Nunavik designer ensures Inuk clothing collection looks Inuit
"People like it because it’s different”
A southern Quebec-based company is getting help from an Inuk designer to design its Inuit-style clothing across the country.
Clothing producer and distributor Attraction sells its “Inuk” collection in 250 boutiques across the country, with Salluit-born seamstress Eva Papigatuk working as a consultant and providing advice on how the clothes can best represent traditional Inuit designs.
When Papigatuk first met with the representatives from the company in 2009, she found the detailing on clothing reminded her of West-Coast aboriginal designs.
“I told them how traditional Inuit clothing was made, with the finishing we use along the bottom of our clothes,” she said. “I told them that colours must be part of the design too.”
Attraction produces varying lines of garments for the recreation and tourism market to represent the different regions of Canada.
One collection, called the “bucheron” or lumberjack, features the plaid clothing identified with loggers.
When Attraction wanted to create a line of warm, winter wear, the obvious choice was to model after what people wear in the coldest region in the country, the Arctic.
The Inuk collection includes mostly women’s and children’s parkas, nassaks and mittens.
Papigatuk also helped inspire the creation of new items, like the collection’s Alirtik or knee-high slippers.
Although the clothing has a much more modern feel than traditional Inuit wear, Papigatuk thinks the collection benefits from offering something most people can’t buy at their shopping centre.
“There aren’t a lot of Inuit products in the South,” she said. “I think people like it because it’s different.”
Papigatuk now lives in Magog, in southern Quebec, with her husband Carl Pépin, a former officer with the Kativik Regional Police Force, and their two children.
Since leaving Nunavik, she’s studied clothing design, attracting many who commission handmade parkas, mitts and hats.
Papigatuk, like many other young women in Nunavik, grew up learning to sew at home and at school.
She considers traditional Inuit wear an important part of her culture and still prefers the unique and sometimes handmade detail in her handmade work — which is lost during the process of making industrialized clothing.
While the Inuk collection is designed in Quebec, everything in the collection is made in China.
Attraction’s sales director Julia Gagnon says the Inuk Collection does its best to ensure Inuit culture is well-represented – which is where Papigatuk’s role comes in.
But the clothing is also still designed for a southern clientele, many of whom are only visiting Canada.
“We try to be as authentic as possible,” said Julia Gagnon. “But our goal is not to copy Inuit clothing.”
Attraction is looking for a Nunavik organization to partner with, she said, with her company gathering new ideas in exchange for a percentage of the proceeds.