fashion fuses Inuit tradition with modern style
in parkas, heels and lingerie
booties designed by Nicole Camphaug of ENB Artisan. Her heels
were featured in an Ottawa art exhibit called Floe Edge: Contemporary
Art and Collaborations from Nunavut. (photo courtesy of facebook.com/ENBArtisan)
Sealskin fashion has claimed its place in haute couture. Once
simply an essential winter wardrobe material in the icy cold of
Northern Canada, today Inuit designers are expressing their cultural
pride and creativity through less traditional means: high-fashion
parkas, stilettos and even lingerie.
"It's part of my culture," Victoria Kakuktinniq, founder of
Victoria's Arctic Fashion, told
Guardian. "The Inuit are really trying our best to promote our
culture and show our way of life and how our ancestors lived."
Three Inuit designers are making major waves in the fashion
world with their sealskin designs: Nala Peter, Nicole Camphaug and
Nala Peter, sealskin lingerie
sealskin lingerie set featured at the recent art exhibit in
Ottawa: Floe Edge: Contemporary Art and Collaborations from
(photo courtesy of http://www.axeneo7.qc.ca)
Peter sews lingerie of sealskin fur: bras, corsets, tank tops
and panties. Like many local seamstresses, she put her Inuit
fashion online. She turned to Facebook to promote her designs,
and her bra quickly fetched $150. She eventually caught the eye
of the art world and gained notoriety at an art exhibit in Ottawa:
Contemporary Art and Collaborations from Nunavut, reported CBC.
Nicole Camphaug, ENB Artisan
That art exhibit also featured the six-inch high heels designed
by Nicole Camphaug, Inuk. Camphaug layers sealskin on shoes of all
kinds, turning heads on the runway. In March 2012, she began promoting
her side business, run out of her Iqaluit home, on Facebook: ENB
Artisan. "I always think it's so important to get sealskin out
there," Camphaug told The Guardian.
Camphaug's passion for sealskin footwear extends into furry
ballet flats, kitten heels and stilettos, reported CBC.
Her designs became so popular that Camphaug enlisted her husband
to help add fur to shoes.
At ENB Artisan on Facebook, people can order designs in stock,
or request a custom order by sending Camphaug shoes that she can
cover in sealskin furwith the option to dye it, too.
Victoria Kakuktinniq, Victoria's Arctic Fashion
Victoria Kakuktinniq, 27, honed her contemporary eye in the
south, training in fashion design before returning home to Nunavut.
She launched Victoria's
Arctic Fashion (V.A.F.) in 2013, creating traditional northern
garments and accessories with a fresh twistnamely stunning
parkas, blazers, mitts and headbands.
Camphaug's dyed blue harp seal with bling high heels.
(photo courtesy of facebook.com/ENBArtisan)
high-heeled sealskin sandals by Nicole Camphaug, ENB Artisan.
(photo courtesy of facebook.com/ENBArtisan)
At the recent Toonik Tyme festival in Iqaluit, Nunavutfeaturing
events like snowmobile drag races, igloo building, a dog team race
on the sea ice, and a seal skinning competitionlocal designers
sold a wide variety of sealskin items, , reported Nunatsiaq
Online. White sealskin mittens by Emily Akavak-Hanson. Headbands
and parkas from Victoria's Arctic Fashion. Ulus of varying sizes
and shapes by Mosesie Lewis.
like silver, almost liquid silver, and it's a fantastic warm
material," designer Rannva Simonsen told CBC. She operates
a fashion retailer that employs indigenous sealskin designers.
"You can embrace the cold and be all cozy and comfortable
and look gorgeous at the same time." (photo courtesy of Rannva
National Seal Products Day & Angry Inuk
Today, Saturday, May 20, Canada celebrates its first ever National
Seal Products Day. "Part of cultural references and ceremonies is
the ability to partake in commerce for products, particularly with
respect to fur," Newfoundland MP Scott Simms, who sponsored the
bill, told CBC
The day of celebration is also Canada's way of offering an olive
branch to the Inuit community so vilified for decades due to the
anti-seal movement that often implied Inuit were hunting endangered
seal populationswhich was never the case.
meat sustains Inuit communities, and sealskin has long served
to protect Inuit from severe winter elements. Harvested by Inuit
hunters and crafted by indigenous seamstresses, the seal hunt and
provide Inuit with a stable source of food and a reliable income.
Inuit use the whole mammaleven the bone is purposed into buttons
and clasps, according to sealingnunavut.ca,
Nunavut's website promoting sustainable sealing.
signature parka with sealskin trim (photo courtesy of vafashion.ca)
Fierce opposition to seal hunting mounted in 1960s and '70s
with graphic animal rights campaigns showing hunters bludgeoning
baby seals. That gathered momentum, celebrities joining the crusade,
and the European Union and U.S. eventually banned all seal imports.
"I felt like something had to be said on the international
stage about how unfairly we've been treated by anti-sealers. I had
to make this film," Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, who created the documentary
Angry Inuk, told CBC
As Arnaquq-Baril explained to CBC, when the European Union banned
seal products from white coat baby harp seals in 1983, Inuit incomes
dropped to about five per cent of what they were before the ban.
"Inuit went hungry, had to move off the land and into town," she
said. Then in 2009, the EU passed an even stricter ban on seal fur,
and pelt prices collapsed. In 2015, the government of Nunavut negotiated
an exemption from the EU ban that permits imports of sealskin wares
certified as harvested by indigenous peoples. Despite the exemption,
due to grossly inaccurate portrayals, the market for sealskin was
practically dried up.
Arnaquq-Baril's documentary, released in 2016, delves into the
bans, the silenced voices of the Inuit, and the gross misrepresentation
of the sealskin trade by animal rights groups and others. "They
tried to minimize the importance of Inuit on the sealskin market,
but in fact most people who sell sealskins in the world are Inuit,"
Arnaquq-Baril told CBC.
"I want the world to know that sealing is extremely important
to us as a people for food and for sealskins; that there are thousands
of Inuit in Canada and Greenland that sell sealskins and are part
of the commercial sealskin market," Arnaquq-Baril added.
Canada's approval of National Seal Products Day on May 20 lends
vital support to Inuit commercial traders.
In honor of Saturday's National Seal Products Day, Natan Obed,
president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami,
a nonprofit organization in Canada that represents over 60,000 Inuit,
planned to attend several events in Ottawa this week promoting sustainable
sealskin fashion, while enjoying and sharing seal meat. "We participate
in the sealing economy, from all our communities, our hunters, our
seamstresses, everyone who eats seal meat. Everyone is a part of
that sealing economy," Obed told CBC.