When Jessica Osceola was a child, she wanted to be a fashion designer. Since then her path has been a creative one; she is an artist and sculptor who has shown her work at galleries and Art Basel in Miami Beach and is a ceramics professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Osceola’s childhood dream is now fulfilled with her contribution to the spring 2018 line of the Tea Collection, a San Francisco based children’s clothing company. She and three other Native American artists contributed designs for the Native Artists collection, including designs from Gregory Lomayesva, Hopi, Benjamin Harjo Jr., Shawnee-Seminole, Martha Berry, Cherokee.
Before agreeing to participate in the line, Osceola had many conversations with the company and was convinced it would treat the Tribe’s art and culture with respect.
“I wanted it to be a celebration of culture and art,” Osceola said about her patchwork design for the clothing. “Patchwork isn’t something I created; it belongs to the culture, not to each individual who creates it. I wanted to make sure they weren’t exploiting the culture.”
Since its inception in 2002, Tea Collection has created clothing lines based on cultures around the world. The company contributes a portion of online sales to the Global Fund for Children and supports its mission of advancing the dignity of children and youth worldwide.
Osceola sent the company a patchwork sample and a sketch, from which they made the fabric which they can use for up to two years. She also had made the final decision on what pieces were to be produced. The fashions include two girls’ dresses, a baby mini dress, a long sleeve hoodie and leggings for girls and babies. The line launched in January and will be available until it sells out.
“This is the first time they have done North American Native Americans,” Osceola said. “By collaborating with the company, they aren’t stealing it.”
Osceola is aware that other designers, such as Donna Karan and the store Anthropologie, have taken Native American designs and used them without permission from or acknowledgement of the Tribes. During her Art Basel show in 2012 she displayed a sculpture titled “Not Yours, Not Ours, Not for Sale” as a protest against the trend of the fashion industry’s “Tribal inspiration.” The ceramic sculpture featured legs protruding from a Donna Karan shopping bag.
Growing up in a traditional village, Osceola was surrounded by family and loved those moments when women gathered to cook over the open flame, sew together or style each other’s hair in traditional ways.
“The most important message is that patchwork is about the community,” Osceola said. “The things that inspire me are right here in this group with these ladies sewing, our kids being here.”
Tea Collection is sold in boutiques around the country and can be purchased from its website, teacollection.com.