Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen introduces the latest installment of the Montana Business Spotlight series recognizing and highlighting local businesses across the Treasure State. This feature introduces Montanans to Designs by Della. Click the play button on the featured image above to watch the Designs by Della Montana Business Spotlight.
HELENA, Mont. — Della Bighair-Stump has been around handcrafted Native American works her entire life. She watched her mother, grandmother, and other family members meticulously create pieces made of beads, feathers, floral, and other materials. Each piece represented a part of her culture, and it didn’t take long for her to introduce her own designs.
“My (slogan) is ‘When culture meets fashion.’ I am combining my (designs with) tradition from the Crow Tribe — I’m an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe, Apsaalooke Nation,” said Bighair-Stump. “I want it to represent who I am and where I come from, so I mixed my designs into today’s fashion.”
Her arrangements, patterns, and ideas have been a hit. Her company, Designs by Della, sells custom attire that is truly one of a kind, and consumers have taken notice.
“This is where I come from. People right now are really interested in Indigenous fashion. That is getting out there even more,” she explained. “I have people from overseas — I have swimsuits going to Costa Rica. Everyone’s into the bright-colored (designs) and that’s what I like, I like bright colors. Everything that I put out, I make sure I like it and it’s approved by me. I have to get approval from my mom too, I can’t make, you know, anything too revealing. I do love to show skin, but I just try to make it more modest and more wearable for everybody. It’s going (great).”
Bighair-Stump says the tribal designs reflect culture, which in turn instills pride. She strives to inspire other Native artists, much like those who had encouraged her.
“We really help each other, and I am fortunate to have good artist friends. I am honored to keep my tradition alive, keeping my grandparents who have passed on their traditions alive, and now I’m teaching this to my kids and my grand-baby,” she proudly stated.
No two pieces are exactly the same, with fashions ranging from prom dresses to graduation attire and swimwear. Each is given the same detailed attention, though admittedly, some require an extended timeframe.
“This probably took almost a year figuring what to do,” she said, referencing a set created to honor an Apsaalooke couple. “This material isn’t sold anymore; it’s very hard to find. I always try to look for authentic, original stuff.”
“I do everything on my own; I’m like a one-man band. I do everything (with the creation), I do my website, I do my marketing, I do everything. Then I’m always like, ‘Now I know why people hire people to do stuff,’ but I love doing it all that way,” she continued, laughing. “I can help my fellow artists and help my family, my kids if they want to get into the business, I can help them (by explaining) what I went through. But I’m doing good; we’re doing really good and I’m thankful for that.”
Designs by Della was a featured Native American Made in Montana vendor during the 2022 Made in Montana Tradeshow. It was an opportunity for Bighair-Stump’s creations to receive more recognition.
“I have a lot of retail now that there’s other businesses that are interested in my work, my active apparel and stuff. So, I have a few stores that are already purchasing some of my (creations), so I am getting out there,” she said. “I have store boutiques from down south too, and I am surprised about how people are interested in my work, and that they want to sell (it) in their stores. I’m very honored about that.”
“You know, I don’t know how I do it. I’m a mom, a wife, I have a home, I have a grandbaby. You know, I don’t know how I do it, but I do it,” she continued. “And I am thankful for my mom, my husband ,and my kids. They’re so patient with me, they help me, and they are always pushing me to just keep going. ‘Do what you’re good at,’ is what they always tell me to do. ‘Just keep doing it and you will succeed.’ And I’m here. I have a couple of gowns in the Smithsonian. I went to Paris Fashion Week in 2019.”
Bighair-Stump says she has been designing Native fashion and accessories since 2016, and each new achievement is a true “pinch me moment.”
“Yeah, I enjoy what I do. Every day is not work for me. It is on my time and what I want to do,” she said. “I love color and I love bling, I love fashion, and I just love what I do. I’m thankful for that.”
The 2023 Made in Montana Tradeshow will be held March 10-11 at the Lewis & Clark County Fairgrounds in Helena. Friday is reserved for wholesale buyers, while Saturday’s exhibition is open to the public. For more information, visit the Made in Montana website.
Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen thanked each of the businesses for bringing their exhibits to Helena for this year’s Made in Montana Tradeshow, and encouraged Montanans to support those local businesses this weekend and year round.