Native American Model Khadijha Red Thunder Stars in Canada Goose's New Campaign

The brand's new muse tells InStyle what the slogan "live in the open" means to her and why she's thrilled Canada Goose has gone fur-free.

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Canada Goose x Khadija Red Thunder

Courtesy Canada Goose

Like many, the pandemic completely opened my eyes to the great outdoors. As one of the few activities labeled safe in lockdown, I explored historic national parks, took long walks around my neighborhood, biked through local forests, frequented the city botanical garden, zip lined through trees, and even attempted rock climbing. Being immersed in nature restored my mental health in a climate with so many unknowns, natural disasters, racism, and disease.

So, when Canada Goose invited me on a press trip to Iceland, I jumped at the chance. The scenic and environmentally conscious country is home to gorgeous landscapes, bodies of water, natural geothermal energy, wildlife, and more — the perfect place to experience the brand's fall/winter collection for myself (spoiler: it's good). Being immersed in that environment, Canada Goose’s Live in the Open ethos came alive.

The trip was also tied to the brand's new all-female campaign, which was shot by legendary Annie Leibovitz and aims to showcase the great impact women bring both behind and in front of the lens. Khadijha Red Thunder also appears in the stunning photos, and speaking with the Native American model and actor, I was able to learn more about what "living in the open" means to her, as well as how her heritage has influenced her fashion choices and impacted her connection to nature.

Khadijha Red Thunder

Courtesy Canada Goose

As a member of the Chippewa Cree tribe, Red Thunder grew up in Washington where she attended powwow, a sacred Native American ceremony involving singing, dancing, and eating. Afterward, she would help her grandmother pitch their tent and willingly prepare to be at the mercy of nature.

“I learned how to pitch a tent from an early age in a way that it would properly protect us,” the model shares when asked how her roots shaped her view of nature. She adds that while growing up, there were many instances that made her realize it’s better to work with nature than against it. “I remember my grandmother would tell me to go outside in my moccasins and stretch them in the rain to loosen the leather and form the shoes to my feet. Nature is one of the most important things to me because it connects me back to myself and my ancestors. It grounds me and reminds me that we’re all in this together and that we need to come together in order to evolve.”

Khadijha Red Thunder x Canada Goose

Courtesy Canada Goose

Red Thunder says she wanted to work with Canada Goose, not only because she enjoys the brand's fashionable pieces and technical properties, but because she respects what they stand for as well.

“Canada Goose going fur-free was very important to me,” she tells me, sharing that while Native American culture is reliant on using natural animal products for clothing, there's also a great appreciation and respect for both nature and sustainability. "Native Americans are very big on the evolution of fashion, and we try to incorporate different forms of fashion in our own Native American regalia," she adds. "There are many brands out there that go after healthy habits [like the decline of fur] as a performative tactic, but the fact that Canada Goose decided to take a step back to perfect their sustainability ethos and evolve, I really like that.”

Red Thunder favors the Marlow Coat, featuring an adjustable and removable belt for the ultimate, custom fit. "When I first moved to New York, I kept seeing people in coats with the classic Canada Goose stamping," she says. "Friends of mine shared how warm the coats were and what a cold weather staple it was." It wasn't until she started working with the brand that she understood the full value of being a Canada Goose customer. "What I love about Canada Goose is how insanely warm their clothing keeps you," she adds.

Canada Goose Marlow Coat, $1,175;

Speaking to what she would tell her younger self, Red Thunder brings up her mother and grandmother, who taught her that “no matter how hard or tough it gets, you should approach all struggles with gratitude, being thankful that you get the chance to overcome hardships." That strong foundation has even inspired her to start her own non-profit organization, Red Thunder Wellness, which she recently founded. Aware that Native Americans and BIPOC individuals don’t always have the same opportunities or resources as other demographics, Red Thunder says her organization looks to help with the educational and mental health issues facing communities living on reservations, and within the Native American community.

“I believe in the journey,” Red Thunder says as we sit amidst ancient volcanic rock. “I really want to pass on a posture of longevity and an openness to the evolution and revolution that comes from education and mental health. Because while it's an uphill battle, you still get to the top of the hill.”

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