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Seal-skin fashions a hit

Made-in-Nunavut garb interests Miss Canada

Norm Poole
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (May 26/03) - Made in Nunavut seal-skin fashions were an eye-catching hit at a recent Montreal fashion show.

The collection was displayed at the NAFFEM international show May 4-7 by the Government of Nunavut's Department of Sustainable Development (DSD).

The NAFFEM show specializes in high-end leathers, shearlings, furs and exotic fabrics from around the world.

The show featured 200 exhibitors from Canada, the United States and Europe.

Rosemary Keenainak, DSD deputy minister, said the government has participated in the show for several years with a goal of promoting Nunavut products internationally.

"We want to show the world what can be done with seal-skin, because it is so light-weight and versatile," she said.

"And also, of course to tell buyers that these products support a community-based, sustainable harvest. We very much want to separate this from the Newfoundland hunt."

The GN has featured regional collections in the past three NAFFEM shows.

"In 2001 we had a collection from Baffin, in 2002 from Kivalliq, and this year from Kitikmeot."

This year's collection included the work of seamstresses from Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, and Taloyoak.

The centrepiece was a spectacular seal-skin wedding dress made in Kugluktuk and valued at $3,000.

Kennainak said the dress caught the eye of the reigning Miss Canada, who is interested in wearing it at the upcoming Miss Universe contest in Panama.

"We are in discussions with her about this, but it hasn't been finalized yet."

Buyer interest in Nunavut-made clothing has increased dramatically over the past three years, she said.

"There were quite a number of garments ordered this year and a number of new buyers expressing interest."

The GN earlier this year reported continued demand and higher prices for seal skins at the annual auction in North Bay, Ont.

The government sold $500,000 worth of sealskins at the auction, a 10-year high and double the return in 2001.

Two buyers from Denmark purchased about 90 per cent of the furs offered for sale.

The average price was $63 per pelt, double the price in 1999.

GN wildlife officers purchased about 10,000 sealskins from harvesters last year, about 3,000 more than in 2001.