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After 37 years in the fashion industry, Amy Denet Deal felt compelled to abandon her corporate job as an activewear designer. As a single mother, she often found herself contemplating the legacy she would leave behind for her daughter, Lily, and how her choices, in business and in life, would impact future generations. In 2019, Deal packed up her life in New York and began to reintegrate herself into the Navajo community in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Born into the Diné tribe but adopted at birth, Deal had little to no firsthand knowledge of what was happening within the Navajo Nation. Creating her New Mexico-based brand 4Kinship—a sustainable line dedicated to handmade and one-of-a-kind upcycled and restored clothing, accessories, and home pieces—became not only a project fueled by passion, it also provided a way for Deal to connect with and support her Indigenous community via job opportunities, fundraising efforts, and youth outreach.
On Taking Risks
"As a single mom, I took a huge gamble when I said I was going to leave the corporate world of fashion and do something that spoke to my soul. It was really uncomfortable, and at times, scary, but making money for big brands wasn’t giving me joy. I wanted to explore a new role—to be able to say that I am an Indigenous designer. I am an Indigenous brand.
"I tried so hard to unlearn the traditional business mindset of creating a rigid business plan. I found I needed to remove a lot of things that were taking up space in my life. I gave away all of my belongings. I moved to a completely different state and I let go of a lot of toxic relationships with friends and companies that weren’t serving me. A big part of starting 4Kinship was the process of letting go in order to invite in something new."
On Growing Organically
"I wanted to totally get away from outside funding. I like to go with fluid, natural growth that has ebbs and flows. I’ve done a lot of thinking about how to keep 4Kinship small. I’m interested in highlighting the beauty of handmade and handcrafted goods and the joy that it brings to others. More brand wealth does not buy happiness. Finding a sustainable way to evolve your creativity does.
"I also love moving with the flows of the season. I’m letting you in on a little secret: I’m working on my Spring ’22 pieces right now. I’ve been hibernating and doing a lot of research, and slowly moving into what is going to become spring. It’s a beautiful, magical way of doing what feels good after a career of working on collections a year-and-a-half or two years in advance."
Behind the scenes of 4Kinship's FW '21/22 collection.
On Giving Back
"I’m excited about this part of my career that allows me to express myself. It really means a lot to people when they purchase pieces from 4Kinship. I’m telling you, I cry once a week reading the sweetest messages from our customers.
"When I first moved to New Mexico, I wasn’t working with a team. Now, I am so fortunate to work with about 90 Indigenous contractors. All of our campaign images highlight Indigenous creatives—models, photographers, filmmakers, artisans, and textile makers.
"We also reinvest our profits back into the community. Our giving-back programs don’t come from a boardroom. They come from heart-led decisions. We are a tiny brand, but we were able to give back a quarter-million dollars to Indigenous creatives over the past few years.
"This summer, we are launching a mentorship program for kids within the community and will break ground on a project called Diné Skate Garden, a skate park and garden space. My goal with 4Kinship is to be able to create more opportunities for the future, for my daughter, and for the Navajo nation."
Sara Holzman is the Style Director at Marie Claire, covering runway trends and tracking down the latest finds to buy and wear. When she’s not writing about fashion, she pens about the best places to jet-off to.
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