My Cowichan Design Submissions

"Broken Navajo" Design

***Update 2/13/17*** - Polling for the contest is officially up here. A lot of great submissions all around, with the top 3 headed over to the Collective Action page on NMWA's website later for the final showdown. If you like more than one design, you can vote for multiple submissions if you would like.


The contest at No Man Walks Alone for a guest designer on their collaboration with Canada's Kanata Cowichan company is over in a few days, and I sent in a few designs for consideration I thought I'd share. I've never considered myself an artist/designer nor have I ever done anything like this before, so the experience had a pretty steep learning curve, but I have to say it was pretty fun on the whole.

All of the designs I've made draw inspiration from what could loosely be referred to as various forms of Americana, a designation I would argue the Cowichan itself lies under including the native cultures of the Americas. So here they are, in no particular order:

Traditional American Tattoo

Tiger Sukajan (Japanese Souvenir Jacket)

Koi Sukajan

Navajo/Southwestern (alternate pictured above)

A few thoughts I had on the process:
  • It's an entirely different animal to know what you like and don't like from a buying perspective versus designing it yourself. If I had to name that animal, it would be an okapi - vaguely familiar in a general sense of looking like a four-legged animal but completely foreign otherwise.
  • How do you respectfully channel Native American inspiration without stepping over the line into offensive cultural appropriation? It's a tricky line to toe (and one I've pondered in the past with products I've bought), but I stuck with the basic building blocks of southwestern Native design motifs - squares and triangles, with no sacred symbols.
  • The ability to edit yourself and show restraint is the hardest part of the process. Being able to represent an image or motif using such large pixels/yarn gauge is only half the battle. For instance, you see a lot of sukajan jackets with contrasting sleeves, stripes going down the arms, etc. All of those things you could technically translate over into a sweater design - I actually made versions of the tiger sukajan with stripes on the sleeves or dragons streaming on the arms - but that doesn't mean you should do it. "Would I want to wear that?" is the real question, and it's a lot subtler of an art than I thought it would be. How closely do you work from your inspiration vs. interpret it in a new way? For sure, there are different degrees of this represented above.
  • I'd rather get punched in the face or any non-groin area than have to color in pixels one-by-one in Excel again. Twice. I'd take two punches. Maybe a gentle tap to the groin.
I'd love to hear from anyone else who took part in the contest, as well as any general feedback or comments on the above designs. Would you wear something like this? Do you hate them? Too kitschy? Too busy?...Too sexy?


  1. I gravitate towards the tiger and the koi...

    1. Thanks for the thoughts. I feel like personally I would wear the Navajo ones most myself, but I wouldn't have put them up if I didn't like all of them honestly. NMWA should be posting contest submissions soon on their website collab section and on their StyleForum affiliate page soon. Will be interesting to see other entries and how they stack up. In the meantime, they have the traditional design cowichans on sale on their site currently for $230's, which isn't a bad deal. Alternatively, you can find vintage ones online or in person for usually around half that.

  2. Thanks for the info. BTW, I was inspired by your Crombie coat post, and just so happened I saw an older style (but essentially brand new) Burberry Prorsum wool/cashmere winter coat that looks like: but with shearling collar, for $350. Couldn't say no...

    1. Oh wow - where'd you find it? That's quite a deal. I've been really happy with the construction on my Prorsum trench.

    2. It was from Saks Off 5th. So far I'm very pleased with the quality of the coat and it will go into rotation with my 7 year-old Banana Republic coat that has served me well.


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