Fashion furs
Iqaluit designers to show sealskin coats on the international stage

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Apr 10/00) - Contemporary Inuit clothing that graced the runway at the Toonik Tyme fashion show last week will soon be on the world stage at the Montreal International Fur Show.

Scheduled to take place during the first week in May, the show will feature six local designers and Nunavut's first collection -- eight sealskin coats with hats and bags.

The fashionable coats incorporate modern designs, dying and sheering techniques and the latest in pattern combinations and styles.

A designer and owner of Iqaluit-based Arctic Creations, Monica Ell says she is very excited about travelling south to the show.

"The (Montreal) fashion show is really quite something," she said.

"Sealskin clothing has really gained in popularity in the last two and a half years -- the most popular items are coats, vests, mitts and briefcases."

Ell, who has three coats going to the show, says one of her design ideas grew out of her seven-year-old daughter's desire for a red seal-skin coat.

"One night we were fooling around and drawing and the sketches turned out really nice -- I enlarged the pattern, added a few adult touches and decided to dye the sealskin blue," said Ell.

And so began preparations for the show.

First, the designers had Montreal furrier Ingo Moslener, who has 47 years in the business, revise their sketches before setting to work on patterns and sewing.

Moslener then conducted a three-week fur-sewing workshop in Iqaluit last January, instructing 16 women in both basic and contemporary sewing techniques.

The last week of the workshop was dedicated to sewing the coats for the show. Ell said all of the designers were constantly observing the process.

Funding for the sewing workshop came from the Department of Sustainable Development (DSD) and the Kakivak Association, as well as involvement from the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association (NACA).

Beth Beattie is the co-ordinator of NACA and she sees real possibilities arising from the Montreal show.

"If things fall into place at the Montreal show and the women get orders for several coats, maybe DSD will see the start of an industry," said Beattie, who would like to see a year-long program evolve through Arctic college.

"This is the first time we've had a made in Nunavut collection at an international show -- DSD is interested in selling pelts, the women are interested in selling coats and our association is looking at it from the angle of the designer and creator."

The coats can retail for anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000, and Beattie says as the population continues to grow, so does the demand for sealskin clothing.

"People are really keen on sealskin and that goes part and parcel with people designing and sewing more coats," she said.

"We had 26 women who wanted to take the fur- sewing workshop, but we just didn't have the space. Hopefully, it won't be a one-time thing -- these eight coats are just a taste of what can happen."

Beattie says that since the Iqaluit sewing workshop was held, Sanikiluaq, Kugluktuk and Rankin Inlet have requested similar training in their communities.

"Maybe a year-long program could evolve through the college that would have a core group of students, but also include modules so community sewers could get involved without having to go to school full time."

Other designers involved in the Montreal show are Elisapee Davidee, Sarah Philip from DJ Sensations and Aaju Peter. Rannva Simonsen designed the hats and Elisapee Kilabuk designed the bags.