Sweet Sage Woman brings native flair to regional Montana fashion
As we observe casual go-to apparel choices for most Montana women, stylish boots and leggings are a staple combo. And as much as we want to be stylish, we all want something unique and individual that works with our regional Rocky Mountain lifestyle.
Yolanda GoodVoice, enrolled member of the Crow nation, noticed that at the Native conferences she attended while working for the tribe, there was not much attire with traditional native designs. Always being an artistic type, GoodVoice would often imagine her designs on comfortable, stylish clothing.
GoodVoice is a wife and mother of four. Two younger kids are still home; one in high school and another almost ready for kindergarten. Holding a Business Master’s degree from the University of Montana, and newly jobless in 2017, she found herself suffering from post-partum depression after the birth of her youngest child. Recognizing her priorities to be a good mom while maintaining financial independence, GoodVoice made the decision to launch her own business.
The new enterprise would not only be vital to support her family, but it also would be key to emotional growth. When deciding on a name for her new venture, she chose her Crow name which translates to ‘Sweet Sage Woman’. With a business moniker chosen, there were several other key considerations. First, it had to be something that would showcase her Crow heritage and be an outlet for her creative artistic talent. Launching a business with limited capital required startup costs to be low, with limited inventory, and mostly conducted online. GoodVoice searched out a ‘print on demand’ company that would create leggings sublimated with her original Crow designs.
When asked what makes Crow designs unique, GoodVoice described them as “somewhat ‘borrowed’ from other tribes.” She added, “Crows use both geometric and floral designs, but what sets the Crow designs apart is the outline. Crows like to outline their designs with dark or complementary colors to make the design really stand out. Also, when using traditional earth colors, they represent nature. Red has great significance because it represents life, blood, and the color of the sunrise and the promise of a new day. A Crow man will dress his women in red to show that he supports, provides, and protects them. Blue represents the sky, green is for the grass, yellow signifies the sun, orange the sunset. Because we all love bright colors, neons are being included in more modern designs.”
GoodVoice began her Sweet Sage Woman portfolio with a design she called ‘Baaalaxiileetash’
GoodVoice stated, “I understood I had to be fearless in realizing that I had to ‘snap out of it’ and take ownership of my depression. ‘I am Fearless’ was meant to go forward and pull myself out of the darkness.”
Roses, Bitterroot and Sorrell inspired her second design, ‘I Love Me’. GoodVoice decided that having an English name is easier for everyone to pronounce. Growing up on the Crow reservation, she had a white mother and a native father. Often her friends and cousins would bully her and remind her that she was only half native. She often felt like she was “on the inside looking out and outside looking in at the same time”. Learning to love oneself is often a struggle from outside and inside emotional experiences.
‘You do You’ – Yolanda GoodVoice
By the third design, GoodVoice had rediscovered her center. Thus, the new pattern’s name, ‘I am Centered’. It means being centered within oneself. GoodVoice relied on her experience growing up in the native church. “You learn to stay centered on the road you walk.” ‘I am Centered’ design consists of arrows going in both directions. “You not only have to love yourself but also find your center”. GoodVoice added “This is a fun design as it can be made in so many color combinations. I created Griz and Bobcat colors, bright pink, red, orange and black.”
After about two years in business, Sweet Sage Woman’s customer base was growing and her designs were expanded to include men’s and kids’ sports leggings, and added capris, shorts, skirts, totes and bags. Going with the flow, she recently created neck gaiters and face masks with appealing patterns for sale.[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”1″ display=”basic_thumbnail” thumbnail_crop=”0″]
All of Sweet Sage Woman’s designs are created with all customers, both native and non-native, in mind. GoodVoice stated, “It is not appropriation to wear native designs when you purchase from a native artist; you are supporting them and their talent. And you can look uniquely fashionable with a regional Montana twist.”
GoodVoice decided that as her three-year anniversary of Sweet Sage Woman rolled around, she needed to re-center again and return to designing. She says, “I have a design in my head, and I have been praying for guidance to finish my fourth design.”
GoodVoice is also creating a design to support Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women with a portion of the proceeds going towards non-profits and donations to families with missing daughters.
Sweet Sage Woman designs can be viewed and purchased directly online at https://sweetsagewoman.com/
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