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Fashionable education

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (July 07/04) - Education and promotion are the keys to a successful fashion industry in Nunavut, says the special advisor for arts and traditional economy for the department of Sustainable Development.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Kaila Anawak-Gamble hit the runway in this beautiful ensemble during a Nunavut Arts Festival fashion show in Rankin Inlet this past month. - photo courtesy of Karen McLarty

Therese Tungilik says a recent fashion show in Rankin Inlet during the Nunavut Arts Festival highlighted the diversity and quality of Nunavut fashions.

The show included traditional and contemporary fashions from across Nunavut, as well as the department of Environment's sealskin collection.

"If it weren't so cold up here, I would favour the more fashionable clothes," says Tungilik. "But warm and durable are the top priorities in Nunavut, and that's what traditional clothes offer."

Fashions need promotion

Tungilik says Nunavummiut are quite curious about fashion.

She says you can't help but notice the difference in home-made styles when you travel outside of your own community.

"Nunavut's fashion industry could become quite successful, but the people who can make that happen are all sitting in the Nunavut government.

"We have to promote our work more in Canada. We can't sell our items outside of the country because of the Marine Mammal Protection Act."

Tungilik says a concentrated effort has to be made to show southern Canadians how proud Inuit are of their fashions and how much they love to wear them.

But, at the same time, it must be pointed out that Inuit don't just hunt animals for the fur. "People have to know we hunt for the meat, but we have to also use the skin.

"That's our traditional teachings of never wasting an animal you have killed to eat.

"Because of that Inuit value, we still have the right to wear our skins."

Tungilik says an educational program should be initiated across the country so Inuit are better understood and not looked down upon because they still wear furs.

"That way, people who have understanding minds, and a compassion for the needs of other people who live in this country, may support us in our traditions.

"If that understanding were there, we could be well off because there are so many great seamstresses in Nunavut."