Adrienne Benjamin’s First Beaded Shoe Collection with Minnetonka
After two sold-out limited edition hat collections, the beautiful beaded design from Anishinaabe artist and Minnetonka’s Reconciliation Advisor, Adrienne Benjamin, is back – this time, on a pair of mocs! Read on for a further look into Adrienne’s first-ever shoe collection with Minnetonka, and her thoughts on Native design in the fashion industry today.
What excites you about launching a beaded moccasin collection with Minnetonka?
I am excited and inspired by the growth of the relationships that I've built in my different roles here at Minnetonka. I'm excited by the opportunities we are building for original Native designs and for the artists producing them. I think this goes so far beyond just the work here within the state of Minnesota or Minnetonka's reach – we are really bringing visibility to this work, which has gone unseen or unrecognized for so long.
What does “Bepeshaa” mean and why did you choose this name for your moccasin collection?
Bepeshaa translates to "it has stripes" (repeating or reduplicated). I always want to utilize the Ojibwe language whenever I can. In much of my artwork, I use it to give life, meaning, and vibrancy to what I create – and this collection is no different.
Both this collection of beaded mocs and your hand-beaded hats use a striped pattern. What does the stripe pattern mean to you?
In much of my art practice, I really rely on color palette choices and the way they interact with each other to be the main aesthetic of the art. I think that is one thing I've been complimented on the most across my different art mediums – my usage of color and the ability to create a vibe through them on the art piece.
How did it feel to see your hand-beaded hat designs transferred to a moc collection?
One thing that I've been super appreciative of working with Minnetonka is the different facets of the work. Sandra, (the shoe designer) actually reached out to me with the idea to transfer the beaded linework from my hats to a shoe. Through working and creating together, we've all been able to reimagine the possibilities of how designs can be utilized and put forth. All of the ways have shaped and changed the way I look at my own art now as well.
Tell us a bit more about the importance of moccasins in your life. What do moccasins symbolize to you and your Anishinaabe culture?
Makizinan are everything to Anishinaabeg. They carry you through life from the first time your feet touch the ground to when you journey beyond this physical life we know here. They are representative of the journey and how it can be beautiful, and how we really rely on our artists to create things for us to move through life in style and with beauty.
How would you style these shoes? What is your favorite outfit and/or occasion to wear them?
I LOVE a versatile boat shoe, and when I saw these that's exactly what I thought of. I feel like these would be a perfect casual, everyday go-to shoe. I'm extra excited for the folks that own the hats in this colorway – because I'm going to need pictures of that matchy-matchy awesomeness!
How do you want people to feel while wearing these shoes?
I want people to feel good knowing that they are wearing something that came from an Anishinaabe artist. I want people to feel good about their purchase from a company who cares about change and doing better in many different ways. I want people to feel proud to be supporting me as a traditional artist and the larger rez community that I come from. I know that it is never just about me – my home community and the wider Native community also feels the effects of being seen and having their art appreciated respectfully by the wider world.
What is something you want people to know about Native American designers?
For so long, and even still now, all types of knock-off Native designs exist in the world – either taken from a photo or "inspired" by the works of actual Indigenous artists. Collections like this moc are the real deal, and I think the optics of that are incredibly important and long overdue in the fashion industry. I love that this design was pulled from my hats and put onto a shoe. As an artist, it gives me other ways to support myself financially and different ways to see my art in the world.
What is something you want Native American designers to know about working with Minnetonka on a collection?
Personally, I take this work so seriously. I really want people to know that while this company has made mistakes in the past, they are working hard internally as people and externally as a business to rectify those wrongs in so many ways. They want to be the best allies possible, and this reconciliation work within the company is truly a priority – not just a headline. There are so many exciting things in the works that will be rolling out over the next few years at Minnetonka, and they all center around Native designs and the artists who created them. People can change, and businesses can change too. I think everyone deserves that chance to make good on their wrongs.