Sho Sho Esquiro’s clothes are as radiant as she is. A fashion designer, artist, and youth worker, Sho Sho’s work combines her Native American roots with her love of hip hop and intoxicating color. Born and raised in Yukon, Canada, and taking inspiration everywhere from her grandmother to her interest in recycled materials, to call Sho Sho just a fashion designer would only be getting at the tip of the iceberg. Her work has been featured on SWAGG news, Straight.com, and Indian Country Today and is bound to be making its way to your closet soon. Persephone Magazine, please welcome the innumerably talented and amazing, Sho Sho Esquiro!
Sho Sho Esquiro: Growing up in the Yukon, you learn to sew at a very young age. My grandmother has always been into fashion and she was the first one to inspire me. I’d say the turning point is when Barbie’s wardrobe needed an upgrade. Ha! So basically I’ve been into fashion since I was five. When I got out of high school I started a graffiti T-shirt line, then in my early 20s I worked as a costume designer and it just grew from there.
PM: You also are an artist and youth worker who emphasizes the importance of community and self-expression. How do these experiences all influence your work? What does each give you as a multi-dimensional creator?
SSE: Yes, I’ve been working with FAE (Fetal Alcohol Effects) and alternative youth programs in inner city schools for the past four years. I started working with my mama, who is also an artist/illustrator, to developed an art program. I am honoured to work with our youth because they are all unique individuals who have their own story that deserves to be shared. It is inspiring to find projects that the youth find interesting. We’ve done everything from after school mural programs to filming short skits that incorporate their art. If anything, working with our youth challenges me to be more creative in serving them.
PM: Your work uses mainly recycled materials like leather, fur and environmentally conscious things like organic cotton, bamboo and hemp, and ranges from Pendleton jackets to custom hoodies. Are you inspired by materials first or ideas? Or is it silly to say that one could take precedence over the other?
SSE: I love your question! I don’t think it’s silly at all”¦ I’m more of a backwards thinker and fabric and textiles inspire me and then I figure out what I would like to make. Using recycled materials such as fur and leather and organic fabric is very important to me. For me, staying true to my vision of respecting mother earth takes precedence over everything, you can still be stylish and conscious all at the same time. Using Pendleton is one of my staples–I love to put my flava to it.
PM: Where do you find creative resources and influences?
SSE: City life, hip hop, the environment”¦my influences are the Elders that taught me to make the most out of every hide, to respect my land and my culture.
PM: As an aboriginal artist, do you ever worry about your work being culturally appropriated? Or do you think that your work bypasses those concerns by being influenced by many things?
SSE: I just stay true to myself and my values. I’ve been blessed to grow up with a mama who is an artist. I honestly did worry if people would like my clothing in my early 20s, not as an aboriginal designer, but just as a person that wanted to be accepted. I feel the older I get (now that I’m in my 30s), I’m just concerned with creating, honouring my gifts and my culture, and encouraging our youth. I’ve been told by a couple non-native “artsy’s” that my art is too contemporary, which makes me laugh, because the fact is we Aboriginal people are growing with the rest of the world. We keep one foot firmly planted on mother earth but continue to evolve with the times. You just can’t keep our art in a little stereotypical box forever. I’m honoured to call contemporary artists like Bunky Echo-Hawk, Summer Peters, and Alano Edzerza my friends. Their work inspires me because they are all continually pushing the envelop.
PM: What are some of the most challenging aspects of designing your own line? What are some of the best aspects?
SSE: The most challenging aspect is financing it. The best aspect is doing what I love to do everyday, and meeting amazing people in the process. I love to travel and just since last December I’ve brought my clothing to D.C., Baltimore, Las Vegas, New Mexico, Phoenix, The Hamptons N.Y., Connecticut, Rhode Island, Toronto, and my last fashion show was in Portland Oregon with Nike N7 and Pendleton.
PM: If there was one thing you wanted people to know about you as an artist or your artwork, what would it be?
SSE: I’d like them to know I am a strong native woman who’s honouring her culture and the environment, and working hard doing my thing to leave my moccasin print in this world.
PM: What amazing work can we look forward from you in the future?
SSE: Ha”¦you’ll know when I just do it! I’ve got some exciting things cooking up and an amazing team behind me; 2012 is our year! You are definitely gonna hear more about Sho Sho Esquiro Clothing fa sho!