For fashion designers Victoria Kakuktinniq and Melissa Attagutsiak, sharing the thrill and success of a job well done with family and friends is at the heart of the Upingaksaaq Fashion Show the two teamed up to produce April 20 in Iqaluit.
Attagutsiak, like Kakuktinniq, brought a collection to Paris for the International Indigenous Fashion Week, held during Paris Fashion Week in early March.
That’s where the two met.
“I really love to see everybody come together to put on the show. There’s so many things that go into it. I love to bring it back home to where I learned how to sew,” said Attagutsiak, who now lives in Ottawa, at a pre-show news conference.
“Exactly that. We wanted to bring back our Paris collection and to show our friends and family. And, it does help promote our business, of course,” said Kakuktinniq, who moved to Iqaluit from her hometown of Rankin Inlet a few years ago.
And, as is the way, they brought along a crowd of Inuit co-creators to enjoy the limelight on the catwalk built in a transformed Koojesse Room in the capital’s main hotel.
Other designers showcased included: InukChic’s Martha Kyak of Pond Inlet, Sophia’s Outerwear’s Chelsey St. John of Arviat, Kayleigh’s Fashions’ Kristy King and Chantel Kablutsiak, also of Arviat, and the Miqqut Project, a literacy and sewing program offered by Ilitaqsiniq Nunavut Literacy Council.
A portion of evening’s proceeds are destined for the Qimaavik women’s shelter in Iqaluit, and Kakuktinniq explains why.
“From January to April, I was teaching a sewing program called the Miqqut Project, which is run by the literacy council. A lot of the ladies, the participants, were from the women’s shelter,” she said.
“We just finished the sewing program last Friday and a lot of the ladies were really sad that it was ending, so I thought this would be a really great opportunity for us to donate some funds, to maybe donate some sewing machines and materials for them.”
A pilot version of the Miqqut Project took place in Kakuktinniq’s hometown of Rankin Inlet in 2012 – and she has previously credited that program as her introduction to traditional sewing.
“We had five elders teaching sewing traditional items, amautiit, mitts, parkas, kamiks and much more,” said Kakuktinniq in 2017.
“After I made my very first parka, I thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’ They taught us from start to finish. We designed our parka, made the pattern and completed it. Wow. It was so much fun and I just wanted to be able to design more parkas.”
Kakuktinniq opened her Iqaluit shop 20 months ago. Now she has Paris Fashion Week on her professional resume.
Attagutsiak’s business, growing in renown, is called Nuvuja9.
For the show, Aayuraa Studio’s Mathew Nuqingaq, ENB Artisan, Kaajuk and LVH Jewelry provided accessories to complete each look. Nuqingaq, a famed drumdancer as well as jeweler, opened the show. Musical guests included Riit and Joshua Qaumariaq.
The two designers shared some of their Paris experiences prior to the Iqaluit event, such as acquiring tags for garments which included sealskin.
“We spent the day before trying to get tags from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and, thankfully, Kelly Fraser called around and got us those tags the day before we left,” said Attagutsiak.
Fraser also modeled Attagutsiak’s garments in Paris.
“We were kind of nervous and we tried not to use too much sealskin in our garments because we didn’t want to run into any issues,” said Kakuktinniq.
For both, Paris Fashion Week was an opportunity to share their Inuit culture, and they are grateful and honoured for the opportunity to do so. Being a part of the International Indigenous Fashion Week show at the Eiffel Tower was especially an opportunity to witness the traditional touches other Indigenous designers weaved into their collections.
Kakuktinniq’s collection are inspired by the colours of spring and summer in the Arctic, like the soft pink sunset, purples and teals that come from the water. Attagutsiak’s collection, called Sinaa, was inspired by floe edge colours, “how the ice is always changing during the springtime,” she said. “Blues and greys, white.”
And, so, full circle back to Nunavut for the two.
“We both decided that it would be a really great idea for us to come back to Iqaluit and show our friends and family our garments,” said Kakuktinniq.
“I’m really excited that everyone will be able to see what we brought to Paris. I’ve brought some of the pieces from Paris. One of the pieces that has sealskin and lace on it, I actually made in the Eiffel Tower. That’s a really cherished piece of mine,” said Attagutsiak.
The Iqaluit event sold out, even after additional tickets went on sale.