The Nature of a designer

Innovative. Eco-Friendly. Avant-garde. Distinctive. Fashion-Forward. Organic. Unique. Leader. Showstopper. These are just a few words that come to mind when you hear the name Patricia Michaels.

For over 20 years, Patricia Michaels, has been producing one-of-a-kind couture that defies fashion trends. Growing up in Santa Fe, NM, she was surrounded by beauty—in culture, landscape and art, all which greatly influenced her design aesthetic. Her Native American culture is deeply rooted in New Mexico, and as a child she spent a lot of time on the Taos Pueblo where many of her family, including her grandparents, lived. In this majestic, untouched terrain, Patricia received a unique education--the environment became her teacher, and with the help of her elders, she learned to respect and honor the process of working with her hands and heart.

Today, Patricia continues to draw inspiration from nature and her Native roots. She named her company, PM Waterlily, after her Native name, vowing to keep her traditions alive through the interconnectedness of her fashions. In this respect, Patricia has become a forerunner in the fashion industry for practicing cultural sustainability.

PM Waterlily designs are custom made out of Patricia’s Taos, NM studio and include high-end limited edition apparel and casual lines for both men and women. She chooses to work with organic materials whenever possible, and hand-dyes and paints her fabrics, often using algae pigments. Each design she produces showcases nature’s influence combined with fluid textures, creating clothing with movement and individuality. “My clothes tell a story”, says Michaels, “…where the wearer gets to incorporate their own history and energy into the garment.”


Accolades, awards and honors


Most recently, Patricia has gained national recognition for Peabody Essex Museum show, "Native Fashion Now" 2015 and international attention after receiving the highly prestigious Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Arts and Design Award from the museum board of directors in New York City in November 2014. She is the very first recipient of this award, an historic achievement.

After her successful run on the Emmy Award winning season 11 of “Project Runway” in 2012 where she won the first runner up title, she was recently asked back to the “Project Runway All Stars”, Season 4.  Her “Project Runway” debut was a historical first for a Native American designer and has brought her many new opportunities to showcase her sought out fashion and textiles.

In 2013, Patricia was awarded the "Taos Citizen of the Year Award" and was presented with the "Eugene Crawford Memorial Peace Pipe Award" by LaDonna Harris of Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO). She also was awarded the Letter of Recognition of Achievements by the NM State Senator's Office and Senator Tom Udall. She was also Named "BEST of the WEST 2013" by Cowboys & Indians Magazine.

Patricia was the first Native American Designer to have a collection at the Lincoln Center during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in NYC. Her Fall/Winter 2013 "TREES" Collection wowed the audiences far and wide. PM Waterlily later had a Couture Capsule Collection in September, 2013 during New York Fashion Week as part of “Runway the Real Way” at Yotel Hotel.  Her Ready-to-Wear Spring/Summer 2014 "SEEDS" Collection included plus sizes 12-26 and debuted October, 2013 in Santa Fe, NM.  The previous year, she had shown her designs at Bryant Park in New York during Fashion Week, as part the production by UNRESERVED: American Indian Fashion and Art Alliance, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

After participating in “Project Runway”, actor, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, star of TV'S hit show Modern Family, contacted Patricia to become a guest designer for his line of bowties- JTF Bowties. The proceeds for Patricia’s ties went to The Freedom to Marry Act, in NM. Patricia has continued to work with Ferguson to form “Tie The Knot”, with proceeds to aid the ACLU of NM & Why Marriage Matters, New Mexico. Her bowtie’s are one of the top ten best sellers.

Lecture and power point presentation at the, Dominican University, Chicago IL 2015
Annual Conference of the International Textile and Apparel Association 2015

Native American Student Services at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, CO 2014

As a longtime featured artist in Santa Fe’s SWAIA Annual Indian Market, Patricia has been awarded many prestigious awards, including: Best of Classification in Textiles 2011 (a first for a modern garment or textile); First Place in Garments 2011; and First Place in Contemporary Fashion & Accessories 2011. In 2010 and 2011, Patricia produced guerilla fashion shows during SWAIA’s Indian Market, as well as being a featured designer in the “Art to Wear” exhibit at the Wheelwright Museum from 2004-2010.

Patricia has been featured in numerous publications including: Wall Street Journal; "Art Review", interview with Andrea Shea of WBUR (for NPR's Here & Now), interview with Karen Holmes Ward at WCVB Cityline TV studios