“I come from a culture and lineage of people that have been storytellers ever since we have been here. I want to keep our stories alive.”
Palani Bearghost | Owner of NEO Clothing
As a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes: Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, Palani Bear Ghost blends traditional indigenous culture with her own lived experiences to create No End Of Designs (NEO). NEO provides functional, stylish gear for the modern warrior who is “forever growing, evolving, and transcending in [their] creative journey.”
The shift toward making her own line began in 2011 when Palani organized the all-indigenous fashion show, Visionaries of Artistic Change. The event reignited her love for fashion and pushed her to start exploring the idea of building her own business.
At the time she was also dedicating herself to strengthening and sustaining the indigenous community through involvement with Native Wellness Institute, The Native American Network, and Big Brother Big Sister Columbia NW while serving as a board member for Native American Network (NAN) at Nike world headquarters.
In 2013, propelled forward by the momentum of her mentorship and philanthropy work, she began No End Of (NEO). The concept is rooted in the ancient understanding that the human body is a vessel for an infinite soul.
“I come from a culture and lineage of people that have been storytellers ever since we have been here. I want to keep our stories alive,” she says.
These stories are full of both darkness and light. The intergenerational trauma caused by colonization is a part of NEO’s story, but as Palani states, “that history of what [colonizers] tried to strip from us, that does not define who we are.” Through NEO, Palani stays connected with her elders and continues the legacy of resilience through each line of multi-functional, wearable art.
She says, “For me, art is therapy, breaking cycles and healing our generations. I’m so happy and proud to come from indigenous culture because I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for my people.”
The current collection, Defy All Odds, gathered inspiration from the designer’s experience protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. Hooded coverall-style onesies, waxed denim overalls, long jackets, and studded face masks activate the collection. The arrowhead and dire wolf motifs are seen throughout in embroidery and mesh cutouts represent strength, direction, and awareness of human impact on the earth. Each piece is meant to give the wearer emotional strength while also providing physical protection.
“As an indigenous woman, I have a responsibility as a leader and an activist in my community to protect our human rights, our civil rights, and justice for mother earth. Everything has a spirit,” Palani says.
NEO is now growing and thriving. With support from the Prosper Portland collaboration with Emerging Leaders, Palani is planning on expanding the brand by growing her creative team and opening the market to wholesale accounts. Staying close to the underground roots where it all began, NEO will also continue to represent at cultural events and street fairs and collaborate with other indigenous creatives. Wherever you find Palani Bear Ghost, you’re certain to find no end of designs.
Author: Emmeline Eao
Photos: Justin Katigbak
Published: March 2019