Laura Miranda at her downtown L.A. clothing company Avelaka.

Laura Miranda at her downtown L.A. clothing company Avelaka. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

Laura Miranda is a lawyer who used to represent the interests of her people, the Pechanga band of American Indians in the Temecula Valley between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Today, she’s representing her community and other tribes in a different way: through fashion.

Miranda has ditched all but a few legal projects for her tribe to run Avelaka, a line of women’s clothing inspired by American Indian culture. She said she just wanted to do something more creative.

“I knew I still wanted to do work in my community for tribal rights, but I didn’t want that to be my full-time job anymore,” she said. “I’m not doing the clothing brand primarily to create beautiful clothes. My primary desire is to share the beauty of my culture in a way that is more artistic than I could being a lawyer.”

Miranda works with a designer to create the Avelaka clothes and produces all her garments in downtown Los Angeles. Since launching her first collection inspired by Pechanga themes this past spring, she has sold her fashion line in small boutiques across the country. One tank top was sold in Anthropologie stores nationwide.

Avelaka’s fall line, now in stores, drew inspiration from the Pacific Northwest Tlingit tribe, including from tribal weavings, cedar wood, shells, and the patterns and colors of the aurora borealis. She’s careful not to exploit anything that’s sacred to the tribes.

“Some designers take maybe a figure or symbol or some kind of motif that has sacred or spiritual meaning and use it in clothing, but we would never do that,” she said. “We use them as inspiration. I want to show people that there are other ways of doing it that are respectful but still get the taste and the beauty of the culture.” – Bethany Firnhaber

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