After visiting the very first Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto showcase in 2018, local artist Erica Lugt said that the experience ignited her curiosity in coordinating her own fashion show.
“I saw an opportunity. I find we’re kind of behind in the times, in the sense of modern-day fashion that is Indigenous,” said Lugt. “I wanted to ignite my people, because I see the fashion and I see the opportunity. I want to give a modernized feel to it; inspire people to modernize their fashion to do runways.”
Later that year, she approached Mary Ann Villeneuve, the executive director for the Great Northern Arts Festival (GNAF), to see what she had planned for the festival’s 2019 Arctic Fashion Show.
“She asked me if I wanted to do it and I wasn’t sure. It’s a big job and I had no experience,” said Lugt. “I’ve seen a fashion show hands-on, but never coordinated one. I said, ‘Okay. Yeah, I’ll do it.’”
Although she had begun planning for the show this past winter, it wasn’t until two weeks before the actual event – which took place at Inuvik’s Midnight Sun Complex on July 20 – where Lugt found the show’s assistant coordinator in Lesley Villeneuve.
“I had a meeting with Lesley at Alestine’s. I knew she was my perfect partner when I was talking to her about music, and she just straight up was like ‘Yeah, no. Too slow,’” said Lugt. “I really respected her honesty, so I knew she would be my perfect partner.”
To match Lugt’s “traditional but edgy” theme for the show, Villeneuve employed the sounds of Canadian Indigenous artists such as “A Tribe Called Red” and “Silla + Rise”, groups who blend elements of traditional Indigenous music with the electronic dance music genre.
“I wanted some pow and kick. I wanted edge,” said Villeneuve.
To achieve the “street funk” style that Lugt had envisioned, the two borrowed traditional clothing and fashion items from friends and family members, before adding their own modern spin to the outfits.
“We wanted to promote local fashion. Prior to us taking on the show, they would borrow from the museum in Yellowknife,” said Lugt. “I wanted to stay away from that, 100 percent. We have enough fashion in this town alone.”
“That was our vision; to support local and give it an edge,” she added.
A total of 13 models – all local residents – were featured in the show. Villeneuve was in charge of the makeup, while Lugt oversaw the pairing of outfits with models. In the end, the duo had prepared 39 unique looks.
“I knew right away that I needed a partner, because this is bigger than myself. I found thee most edgy partner, which I love,” said Lugt.
Despite the chaos and stress that comes with putting together your first-ever fashion show, the pair agreed that the event went better than they had expected.
“In the midst of it all, you lose track and it just happens so quick. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if we’re blessed from our ancestors or the spirits above,” said Lugt. “We winged it. We knew coming into the show that we’re winging it.”
At the end of the day, she said that she hopes that she inspired other artists and designers in the crowd to expand their work to the runway.
“This is our opportunity, this is where we need to be focusing on with what we create. It’s not just for the quick buck or for a living. Yes, you do that too. But there are opportunities that are far bigger than making a living off of,” she said. “There are huge things for fashion, and that was something I was hoping to ignite.”