This fall, Makah tribal member artist John Goodwin, 71, or Nytom, is teaming up with Supreme on a series of printed jackets, the first time the streetwear label has partnered with a Native American artist.
Nytom is a Makah Tribal member who was born in 1948 and raised in the community of Neah Bay.
He has a strong sense of family gained from extensive historical knowledge of Makah songs, dances, ceremonies, and rituals. The sense of family helps Nytom understand how the families of Neah Bay came to be and allow him to trace his connections with other First Peoples of the coast.
After returning from Vietnam in the early 1970s, he became more involved in the artistic traditions and culture of his home on the coast. He apprenticed under the late Art Thompson for several years. Through Thompson’s connections with other people in Canada, Nytom developed a greater understanding of how the art manifested the teachings of his ancestors.
This will be a partnership that, in typically mysterious Supreme fashion, came out of the blue.
Flash-forward a few months later after Nytom learned who and what Supreme is, and the collaboration, which will drop sometime in the coming weeks, is already gaining major buzz across streetwear-devoted sites and Supreme superfans alike.
In recent years, Supreme has taken to partnering with big institutions, whether Louis Vuitton or even New York City MetroCards. Teaming up with an indigenous artist of Nytom’s stature is a timely one.
After briefly apprenticing with a woodcarver named Loren White in 1979, and experiencing frustration, Nytom then switched mediums and began engraving precious metals, such as silver. By the ’80s, he also began pulling limited-edition giclée prints and screen-printing them onto clothing, which was one of his first forays into the world of fashion.
More recently, he has created masks for his community’s ceremonial dances, as well as focused on graphic artworks, which are available on his site, that tell the history of his people and celebrate community milestones and events.
For his new Supreme collaboration, Nytom revived clothing designs from his archive by printing them onto Supreme’s bomber jackets. The prints incorporate a traditional element from the Haida people—a tribe that, like the Makah, also come from the Pacific Northwest Coast.
The images he sed show power and connect directly to the stories and songs of his culture.
Given that Supreme reached out with the specific request to revive his jackets that they found on eBay, Nytom didn’t see the collaboration as them “copying” his pieces, but rather an opportunity to bring them back to the masses to be enjoyed again.
And culture is indeed at the heart of Goodwin’s work. It is, after all, the reason he still creates. He added that he hopes the Supreme collection will inspire other mainstream fashion labels to include and engage with Native artists rather than simply appropriating their work, which is, unfortunately, still often the case.