What is your full name and which tribe are you affiliated with?
Korina Emmerich. I am part of the Puyallup tribe.
How would you describe your brand to someone who is not familiar?
I built my Brooklyn-based brand, EMME, on the backbone of Expression, Art and Culture. Leads the responsibility to embrace art and design as a whole and incorporate it into its brand story. My colorful work is known to reflect my Indigenous heritage originating from The Coast Salish Territory, the Puyallup tribe. With a strong focus on social justice and climate, we speak of industry responsibility and accountability: working actively to expose and dismantle systems of oppression and challenge colonial ways of thinking.
Items are made to order at our Brooklyn, New York studio located in the occupied Canarsie region. Most items are made from recycled, recycled and all natural materials that fit into the life cycle of clothing from manufacture to biodegradation. Limited supplies.
What influenced you to start your brand?
I am blessed to come from a very creative family. My dad was an art teacher when I was growing up and I knew from a young age I wanted to be an artist, but I’m still exploring what my medium will be.
The charm of ’90s designers still resonates with me, witnessing the art-driven fashion of some of the greats. I pasted my walls with pictures of McQueen, Versace, Gucci, etc. I wanted so badly to be a part of that world, to leave myself behind and form a glamorous lifestyle that seemed unattainable to a child like me.
The first complete outfit I made was my Jingle Dress Regalia in 9th grade. The Jingle dress, also known as a healing gown or prayer gown, consists of a multicolored foundation with rolled tobacco caps that create a jingle. As you dance, each jingle has a special prayer associated with it, and the sound of the jingle releases the prayer. It was during the making of this Regalia that I knew I wanted fashion to be my medium.
EMME was born out of a desire to create a visual representation that is higher than my many inspirations that combine my Indigenous and contemporary art influences. While keeping the brand focused on ethics and sustainability.
The main statement I maintain at the forefront of EMME is: ‘One person’s success is not worth the loss of many.’
Has your Indigenous background influenced your approach to jewelry and design? If so, how?
I believe Indigenous designers are innately sustainable because we were raised to have a stronger connection to the earth and what it provides. I’ve always been taught not to take more than you need. To always consider future generations with every action or inaction you take. We have an understanding of the earth’s ecology, coexistence, and dependence of all living things, summed up in the term “all my relationships”. Recognizing the principles of equality, harmony and unity, we inherently created the idea of ”no waste” in common traditional practices such as hunting and fishing: using every part of an animal to provide food, clothing, tools, etc. Everything that Earth provides is received with high respect and gratitude.
How do you expect your brand to give back to your community?
So far, EMME has matched donations to communities in need, as well as working to allocate masks and PPE for parents and community members.
I, myself, work on the inside Indigenous Kinship Collective, the community of Indigenous women, femmes, and gender-non-conforming people gathered in occupied Lenapehoking (NYC) to honor one another and our relatives through art, activism, education and representation.
We work to support our community through the Mutual Aid initiative, funding allocation, direct action and distribution of goods.
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