Navajo-owned clothing company combines purpose, style and activism
All-purpose blanched flour, multi-pound blocks of cheese, lard, canned meat: these foods became staples of Native American homes and diets after being placed on reservations.
A bag of flour and a familiar brick of cheese are featured on OXDX Clothing’s latest t-shirt titled “Government Assistance Not Needed,” a stylistic twist on the irony of the food provided by the government as a result of the move and resettlement of indigenous people. The shirt served as a promotion for All Ages Pizza, a Navajo-owned pop-up restaurant based in Chandler, Arizona.
OXDX Clothing, owned by Navajo artist and designer Jared Yazzie, is based in Tempe, Arizona, and specializes in graphic art and screen-printed clothing inspired by Native American culture and Indigenous issues.
The clothing uniquely combines visually appealing and fashionable designs with Indigenous activism.
READ ALSO: Streetwear designer OXDX raises awareness of Native American issues
“There seems to be a lot of issues and struggles that we have to go through, and we have to do it together,” Yazzie said. “Everything we make here, we try to make it useful; I felt like this since college, that I had to be determined in what I was doing. It has always been passed on to the community, it has always been passed on to our people, our history and our culture and what we have to cling to.
Hailing from Holbrook, Arizona, just outside the Navajo Nation, Yazzie’s mother, Shirley, is a math teacher, and her brother Aaron works at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Where the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has been developed.
Yazzie first studied engineering at the University of Arizona, but took a different path to graphic design, art, and screen printing, the skills of which were mostly self-taught. A departure from his math-oriented family.
While in UArizona, OXDX’s roots began as discussions among fellow Native students opened her eyes to the inequalities Native Americans face.
“You start to notice things; you start to notice the differences. Or the way things shouldn’t be, ”Yazzie said. “It wasn’t until college that I really opened my eyes to what was strange about everything and how racism and racism in border towns existed and how we just dealt with it; it was standardized.
Her clothing reflects the modern juxtaposition of Native American culture with contemporary American culture.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Yazzie and OXDX took steps to prevent transmission and stay safe while staying in business, such as moving operations from their warehouse to downtown Tempe. at their home. Masks were worn, gloves put on, and part of their house was separated to pack and ship orders.
“I just didn’t want to be responsible for spreading anything to anyone, it was a personal commitment not to do that, capitalism or not,” Yazzie said. “Because you could just see other businesses wanting to open because they needed the money and we knew it was dangerous, so we didn’t want to be swayed by that.”
OXDX’s shift to increasing online sales has caused Yazzie to reconsider various business model practices that she will continue to apply.
When many other local businesses struggled with incomes and uncertainties, OXDX was able to cope with Yazzie by taking on graphic design jobs that he previously couldn’t because of frequent travel.
At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in November 2020, nearly 75% of small businesses in Arizona were negatively affected by the pandemic, according to data from the Small Business Pulse Survey conducted by the US Census Bureau.
Small businesses continue to be negatively impacted, but have been mitigated by the rollout of vaccines and the easing of restrictions.
Yazzie is hoping to eventually resume their in-person events such as youth workshops, culinary pop-ups, Sunday brunches where the community can come screen-print personal items and host fashion shows.
“We had some interesting things planned,” Yazzie said. “It would be nice to connect with people again.”
OXDX Clothing will celebrate 12 years of design work on May 5 with a special and colorful design appropriate for spring and summer, a departure from previous models which are mostly set against black backgrounds.