Beauty That Rings True
Photograph of a feathered dress

Jontay Kahm named his dress “Bell Bird” after the world’s loudest bird. Emulating cascading waves of sound, 800 dyed-grey goose feathers ripple around the dress’ shoulders and waist.

“Bell Bird,” by Jontay Kahm, 2022; felt, satin, goose feathers and glue; 42.5” x 35.4” x 23.6”. 27/0716.

Photo by NMAI Staff

Jontay Kahm named his dress “Bell Bird” after the world’s loudest bird. Emulating cascading waves of sound, 800 dyed-grey goose feathers ripple around the dress’ shoulders and waist.

“Bell Bird,” by Jontay Kahm, 2022; felt, satin, goose feathers and glue; 42.5” x 35.4” x 23.6”. 27/0716.

Photo by NMAI Staff

Portrait of a young man wearing a blue collared shirt

Jontay Kahm is a Plains Cree fashion designer from the Mosquito First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Photo by Jason S. Ordaz, Institute of American Indian Arts

Jontay Kahm is a Plains Cree fashion designer from the Mosquito First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Photo by Jason S. Ordaz, Institute of American Indian Arts

Kahm is a Plains Cree fashion designer from the Mosquito First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada. He became interested in fashion through the videos and concerts of Lady Gaga, which he said, “opened a door to a world I didn’t know existed.”  Kahm told Vogue writer Christian Allaire (Ojibwe) her video “Bad Romance” had a profound effect on him because “as a kid from the rez with no internet, I was obsessed.” He admired the imagination and theatricality of her outfits. He said, “I wanted to copy all of the designs she was wearing.” He then learned about avant-garde designers Alexander McQueen and Iris van Herpen, who continue to inspire him.

The 27-year-old said he likes “designing for myself” as well as creating the fashion he would like to see. His outfits often seem otherworldly: they pop with vivid colors and voluminous shapes. Yet he also incorporates his Indigenous culture into his designs, adding aspects from powwow regalia such as feathers, fringe and ribbons. “Bell Bird,” completed in 2022, is the second feather dress he created.

This past year was a whirlwind for Kahm. In spring of 2023, he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and in the fall, he enrolled in a Master of Fine Arts program at Parsons School of Design in New York. Kahm also debuted his first full collection, “Regalian Bodies,” in August at the Santa Fe Indian Market fashion show. There he presented 17 signature looks in bold colors and layers of fringe and feathers, including a multitiered feathered wedding gown with a feather bustle.

Kahm is thrilled by the increased attention that Indigenous fashion has been receiving in the press during the last few years. He also appreciates the opportunity to be a part of it and acknowledges that he has been given a running start. ”I want to create the unimaginable and dream the unthinkable,” Kahm said. “I believe the gift I have is from God, and I feel it's urgent for me to share it with the world.”