When Angela Howe-Parrish heard nothing about her application to a Paris fashion show, she assumed she hadn’t been chosen.
“I was desperate,” she said.
But one day in June, Howe-Parrish opened an email she never thought she’d get.
She was accepted to participate in the third annual Paris Indigenous Fashion Week, an event that provides a global platform for Indigenous designers to break into the mainstream fashion industry.
Howe-Parrish immediately published the email. She took the print copy and read it again, sitting on the desk in her bedroom.
She then took the gun to her husband, Christian Parrish, who was quick to tell the rapper “Supama” to many.
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“Lord!” she said to him. “My dream will come true.”
How-parrish began to cry. The truth was not heard.
Fashion is in the Haw-Parish blood.
She was raised by her mother, Donna Howe, who was a seamstress and home economics teacher. To earn some extra money, Donna started sewing clothes from her native designs on the side. She named her brand Choc Cherry Creek, after the Crows used to call the Bozeman area.
When Howe-Parrish was in eighth grade, her mother taught at Plenty Coups High School in Pryor. The school was so small — now serving about 70 students — that Howe-Parrish was allowed to attend the prom.
Howe-Parrish is excited to show off her new skills. She accessorized her dress with a black glitter bodice top and a flared metallic midi skirt with black lace detailing.
Howe-Parrish’s grandparents were great beauties, and when Howe-Parrish was about 19 or 20, she was eager to learn from them.
“I remember my grandmother gave me the half-made medal, and she said, ‘You know the rest of how I cut the first half,'” Hough-Parrish recalled. “The quality of her leather work was excellent. It was perfect. I had to take mine out and redo it a few times. But that’s how I learned.”
Growing up, Crowe and Howe-Parrish, a Blackfeet native, worked in sales and entrepreneurship, and continued to sew and bead for fun. She helped design some of the items for Good Medicine Clothing, which are part of her husband’s brand. She made some regalia. She sewed some clothes for herself for events. And she is devoted to her family members.
Over time, friends and family encouraged Howe-Parrish, now in her 40s, to sell and exhibit her work. Howe-Parrish entertained the idea, but it didn’t materialize until her friend Cora Chandler presented her with the opportunity.
Chandler helped organize the first Big Sky Native Women in Fashion and Art Gala in April.
“I’m planning this, I remember her telling me. I want you to be a part of it. So get ready,'” Hough-Parrish recalled, adding that, at the time, she was afraid she wasn’t up to the task.
But Haw-parrish was ready. It was her first fashion show and she wore 12 looks. More than 500 people attended.
The event was a success. People wanted to follow Howe-Parish. Congratulations community members. They wanted to buy her work. They wanted to know where she was going next. Howe-Parrish was delighted.
Howe-Parrish began exhibiting her work in many exhibitions. And a little over a month later in May, with her mother’s permission, Howe-Parrish Chock started Cherry Creek, a company featuring contemporary Apsalocke, or raven, designs.
In September, Howe-Parrish and her family flew from Montana to Paris so she could show her work at Indigenous Fashion Week. About a dozen other Native designers participated, and she was the only Montana designer.
Howe-Parrish created 16 scenes in a collection called “Honoring My Mothers and Grandmothers.” About half of the pieces were “ready to wear,” and half were couture. All the dresses featured trendy apsaloke designs and geometric shapes. The collection featured a gold dress with fake teeth that Howe-Parrish calls “showcase.”
Howe-Parrish said Native models walked the show, and every makeup artist was also Native. Howe’s 13-year-old son Brayden modeled in the show, and her older son Samuel’s girlfriend, Corinne Lamere, wore a “show-stopping” dress.
“It was too high for me,” Howe-Parrish said. “It’s amazing that we’re in these places. Native representation is important. You can use this platform as an opportunity to share who we are, what we still have and our beautiful culture. It’s really special. There is a lot of meaning in each part. That’s what I love.”
Howe-Parrish said it opened doors to the world of fashion. Her business is becoming more and more popular and she receives more clothing orders and fashion show invitations. Her success in the industry has also brought opportunities to her community.
“People have been asking me if Corinne has signed with an agency,” she said. “It’s amazing to see and demonstrate this impact. Such events can inspire a person to sew or dress or create something for himself. It was the greatest joy.”
Huey-Parrish hopes to continue to encourage and inspire local youth. This month, she plans to visit St. Labre Indian School and Lodge Grass Public Schools in Ashland to talk with students about fashion, self-love and confidence.
“I like to go to these communities and use the youth in my fashion shows,” she said. “I love putting my clothes on them and watching their confidence grow. They are proud of that. They love it. And I love to see their happiness.”
Howe-Parrish is hoping to launch her new “resilience collection” in November. The line includes menswear, casual suits and dresses – all complete with Crow colors and geometric patterns.
For more information, visit Choke Cherry Creek on Facebook or Chokecherrycreekdesigns.com.
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