Distinct, Unmistakable Design

Leslie Deer (Muscogee [Creek] Nation)

Leslie Deer (Muscogee [Creek] Nation)

By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer, 2015 Artists in Business Leadership Fellow

A link in the chain for cultural preservation. Artwork that honors the memory of women —mentors — who have walked on. What they stood for, did and shared must be passed on. It can’t end with Leslie Deer (Muscogee [Creek] Nation).

That’s the inspiration behind Leslie’s textile art and apparel design. She adapts modernity to traditional designs, her own take on them. Photos and memories blended with her personal tastes create garments rooted in Native heritage, yet relevant to fashion today.  

Her designs are influenced by the spirals and abstract floral of the Muscogee people. This shows in the dress Leslie created for Lori Pourier (President, First Peoples Fund) to wear during the 2016 Community Spirit Awards ceremony. The motifs for Lori’s dress came from the Moundbuilder culture. The curvilinear design represents the Creator’s breath. The circular design reflects the sun and the world. This dress expresses how the Creator made everything, including each of us.

Leslie’s garments are a combination of brightly colored satins and silks (for the traditional appliqué ribbon work), simple lines and silhouettes, abstract floral designs of the Muscogee people, Woodland floral designs and printing her own art designs on fabric.

Distinct, unmistakable. Leslie’s hallmark.

She is committed to excellence, to share her art with the public, to pass on the wisdom and skills she was given. In these things, she honors her mother, who first encouraged her enthusiasm for sewing; an 82-year-old relative who is still her mentor; and her Sac & Fox mentors. Leslie learned their traditional appliqué and patternmaking techniques she now teaches youth. A link in the chain, she preserves traditional techniques and tribal designs until the next generation of artists comes to keep it up.  

Leslie knows she is right where she belongs, and at the right time. A link between the past and the future.


Leslie Deer is a 2016 Artists in Business Leadership Fellow. 

Images courtesy of Leslie Deer.