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Korina Emmerich On Indigenous Fashion And Her Featured Work For InStyle

Korina Emmerich, a Brookly-based fashion designer who grew up in Eugene and is a member of the Puyallup Indian Tribe of Washington state.
Provided by Korina Emmerich.
EMME Studios
Korina Emmerich, a Brookly-based fashion designer who grew up in Eugene and is a member of the Puyallup Indian Tribe of Washington state.

It’s every fashion designer’s dream to see their work prominently featured on a magazine cover, especially if it’s worn by someone prominent themselves. That’s the case with Korina Emmerich, a Eugene native who now lives and works in New York City.  A dress of hers adorns Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the upcoming August cover of InStyle Magazine.

Haaland is the first Native American woman to hold the position, and Emmerich is also Native. KLCC’s Brian Bull asked her if she ever expected to have such a breakthrough moment like this one.

Korina Emmerich, a Brookly-based fashion designer who grew up in Eugene and is a member of the Puyallup Indian Tribe of Washington state.
Credit Provided by Korina Emmerich. / EMME Studios
EMME Studios
Korina Emmerich, a Brookly-based fashion designer who grew up in Eugene and is a member of the Puyallup Indian Tribe of Washington state.

<--break->An edited and condensed portion of a interview between KLCC's Brian Bull and EMME Studio founder and designer Korina Emmerich, about her work in the fashion industry and recent exposure creating a dress worn by U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for InStyle magazine.

Emmerich: (laughs) Oh, I have hoped since I was really young that this day would come, that I would be able to be on the cover of a magazine, and my work would be on the cover.  And it’s just such an honor, especially to have somebody so game-changing as Secretary Haaland to be wearing one of my pieces.  I did not know that it was going to be on the cover, the items were pulled by the stylists. I knew it was going to be for InStyle magazine, but I had no idea it was going to be the cover until the day the stylist sent me a screenshot and said,  ‘We got the cover,” and I was just shocked.  So it’s a pretty huge deal, I’m still kinda resonating in it (laughs) but it’s pretty exciting.

Bull: Describe to me how you felt when you saw Interior Secretary Haaland on the cover, looking so stately and as the cover says, so “badass”…wearing something that you designed.

Emmerich: Yeah, I was actually outside walking my dog at the time (laughs), so I just checked my phone and I was shocked. It took me a few minutes for it to really sink in, that it was going to be the cover of the actual, physical magazine, it wasn’t just an online story.  It took me a minute to really realize what had happened.  And I looked around and realized I didn’t really have anybody to share it with. So I was kinda internalizing all of that excitement until I got home, and the response from those images being released was just incredible, I’m so grateful for everybody’s support.

Bull: What are the design elements you specifically put into the dress that Secretary Haaland is wearing? 

Emmerich:  Yes, the piece that I actually designed was on the cover that I designed is from my Mother of Waters collection. And the collection is inspired by my tribal homelands up Washington state, where my father’s side of the family is from. Sustainability is something I focus on in my design, it’s the cornerstone of my design, it’s part of my design mission.  So the dress itself this bright cerulean blue, mock neck, long sleeve dress that’s made from 100% organic cotton. And along with the dress it’s styled with one of Deb Haaland’s personal pow-wow shawls. Which just…the colors together look so beautiful together, and a few other designers who did the handbag that’s on the cover, as well as the jewelry.  But it’s very beautifully bright blue cover with a red background so it’s absolutely stunning.

Bull: How long had you known that Secretary Haaland would be wearing one of your creations?

Emmerich:  The story is actually quite a complicated one, because when InStyle had initially reached out to say they were dressing Deb Haaland for a story with the magazine, and they needed items the next day. So I sent a box of pieces of samples that I had in studio, and it was stuck at the post office and they were unable to retrieve it. So I thought I had missed this opportunity completely, I’d written her a letter and had included some gifts. And I just thought, “Oh my gosh, wow, this opportunity’s  just over because it’s trapped at the post office.”  And they couldn’t get someone over to retrieve it in time, they were leaving for Washington DC that night.  So the stylist contacted me through Instagram DMs, and was like, “Look, we really want your stuff.  Is there anything that we can do?”  So I packed up two more boxes, a messenger came at 11pm at night to pick them up. And then one of the creative directors of InStyle magazine hand carried the items on the plane to Washington DC first thing in the morning

So it almost didn’t happen (laughs) And I’m just so grateful that everybody put forth so much effort to really support the designers that ended up being a part of this.

Bull: Have you heard from Secretary Haaland about how she felt about the dress, or being featured on the cover of InStyle?

Emmerich:  I have not, yet. I’m really hopeful that I will be able to speak to her one day, whether it be over the phone or (laughs) whatever, I haven’t heard but she looked absolutely incredible and I’m sure she felt amazing during the shoot.


KLCC’s Brian Bull talking to Korina Emmerich, a Eugene native of  Puyallup Indian heritage, talking about her dress being worn by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for the cover of InStyle Magazine. The subcover is featured on InStyle's August issue hitting newstands on July 16th. 

Note: For an extended interview with Emmerich, where she describes her activism, advocacy, and business philosophy - as well as why so many of her creations use Pendleton blanket designs - click here

Copyright 2021, KLCC. 

Copyright 2021 KLCC

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. He is a 20-year reporter who has worked at NPR, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including three Edward R. Murrow Awards and the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award in 2012.