At an Arctic conference, Indigenous fashion gets a moment in the spotlight

The Far North Fashion Show at last week’s Arctic Encounter Symposium in Alaska highlighted innovative Alaska Native designers.

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Indigenous tradition met with high fashion at last week’s Arctic Encounter Symposium. The symposium’s Far North Fashion Show held at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art drew hundreds of spectators and highlighted Arctic entrepreneurship and adaptations of ancient tradition into contemporary products.

Works shown were from experienced Indigenous designers, some with businesses that market their products regionally and nationally. Among those businesses are Arctic Luxe, owned by Bobby Itta from Utqiagvik, who showcased some of her tradition-influenced contemporary products at February’s New York Fashion Week; and Sew Sassy Qaspeqs, owned by Sassa Peterson, who lives in the Kenai Peninsula city of Soldotna but is from the Yup’ik village of Manokotak.

Some of the designers modeled their own creations on the red-carpet catwalk.

And some of the creations carried messages.

Those message-bearing works included the mixed-media cape created by Ruth Łchav’aya K’isen Miller that draws attention to the abused, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Alaska and elsewhere.

“It came to me in a dream,” she said about her design. It was important to highlight the human cost of extractive capitalism during a conference that placed a lot of focus on resource development, Miller said.