Ginew is a sustainable indigenous-owned clothing brand taking inspiration from its Native American roots. Ginew fuses street wear with traditional Ojibwe, Oneida and Stockbridge-Munsee designs.
In the next of our Sustainable Founder series, we catch up with Ginew founders Erik & Amanda to find out where the inspiration for their brand started, and how they’re ensuring their brand is kind to Humanity and the Earth.
Hello! Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and the brand you run?
Ginew is Native Americana. We explore our family histories and through this exploration, we express our American Indian identities in a contemporary context and share this with the world through our collection.
We design and create durable, heirloom-quality garments and goods that incorporate stories of our ancestors and culture. We invite others to understand the history that is sewn into our collection. When our collection is created, it carries our history – once worn by our customers, the garments start recording theirs.
What elements of your brand are important to you which illustrate your own values and culture?
The traditional elements we use in the Ginew collection are our tribal values, family stories, symbols, and traditional textiles. We include symbols from our Oneida, Stockbridge-Munsee, and Ojibwe heritage.
An example of this is the white oak leaf on the back of our fasteners to the incorporation of the traditional symbols of the Oneida Skydome (creation story) and Ojibwe dwelling/house. We include select symbols from our tribes in our designs so that we – as contemporary Indigenous people – can wear clothes daily which contain elements that are dear and special to us.
Other extremely important elements to us include transforming the clothing-manufacturing industry – transforming the historical representation of Native culture. Ginew is story-born. Our storytelling takes the reader to a place where understanding is made. Our stories inspire curiosity about the work we do and the garment collection we create.
What advice do you have for non-Native-American consumers to ensure they aren’t supporting the cultural appropriation shown by much of the fashion industry?
The easiest solution would be for people to buy from Native-owned businesses. There are a lot of options – Native businesses creating garments, jewelry, crafts, art, housewares, furniture, and a lot more.
Can you tell us why you chose to use a local supply chain for most of your products?
We care about our ecosystem: from our employees and designers to our customers. Our supply chain community shares our standards and values. And, when choosing our collaborators, we are focused on relationships, not just transactional interaction. Many are friends first or become friends fast.
Why did you start Ginew? What inspired you?
Ginew originally grew out of our wedding ceremony. Erik’s father shot a buffalo for the wedding and we prepared the hide from the buffalo in the garage. We wanted to give a more meaningful gift to those who helped with the ceremony and decided on buffalo belts made from our wedding buffalo. One thing led to another, and we ended up starting a tiny leather goods business in our apartment.
The apparel label…that’s a story in itself! While Amanda was training in Houston, TX she was working long, long hours and we needed a break. No better place to take a break than far out, in West Texas in Marfa at El Cosmico.
One frigid February morning, Amanda and Stinky (our dog) stayed in the comfort of the heated safari tent, while I went in search of coffee. I found coffee…maybe too much coffee…and started on a thought experiment about the transition my great-great grandfather made from hunter-gatherer to agrarian.
I was thinking about what that experience may have been like – what might have gone through his mind – what he looked back on vs what he looked to in the moment…and I thought about what he might have been wearing in those moments. How it would need to be utilitarian, functional, sturdy – but perhaps what he might have included in the coat had he chosen design elements to represent both worlds he was living in during this transition.
Coffee…coffee…coffee…and there born was the Heritage Coat – our first apparel item – on a napkin in the common space at El Cosmico.
We took about 2-3 weeks to identify the necessary components, pattern, and factory – made enough for ourselves and some friends – thinking we were done.
Then came an invitation from Lightning and CLUTCH magazines to “show our collection” at the CLUTCH Collection Show in Tokyo, Japan after they noticed a post on social media about our Heritage Coat. Thus, Ginew apparel was born!
Do you each have a favorite piece from the Ginew collection and why?
Our favorite items from the collection are those we see worn out in public by people we do not know personally. Brings a smile to our faces every time!
Do you have any advice for people looking to be more sustainable in their consumption habits and lifestyle?
We are excited about many peoples’ transition towards heirloom-quality garments and goods. Durable goods that last and last and that can be handed down. This means buying less since it lasts longer.
Slow fashion is better for the environment and it is part of our brand essence. We’d suggest people really understand where their clothing comes from and start considering slow fashion, heirloom-quality goods. We understand that garments that are sustainable cost more – but the cost of disposable/fast-fashion to Earth is something we all need to consider. People may want to start slowly, but include more heirloom-quality items in their wardrobes.
Have you tried a product from another great brand that you love?
Many of our collection collaborators and our Ginew+ collection represent artisans that have businesses of their own. We suggest checking them all out!
Juggling the running of the brand with your jobs as doctors must be difficult, how do you stay grounded and keep going day to day?
Having a clear purpose and intent guides us daily and in all areas of our lives. That drives our relationships and roles including being doctors, parents, business owners, friends, and family members. Staying close to what is important to us helps guide where time is spent – keeping us true to ourselves and how we want to live our lives.
What does the future look like for Ginew?
We expand our brand reach and collection thoughtfully. We are looking to expand retail locations, domestically and internationally which is very exciting.
We are looking to expand our jewelry options, and also creating new apparel items expanding our all-gender options. A lot of exciting activity that we are looking forward to sharing with the Ginew Community.
Wrapping Up: Ginew Q&A
Thank you to Erik & Amanda for taking the time to tell us about their incredible brand Ginew. Make sure you check out their collection which features a range of made-in-the-USA heirloom-quality garments and goods.