Eagle, Alaska, and New York City are, in distance and in culture, worlds apart. Interior Alaska model and activist Quannah Chasinghorse is bridging that gap by bringing traditional Indigenous culture to the forefront of fashion.
The 19-year-old Fairbanks resident made her debut at New York Fashion Week and the Met Gala last week. The appearance helped to boost Chasinghorse’s quickly rising star.
“The Met Gala was a dream, and for the theme [American Independence] I wanted to represent Indigenous art and fashion,” Chasinghose, who is from the Han Gwich’in and Oglala Lakota tribes, explained in a Twitter post, which received more than 100,000 likes. Chasinghorse, who has traditional chin tattoos, wore Navajo-inspired jewelry and a dress designed by Peter Dundas.
Chasinghose also walked in her first show during New York Fashion Week. She concluded Prabal Gurung’s show wearing a green and pink feathered dress. Chasinghose also opened and closed for Gabriela Hearst, which she said in an Instagram post was a dream and an amazing experience.
“I can’t explain what this show means to me,” she Chasinghose wrote, adding that Hearst “did an amazing job uplifting, highlighting and collaborating with Indigenous people to create this beautiful line.”
Chasinghorse was also excited that more than one Indigenous model was featured in the show. She explained in a previous interview with the News-Miner that she has struggled with the lack of Indigenous representation in modeling, something she alluded to in her post.
“I felt very alone there but some people were very sweet to me,” she wrote on Twitter about the Met Gala.
Chasinghorse is committed to changing that lack of representation, one fashion walk and photoshoot at a time. “My biggest goal and dream is to represent my people in the best way,” she said.
Chasinghorse is originally from Eagle and grew up “in a cabin in the woods,” living a traditional subsistence lifestyle that included hunting, fishing and dog mushing. Her mother, Jody Potts, made sure that Chasinghorse and her siblings were raised with traditional cultural values.
“That really kept me grounded,” she said.
Another of Chasinghorse’s goals is to promote causes she believes in, particularly those impacting Indigenous peoples. She was initially discovered for her activism work, and continues to use her platform to speak out against drilling in the National Wildlife Refuge, to fight for climate justice, Indigenous rights, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous women.
Her appearance at the Met Gala and New York Fashion Week were part of a breakthrough year for Chasinghorse. Earlier this year, she was featured on the cover of Vogue Mexico and was profiled in the September issue of Vogue. Chasinghorse was discovered after being featured in a Calvin Klein ad in 2020, after which she signed with agency IMG Models.