's life transcends the mere delineations of geopolitical boundaries, and for good reason.

Her narrative stands as a testament to the timeless interconnectedness of human heritage—a tale that stretches beyond our lines of symmetry. One that suspends the demarcations separating the United States from its northern counterpart.

Amidst a sprawling family landscape, Kawénna is the oldest of four siblings with a rich heritage of eight uncles, and four aunts. Her lineage is intricately intertwined with the rich tapestry of Mohawk history. She was placed within a healing family, her mother being an eye doctor and her father a retired pharmacist, so her upbringing emphasized the delicate balance between human life and the ecosystems they inhabit. The reservation they call home spans an expansive twenty-one square miles, a sanctuary of culture and opportunity.

Within such a supportive and familiar environment, the revelation of the distinctiveness of her culture came to light for Kawénna only during seventh grade. Enveloped within the walls of an Indian School—an educational system distinct from conventional state-led institutions—Kawénna found herself immersed in a realm of knowledge that awakened an insatiable curiosity. She simply loved to learn.

The allure of learning, painted in hues of exploration and intellectual curiosity, gradually peeled back the layers of her Indigenous descent and unveiled to her a world worth exploring. Her fervor for knowledge ignited during her formative years and continued to blaze even after her graduation. Dartmouth University beckoned, inviting her to delve deeper into academia and earning her a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies. Within the academic corridors, Kawénna unearthed a profound truth—her heritage was more than a personal anecdote. It was a cultural epic that resonated across continents and cultures, defying the limitations of geographic confines.

This realization kindled a passionate determination within Kawénna to unearth the treasure trove of stories embedded in her heritage—narratives that blurred national borders and resonated with countless hearts worldwide. Endowed with artistic talents from a young age, she mastered the intricate craft of quillwork. This delicate art form, demanding meticulous skill and unwavering patience, became her chosen medium for storytelling—a language that communicated across cultural divides.

"The response exceeded my wildest expectations," Kawénna reflects with a sense of wonder. "It became clear that to amplify the voice of our Nation's narrative, I needed to broaden my horizons." -Kiera (Kawénna) Pyke

As her creations found their audience, they radiated a resonance that stretched far and wide, garnering accolades and admiration. Among the honors that graced her journey, a prestigious commission from the Seneca Iroquois Museum for a traditional tobacco pouch stood as a tangible testament to the reverence her craft commanded.

Photo: Courtesy of Lavenderlullabies Photography, A culturally accurate pouch for tobacco was typically made of animal hide, and decorated with bits of colorful cloth, stitching and horn.

The year 2021 marked the inception of Kiera Pyke, a fashion venture that breathed life into her creative vision. Her digital platform, embodied within, evolved into a canvas where the essence of her culture painted vibrant strokes.

The garments, each an embodiment of her artistic brilliance, adorned Native models and were captured through a lens steeped in indigenous perspectives, by a Native photographer.

Kawénna's new brand began riding the waves tendered to new business on the Reservation. Marketing is hard to get done and outside contracts become elusive once the location of manufacturing is known.

But none of those hurdles seemed to affect the budding brand of expression. Her sales went from tens to hundreds and from hundreds to thousands, shipping clothes around the world. Europe, South America, and the United States began to be regular additions to the Canadian list of buyers.

Slightly startled by the explosive growth, Kawénna had to hire a fulfillment team that was, you guessed it, 100% First Native, even her mother has stepped in to assist with overflows.

Through Kiera Pyke and her cohorts, the world is discovering an intrinsic truth: that the human spirit yearns for self-expression, a desire for narratives to be celebrated, even within the realm of haute couture.

"Native fashion," she asserts with conviction, "must transcend mere whispers. It should stride boldly, embracing accessibility and innovation. Our heritage, our stories deserve a global stage, a narrative voiced by us, not interpreted by others." -Kiera (Kawénna) Pyke

As the trajectory of Kiera Pyke and Co. continues its orbit, Kawénna's vision remains steadfast.

"My commitment lies in fostering a platform for Native designers, models, and marketers," she declares, her resolve unwavering.

In her pioneering steps, a space emerges—a haven where innovation intertwines with indigenous roots, where creativity harmonizes with ancestral heritage, and where the pulse of indigenized business resonates in synchrony with transformative purpose. With each stitch, each design, Kawénna stitches together not just fabric but a narrative of empowerment and representation that transcends borders and resonates across cultures.

Photo: Courtesy of Lavenderlullabies Photography


bottom of page