Who would have known I'd discover more than polar bears, ice and snow a few weeks ago when I had the opportunity to visit the high Arctic?
While the trip was fascinating to say the least -- cultures steeped in tradition and landscapes that are truly breathtaking -- I also discovered something near and dear to this fashionista's heart.
On the last leg of the trip we made a stop in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, located on the western shores of Hudson Bay. While visiting the local craft store it was brought to my attention there was a local fashion designer whose traditional Inuit take on modern design was worth checking out -- and I am so glad I did.
Victoria Kakuktinniq's leather and fur garments exemplify the perfect marriage between traditional cultural design and modern fashion while still offering comfort from the cold.
"I grew up in Rankin and I'm Inuit-aboriginal so I wanted to create parkas that were form-fitting with a slim silhouette while incorporating part of my Inuit culture but are still warm in -50," explains the budding designer.
Sewing traditional garments has always been an integral part of life in the North -- a skill and craft passed on from generation to generation, and after taking a traditional sewing course taught by elders in Rankin Inlet and fashion design at MC College in Winnipeg, Kakuktinniq knew she wanted to take the craft to a new level.
"When I grew up my mom always made my parkas and they were so bulky, and as a fashion designer I wondered how do I make this better and more fashionable," says Kakuktinniq.
What she came up with is a collection of sleek coats trimmed with soft fox fur and my personal favourite -- traditional sealskin mitts adorned with intricate embellishments.
"Sealskin is very thick and a difficult material to work with so there isn't a lot you can do with it," says Kakuktinniq. "I have this embroidery machine though, and it made me wonder if it would be strong enough to use on sealskin, so I tried it and the embroidery added a luxurious and very unique element."
These mitts are absolutely gorgeous. Kakuktinniq takes the traditional mitt and adds this fabulous embroidery detailing on the front in an eye-popping hue and finishes them off with a fur cuff in the same colour. They're ideal to keep your hands toasty warm as the cool temps begin to set in for the long-haul.
For more information on Victoria's designs you can check out her Facebook page -- Victoria's Arctic Fashions -- or contact the designer for custom work via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a suggestion for a future column or a fashion trend worth following?
Email Connie Tamoto at connietamotofashion.com.