A side profile of a Navajo woman. A logo that looks like the letter “C,” inspired by the Navajo wedding ceremony basket design. A line of text that states “Native Americans discovered Columbus.”
These are few of the streetwear designs printed on the apparel of OXDX Clothing, a Native American streetwear brand based in Tempe, Arizona. OXDX’s modern, street-style apparel sport powerful images and messages about Native American identity.
Jared Yazzie, the 30-year-old founder of OXDX, said he started designing Native American-inspired streetwear out of “necessity.” While he was a fan of streetwear since he was a teenager, he realized that he wasn’t being represented in the style.
“I didn’t want to support that kind of thing,” Yazzie said. “So the only way to keep it going, to keep my fashion sense alive, was to create it myself.”
Yazzie’s idea resonated with its audience – and his company has the numbers to prove it. OXDX has racked up 48,000 followers on Instagram and more than 18,000 likes on Facebook. In addition, the streetwear brand participated in a traveling exhibition named “Native Fashion Now,” which culminated with a stop at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.
“It was accepted really well,” Yazzie said. “Even today, it’s something people accept – they want and need it.”
OXDX is unique in that it manifests Native American design in the form of streetwear – a combination that is hard to find in the fashion industry. But OXDX also stands out because its “production is all indigenous-based,” as Yazzie put. Yazzie keeps everything “in-house” by employing Native American designers, models, filmmakers and photographers.
Yazzie also strives to be open and transparent about the way he operates his business. OXDX’s Instagram posts include new drop announcements, behind-the-scenes videos and even personal posts – such as the Yazzie celebrating inspirational women in his life like his mother. Yazzie credits the authenticity and transparency of OXDX’s work as the reasons the company has high social media engagement.
From dorm room to full-fledged LLC
OXDX began like many other startups: a passion project in a college dorm room. During Yazzie’s sophomore year at the University of Arizona, his 30 friends pre-ordered his t-shirts. These orders gave him the initial $900 he needed to invest into designing the items and the next collection. After working a few years at a screenprinting shop to educate himself, Yazzie began to work full-time for his own company in 2015.
Yazzie had ample ideas for the design. But the business side of the company did not come to him so easily. He detailed some of his challenges in the OXDX blog post named “Disconnected.”
The company “grew really fast. Too fast for me to create some structure for it,” Yazzie said. OXDX had large sales through various channels, which was hard to keep track of. He eventually hired an accountant who helped him stay organized.
“If I did it again, I’d definitely solidify our books and accounting right off,” he said.
He established his LLC in 2016 along with his oldest brother, Evan, who helped him stay afloat as he launched the business.
“My hope is to grow this brand to a point where he’s compensated,” Yazzie said.
OXDX is one of the small percent of U.S. businesses owned by Native Americans. The number of Native American-owned businesses has gone up steadily over time, increasing 35.5% from 2002 to 2012, according to the Small Business Owner survey data. Still, it has consistently comprised less than 1% of all the firms in the U.S.
“As a native company, it’s really tough to find resources within our own communities,” Yazzie said. “Native people have struggled and have gone through generations of historical trauma, and we’re still building from those ashes.”
In the long run, Yazzie says he wants to be a pioneer in the Native American entrepreneurship community. OXDX is already collaborating with other Native American artists and businesses, such as the Seattle-based blanket company Eighth Generation. Down the road, Yazzie hopes to create a network of and provide educational resources for Native American founders.
“We’re trying to be one of the first. We’re trying to be real trendsetters and show Native communities that this kind of thing is possible,” Yazzie said.