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This week, CNN is showcasing the achievements of 14 individuals in its 2024 Champions for Change series, and among them is Amy Denet Deal (Diné), the visionary behind the sustainable fashion label 4KINSHIP. 

This week, CNN shined a spotlight on individuals who embody resilience, ingenuity, and forward-thinking, both on television and across its digital platforms. The culmination of this celebration will be an hour-long special, hosted by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, airing on Saturday, May 18 at 9pm ET.

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Denet Deal's inclusion in this esteemed lineup stems from her impactful contributions through her sustainable fashion brand 4KINSHIP, particularly in her dedication to giving back to Native communities.

Moreover, Denet Deal's efforts extend beyond her brand as she actively supports and uplifts the careers of fellow Indigenous designers, artists, and creatives. Notable among her endeavors is the immersive fashion experience ++4++, which recently took place on May 4 at Site Santa Fe, New Mexico, showcasing her innovative approach to fashion and community empowerment. She partnered with the Inspiring Children Foundation, DC Shoes, Vans and World Central Kitchen to open Diné Skate Garden Project in 2023, a skate park in the remote Navajo community of Tóhaaliní. The open was attended by hundreds of Navajo community members and skateboarding superstar Tony Hawk.

Native News Online spoke with Denet Deal about the importance of amplifying Indigenous voices and stories, particularly through projects like the Diné Skate Garden. She shares insights into founding 4KINSHIP; addresses challenges she faces as an entrepreneur, including cultural acceptance and time management; and offers valuable advice for those entering the fashion industry. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Could you share your thoughts on the Champions for Change series and what aspect of it excites you the most?
It's a real honor. Having my Indigenous story recognized means our community's voices are getting heard. It's about amplifying Native perspectives, which is important for everyone to be a part of. 

My story resonates with families who've faced displacement, like my mom's. It shows that no matter how tough it gets, finding your way home is possible. I didn't have much guidance through it all, so it was a bit clumsy, but it's the most meaningful thing I've ever done.

What initially sparked your passion for sustainable fashion and led you to found 4KINSHIP?
As a mom concerned about future generations, I found myself working in a business that produced toxic waste daily. When I had my daughter, it sparked a realization. I began questioning everything: What am I doing? Where is all this wealth going? What's the real cost? 

The answers were harsh, pushing me to make a change. Around the same time, I was considering my next chapter as an empty nester in New Mexico. It felt like several things were aligning, like a brewing storm. I returned in 2019, just before COVID hit. Amidst the chaos, I discovered I had skills useful for mutual aid, particularly in administration. That marked the beginning of my journey.

Can you share more about the Diné Skate Garden project and how it has impacted the community?
During a time when our community faced immense challenges, I found fulfillment in helping. I shifted my daily focus, pondering what more I could contribute. That's when the idea of a skate park emerged. 

Despite my background as a fashion designer, specializing in active sportswear, the concept resonated deeply. I had connections in the industry and understood firsthand how skateboarding positively impacted lives. 

Post-COVID, I saw it as a vital outlet for kids' physical and mental well-being. Thus, the project took off. Today, it thrives because I believe in the necessity of more skateparks. Considering the relatively low cost compared to its long-term benefits for countless children, I envision myself building skate parks for years to come.

What inspired you to create events like ++4++ to support and uplift other Indigenous designers, artists, and creatives?
I've launched events like "++ILLUMINATE++" and “++4++” to uplift Indigenous voices, especially those of young creatives. Working closely with them in my shop, I noticed a need for authentic expression beyond mere performance. 

These events provide a platform for Indigenous storytellers to share their narratives without filters or restrictions. Instead of profiting myself, the earnings go directly to these artists, supporting their budding careers. It's a form of reinvestment and a celebration of ancestral wisdom and creativity. While it's a lot to manage, I'm committed to continuing these events, as they've been incredibly impactful and energizing.

What challenges have you faced as a founder of a sustainable fashion brand, and how have you overcome them?
As a founder, I think it took a while for Native folks to accept somebody that grew up outside the community to be running a Native brand. The initial years back in 2019 and 2020 were rough, filled with uncertainties and stumbling blocks as I navigated unfamiliar territory. Recognizing my own limitations was tough, especially coming to terms with what I didn't know due to lack of exposure. 

Time management has been my biggest struggle, juggling brand responsibilities alongside community initiatives. I'm eager to attract more resources to expand and create job opportunities, which will in turn increase our capacity to make a difference. 

If Santa Fe doesn't provide the necessary support within the next year, I'm open to relocating the brand to the West Coast, where it thrives, and establishing pop-up locations to better serve our community.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are passionate about sustainability and social impact in the fashion industry?
Maintaining authenticity in business is crucial. While money is necessary, it shouldn't overshadow your core values and passion. Prioritizing heart-based decisions and reciprocity brings a sense of fulfillment essential for mental and business growth. 

Incorporating giving back into your business model not only benefits others but also fosters personal well-being. My journey reflects this shift from a profit-centric approach in corporate fashion to a more balanced, soulful existence. 

Returning to my roots allowed me to strip away distractions and connect with my true purpose. Starting each day with intention and manifesting those intentions has transformed my life, empowering me to lead as a matriarch. I'm grateful for the opportunity to rediscover myself in the homelands.

Are there any other projects or initiatives you're currently involved in or excited about?
We're teaming up with Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week in August for Indian Market, collaborating with the incredible Jolene Mitton and her Supernatural Models. Jolene's innovative productions left me in awe when I attended their show last November. 

Bringing some of that creativity to Santa Fe is thrilling. It's an opportunity for me to step back a bit and let the younger generation shine, while I offer support. This partnership signifies a decolonial approach, breaking down borders and inviting our relatives from up north to join us. It's going to be an amazing celebration.

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.