It’s happened to us all before.
You order a winter coat online or through a catalogue. When it arrives in the mail, you put it on to test it on a chilly winter day. The fit is a little awkward, you notice, as a draft of frozen air travels up your back. Before you even get home, the zipper’s broke. Soon enough, some of the seams have come apart. You manage to get through the winter, albeit cold and uncomfortable. When the snow begins melting, you relegate the coat to a corner of your closet, never to be worn again. Sure, that coat may have cost less than a locally made parka, but it was cheaper in a more important way. It was mass produced on a factory line, where quantity overrides quality. Now, you need to buy another winter coat and you realize it probably would have been cheaper in the long run to pay a little more for a quality-made product. Thankfully, we live in a place that has a thriving and ever-growing clothing industry, with local artisans obsessed with fit, comfort, incorporating traditional and sustainable materials and style. And these local professionals have a vested interest in providing durable and reliable products to their friends and neighbours in the communities they live in. Here are just some of the ways that our Nunavut-made products beat southern counterparts.
When you purchase a parka that’s made here, you know you’re getting the best. You can customize the design. The fit will be perfect. And the stitch-work will be impeccable. Traditionally, when seamstresses were taught sewing and stitch-work skills, one mistake would mean undoing all their work and starting over again until it was done correctly. Although this was a painstaking process, it’s clear why perfection was so important: when we’re out on the land in the bone-chilling cold, clothing that fails is not an option. That mastery is what you can expect when you buy a locally made parka from someone in your community. If you are new to Iqaluit, drop in to Victoria’s Arctic Fashion to select from innovative and traditional parka and amauti designs, crafted with care from sealskin or adorned with plush fox fur.
Qiviut: it’s softer than cashmere and eight times warmer than sheep’s wool. Nunavut Qiviut, based in Kugluktuk, works with local hunters to collect the long and ultra-fine underfur of sustainably harvested muskoxen and spins that fur into yarn renowned the world over. This luxury product, shipped in a variety of colours, can be knit into the warmest and most comfortable scarves, toques and sweaters you can imagine. Nunavut Qiviut sells 100%-qiviut wool, along with wool from Arctic hare and Arctic fox, as well as a combination blend of them all, providing jobs and opportunities for Kugluktummiut.
We live in a place that has a thriving and ever-growing clothing industry, with local artisans … incorporating traditional and sustainable materials and style.
The Cool Factor
The apparel from Hinaani Design apparel sure catches the eye. “INUK” in all-caps, displayed prominently on t-shirts, hoodies or ball caps; clutch bags patterned with tundra berries or Inuit tattoo designs; leggings adorned with uluit or the Northern Lights. The Arviat collective designs clothing and apparel that reflects Arctic landscapes and promotes Inuit culture, language and values. The intention behind each design is to “encourage our fellow Inuit and Ukiurmiut to believe in themselves and each other.” Hinaani Design certainly does all of these things—while making those decked out in their apparel feel cool at the same time.
The Community Good
Our communities truly are close-knit—and clothes-knitting. Five seamstresses at Taluq Designs, located in Taloyoak, have been making duffle mitts and slippers lined with rabbit fur trim and decorated with traditional floral or animal designs for more than a decade. Artisans employed with Kiluk in Arviat make sealskin vests, clothing and other accessories for a growing clientele. Orders for Faith Kreelak’s parkas come from far outside her hometown of Rankin Inlet, as does demand for mukluks made by Mona Netser in Coral Harbour. Rannva in Iqaluit sells high-end her own sealskin jacket, clothing and accessory designs, as well as consigned specialty items from dedicated artists all over the capital city. Each of these companies and artisans provide both tangible and intangible benefits to our communities. They train and employ designers, harvesters and seamstresses, while also inspiring young Nunavummiut to dream of their own business ideas, knowing that it is possible.
And remember, when we shop local, $68 out of $100 on average stays within our community. When shopping at chain stores, that number falls to $43. And when you purchase goods online that you can get in your community, even more money leaves Nunavut. Supporting our local businesses means supporting our communities.