If you know anything about Oribe, then you probably know that their holiday collections likely won't involve something predictable, like red and green stripes. During a team trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2019, they came across the work of Rowan Harrison, the Native American visual artist of Two Tribes Pottery, who ended up designing Oribe Haircare’s 2020 Holiday Collection.
While at the Sante Fe Indian Market, Jennifer Smith, Vice President of Packaging for Oribe Haircare, immediately noticed how Harrison’s work stood out from all others at the show. “It was visually complex and had originality that was unique to Rowan as an artist,” she tells TZR. This interest would eventually lead to Rowan’s title of being a part of the several artists that align with the brand’s core message of gratitude and balance while also celebrating the brand’s deep values for craftsmanship and artistic expression. “Our partnership with Rowan allowed us to create something beautiful and unique that explore our connection to the natural world via the use of traditional Native American iconography through Rowan’s modern perspective.”
Oribe Haircare has a history. Perhaps best known for their top-notch hair nourishing products, the hair and body brand is also no stranger to teaming up with local artists for their yearly holiday collection. Geometric shapes by L.A-based textile artists, Block Shop, transformed 2019’s packaging into a built-in gift wrapper. In 2018, award-winning Japanese calligrapher, Aoi Yamaguchi, added her contemporary flair. Choosing to illuminate his Indigenous Native American heritage, Harrison created three distinct designs that serve as an ode to Mother Nature.
For this year’s Oribe Haircare Holiday Collection, Harrison chose three Native American motifs that are symbolic of the essential connection of cycles through our lives. “Incorporating my love for the natural world, nature, and elements of Mother Earth is part of my whole process,” Harrison tells TZR. “Approaching it from another angle beyond the natural world would seem unnatural to me.” The first design, Terra, embodies preservation and symbolizes the Earth. Illustrated in a red palette, its triangular motifs represent four, spiritually revered mountain ranges in the American Southwest. The second, Aquatica, illuminates change, and transformation. Depicted by water, spiral motifs represent the constant change in our lives that allow us to evolve and grow. Lastly, Flora links growth, and the celebration of life. Life’s spontaneity is symbolized in free-flowing lines.
And, while these designs fascinate audiences and consumers, this expression of gratitude attributed to the natural world is the default for Harrison. Living in Fullerton, California, the visual artist’s life centers around making art, teaching and sharing Native American culture through pottery classes at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, playing tennis, visiting the cinema, bodyboarding, and more. Because of this seemingly modern lifestyle, Harrison considers himself “a Native American artist who has one foot in the traditional world and one foot in the contemporary world.” But, nonetheless, Native American culture remains as the foundation and heart of what he does.
Harrison’s parents are both full-blooded Native Americans; his mother hails from the Pueblo of Isleta and his dad from the Navajo people, which are both based in the American Southwest. Though they share differences in language, cultural customs, and religious practices, their one unifying trait is reflected in Oribe’s Holiday Collection design. “The way we view ourselves and our place in the universe is based on our unique relationship with Mother Earth and the value, importance and preservation of nature,” Harrison says. “It is Mother Earth that has given us sustenance for our people to exist from one generation to the next.
Even pottery, Harrison’s prime form of art, is directly linked to Native traditions. Growing up, Harrison and his family would travel to the Pueblo of Isleta and spend weeks in the summer with his grandmother. During this time, his grandmother would introduce him to the medium of clay by teaching Harrison and his cousin to make simple pinch pots and animal forms using only the clay and their hands. But, aside from beauty, pottery holds a significant role amongst the Pueblo people. Clay, plants, rocks, water, fire, and air are all the elements that are used in traditional pueblo pottery. “In many ways, it represents our interdependence with Mother Earth,” says Harrison. Additionally, the designs and patterns that decorate the forms of traditional pottery “show that it not only functions as a utilitarian object but as a religious and spiritual one as well.”
Bringing the aforementioned elements of Native American traditions into haircare seems extremely contrasting. How does one merge the messages of luxury haircare while linking to the natural world? Well, according to Harrison, the aspect of “different natural styles of hair — its flow, its design — were heavily considered.” As the designs started coming to life, Harrison was able to skillfully attach the narratives behind the collection through his artwork. Ultimately, Harrison hopes that this collaboration exemplifies how two parties were able to work towards a common goal and “communicated and trusted one another to create a wonderful project.”
In return, the chance that people outside of the Native American community become open to a new dialogue of Indigenous issues and ideas.
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