RED HOOK — Inspired by indigenous tribes around the world, Red Hook designer Cheedah Suuwah is launching a new summer line for women, with intricately fringed T-shirts, fur bikinis and feather earrings.
The 40-year-old Japanese-born designer said he was moved to create his line, Natural Spirits, after years of connecting with members of a Native American tribe, as well as watching a documentary in which an African tribe engaged in ritual scarification, in which they cut their skin into patterns.
"Some people understand, some people don't," Suuwah said of his designs.
Suuwah, who was born Masahiro Ito in Hamamatzu Shizuoka, Japan, said he had long admired Native American culture, and he was so drawn to it that spent time with the Crow tribe in Montana. Members of the tribe there took him into the fold and gave him the name Cheedah Suuwah, which means “Thunder Wolf,” he said.
"Everything comes from Mother Earth," he said, adding that people are wrong to separate themselves into different cultures.
House music artist Jasmine Clemente said the line's name, and Suuwah's collection, appealed to a "spiritually conscious" side of her.
"It can make [you] look youthful but not teeny-bop," said Clemente, a 31-year-old Puerto Rican singer who lives in Sunset Park.
The designs are "lightly influenced but not too much" by Native American culture, she said, adding that the clothing blends into today's society.
Clemente will wear one of the outfits, a cream fur bikini, on the cover of her new dance single "Wanting More," which will be released in August. Suuwah will also style the singer for future music videos and performances.
Before launching his current clothing line, Suuwah worked as a freelance designer for Rocawear, among other brands. He said he prefers designing clothes for women since men aren’t “really rocking the feathers,” he said.
“I rock fringe shirts,” he said. “Not so many [can] rock that.”
Earrings start at $5 and tank tops run from $15.
“Art was natural for me,” he said.
For now, though, Suuwah said he is focusing on his fashion line, hoping to sell it in boutiques across the city. He has already scored deals with musicians and hip-hop artists, including an Australian group that will wear the clothes in a new music video.
For more information on Cheedah Suuwah and Natural Spirits, visit his Facebook page.