How Diné Designer Amy Denet Deal Is Reconnecting With Her Native Heritage

Get to know her store 4Kinship.

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Amy Denet Deal is happy. I may not have been sitting directly across from the founder of 4Kinship in her Santa Fe store, but I felt her sheer joy — even from my Brooklyn living room, from where I hopped on our recent Zoom call. And it’s no wonder she was radiating positivity: The creative finally feels at home with her Diné tribe after having no connection to her Native American culture until a few years ago. Adopted by a non-native family and raised in rural Indiana, the creative, who spent the majority of her career working in Los Angeles at activewear giants like Puma and Reebok, has come to understand herself in a new way since moving to New Mexico. “It's really exciting as a designer to use my creativity in a completely new way,” she says. “[I’m] living my best life up here.”

While rediscovering her native roots, Denet Deal is bolstering her fellow New Mexico-based creatives in the process. She allows local artists from Southwestern indigenous tribes to sell at 4Kinship, helping them get their foot in the door. “It's basically my way of doing what the city's not doing, creating a design incubator,” she tells me with a look of frustration. She notes there’s a real lack of representation in the area, adding that the city doesn’t offer grants or programs for native residents. Thus, Denet Deal’s mission is to create a safe place for her community to explore their cultural identity.

Denet’s road to professional and personal fulfillment was not always an easy one. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, she had build an impressive resume taking on high-level positions at some of the biggest sports brands in the world. But deep down, Denet Deal says she often felt like something was missing. The creative adds that she didn’t quite identify as a Diné woman while working in corporate fashion. “At that time, I was fighting so hard just to be a woman in the industry.”

In 2015, she left the corporate world and launched Orenda Tribe (now 4Kinship), an online store focused on upcycled vintage pieces. But she knew once her daughter — who is currently pursuing a career in fashion at the prestigious Central Saint Martins — graduated high school, the only way to truly connect with her Indigenous roots was to leave everything behind. Therefore, in 2019, Denet Deal bid farewell to California and relocated to New Mexico. There, she opened 4Kinship’s store in Albuquerque, which moved to Santa Fe’s Canyon Road last year. “It was my reintroduction into my culture,” she says about the experience, adding that while switching gears was difficult, it was a necessary process.

Read on to hear everything Denet Deal has accomplished since opening 4Kinship and how she’s making a positive impact in Santa Fe.

Building A Creative Community

Denet Deal collaborates with young emerging artists (around 10 at the moment), helping them to someday secure a store of their own. Once a week or so, they pop into 4Kinship to restock their products, which they receive 100% of profits back on. “It's a curated artwork store for native people to explore their indignity in whatever way they want,” she says, summarizing the shop’s ethos. When I inquired about some of the designers who sell in her shop, Denet Deal’s face immediately lit up with excitement, a sign she’s forged close bonds with her fellow artists. She first mentions namesake designer Lehi ThunderVoice Eagle, who runs his Long Beach-based luxury hat brand. Denet Deal then brings up emerging jewelry designer Josh Tafoya, who is from the Taos Pueblo area.

Though a good bit of her shelf space is reserved for local creatives, Denet Deal also sells her own hand-dyed and upcycled pieces. Made consciously in small batches, her bold, colorful creations are a feast for the eyes. (Our favorite looks online are the military jacket and fringy denim maxi skirt.) “My hands are normally just all shades of color,” she says, showing me her stained fingers during our Zoom call. “Something I dreamt of all those years working in fashion was to be the one creating things. [Now,] I get to be an artist at the end of my career.”

Her design inspiration at the moment? The snowy storm clouds in New Mexico. “Everything I'm doing right now is grays and purples,” she says. “That's the beauty of living in my homeland, to have my feet on the ground where my ancestors walked. Each piece is an art form; I see things and reflect all this beautiful nature in New Mexico.” Denet Deal doesn’t follow a strict fashion calendar — she makes clothing on her own terms. “[It depends on] how much time I have. I didn't have much time this fall because I was doing work out on Navajo nations.” Though her past collections have been rather small, 75 pieces just dropped this month (if you’re in the area, go check them out).

A Practice Of Giving Back

The designer says her real reintroduction to her heritage was through service. “I realized how important that was for my healing coming home,” she shares. As such, Denet Deal has spearheaded countless community programs. Last April, for instance, she started the Diné Skate Garden project, which opened with an appearance from none other than Tony Hawk. “You know that guy? He came out [for it,]” she jokes. As part of the program, they’re mentoring Diné skaters to teach kids how to skateboard while also giving out 5,000 skateboards to youth in the area. “I guess you could say I'm an auntie,” she says about her role fostering young Indigenous individuals.

Inside the shop, 4Kinship constantly hosts events, like its fashion show in January. The upcoming gathering is in partnership with the International Museum of Dance, with local dancers modeling the looks. In an effort to keep the wealth reinvested back into her community, Denet Deal says they hire native contractors at these get-togethers.

As she was rattling off everything on her plate, I couldn’t help but wonder: How does she squeeze so much into her work day? “I wake up about an hour before sunrise,” she tells me. “I do a lot of my ideation in the morning when my brain’s really good.” She also does most of her non-profit work before tackling other projects. “The middle of the day is when I'm dyeing stuff or working at the store with artists.” And because she’s a one-woman team, she then spends time on 4Kinship’s social assets. “Towards the very end [of the day], I'm mostly doing organizational things that help me get started for the next day.”

A Plan To Expand

Despite everything she’s taken on since moving to New Mexico, Denet Deal has aspirations to expand 4Kinship’s reach. One goal of hers? To acquire as many vacant spaces as possible so more artists can showcase their hand-made pieces. In fact, during our conversation, one of the first things she brought up was 4Kinship’s new gallery, which opened up earlier this month. The location aims to amplify the voices of local indigenous artists through showcases. To kick off the spot, 4Kinship hosted a sustainable artwear-focused exhibit, “WE BELONG HERE,” on Nov. 4.

Because she’s nearing the end of her career, Denet Deal has promising plans to help shape the creative scene when she’s gone. At the top of her list is teaching folks about the importance of community service. “Things like the Diné Skate Garden project or the outreach we do through 4Kinship Indigenous Futures Fund, [which is a non-profit that raises money for emerging artists], will have continuance because there will be a whole army of young people running it,” she says. “ It simply starts with creating tools and opportunities.”