Photo contributed by Sydelle Harrison
Every jacket, skirt and handbag designed by Pendleton native Sydelle Harrison is influenced by home.
Though Harrison, 34, is now studying in Corvallis to earn her master’s degree in public health management and policy from Oregon State University, her passion lies in her custom clothing line, Kanaine, named for Kanine Ridge where she grew up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
What started as merely a hobby has become a growing business for Harrison, who reuses Pendleton Woolen Mills blankets and fabric to create what she describes as unique and adventurous styles for women and children.
Harrison is planning a special pop-up boutique for Kanaine at next week’s Pendleton Round-Up, though dates and locations are still to be determined. In addition, two Kanaine designs are featured in the October issue of Cowboys & Indians Magazine that highlights fall fashions.
“I am beyond excited and very grateful for this opportunity to share my designs on such a large scale,” Harrison said.
Harrison launched Kanaine after returning to OSU in 2013, selling on the website Etsy that serves as an online market for handmade and vintage items. All of her creations are inspired by her Western and American Indian roots — Harrison is an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation, with close ties to the Cayuse and Walla Walla tribes.
The road to fashion design, however, was anything but direct. After graduating from Weston-McEwen High School in 2001, Harrison made her way to Corvallis to begin studying public health. By the end of her junior year at OSU, she returned home where she received an internship at the Hanford Site in Washington.
Harrison was ultimately hired full-time and spent five years at Hanford, assisting with tribal consultation on cleanup projects. Then came children, and Harrison decided it was time to get back to OSU and finish her undergraduate degrees — which she completed in June.
In the meantime, she was looking for something to keep her busy with two babies at home.
“Nearly everyone in my family sews to some extent,” Harrison said. “I had never really got into it.”
That changed when Harrison’s father brought out an old, well-worn toddler jacket that her mother made for her when she was little. Harrison was just 3 years old when her mother died, and the jacket instantly roused a connection.
“It just really had a powerful impact on me,” Harrison said. “My mom was very talented in so many ways.”
Four years later, Harrison said she is getting more comfortable and creative with Kanaine. Depending on the blankets and fabric she finds, she can quickly determine which items will make the most use out of her material.
“It’s all based on the fabric I find,” she said. “That’s one of the tricks working with Pendleton fabric. They’re all different sizes and designs.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, kids’ jackets are her favorite to make, Harrison said.
“The jacket that my mom made for me is really an heirloom in our family,” she said. “That’s why I love designing. It’s a chance for me to create something special for my customers, something that they will treasure too.”
Harrison lives in Corvallis with her partner, Ryan Ashley, and their daughters Kai, Blake and Riley. Kanaine clothing can be purchased online at www.etsy.com.
Contact George Plaven at email@example.com or 541-966-0825.