By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation), Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015
Founded by Northern Cheyenne sisters Madison and Jordan Craig in 2017, Shy Natives aims to empower women with customized lingerie. Through Instagram, Shy Natives accumulated a loyal support network in Indian Country and beyond, being featured in Bustle, Indigenous Goddess Gang, Coy Culture, 1904, and Tea & Bannock. Madison and Jordan produce meaningful content along with creating undergarments to fit women of all sizes.
Though close in age, Madison and Jordan didn’t get along well as teenagers growing up in California. But their mom promised that someday, the sisters would be best friends.
With their mom’s sewing talents and dad’s knowledge as an engineer, Madison and Jordan come from a creative family.
Madison self-taught herself how to sew after her mom’s gift of a sewing machine during Madison’s college years. She modified her undergarments to fit her body, and before long, was hanging pieces on Jordan’s bedroom door and bugging her sister to test them. Jordan did and loved the custom fit.
The transition to best friends began.
When their parents moved, the sisters decided to get a place in Oakland. Madison soon had four sewing machines in the living room, and with Jordan’s film photography skills, they started an Instagram page to showcase the handmade pieces. Before long, demand for orders followed.
“The Native community has been a huge inspiration and motivation for my work,” Madison says.
She and Jordan are preparing to launch an online store this year. Knowing the demand is already too much to handle on their own, they are using their 2019 First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership grant to work with a professional designer who will pattern grade the pieces Madison designs, preparing them for manufacturing. Jordan heads the branding, marketing, outreach, and social media for Shy Natives.
“This is a way we can express ourselves through fashion and through photography,” Jordan says. “We both add our strengths to the project.”
They’ve collaborated with numerous Indigenous artists, including FPF fellows Gunner Jules (Sicangu Lakota), who helped produce music tracks for promotional videos, and Bethany Yellowtail (Northern Cheyenne/Crow) of B.Yellowtail, who is mentoring them on the fashion design industry.
As for those two bickering teenage sisters whose mom promised they’d be best friends someday, well, they are.
Madison says, “There was a clear moment during the photoshoot [with film photographer Andrea Gutierrez] when the music was blasting, sounds of the film camera firing, and models smiling when Jordan and I looked at each other with pure joy and relief. I was proud of being an Indigenous woman and designer, and so happy to share the moment with my sister. We did not have to say anything; the look was all over our faces.”