- By Jenna Kunze
On the February morning of the New York Vogue Week runway present exhibiting a group of Iñupiaq parkas, designer Bobby Brower (Alaska Native Iñupiaq) awoke in Manhattan to snow.
“All of my fashions had been so blissful,” Brower, 36, advised Native Information On-line. “They’re like ‘lastly! An applicable factor to put on on the runway.’ It was excellent for my assortment.”
Eight skilled fashions donning Brower’s designs are captured in pictures strutting down a rooftop catwalk in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, comfortably adorned within the felted parkas with elaborate fur hoods and trim because the snow dusts down.
However the coats aren’t simply meant to look heat, Brower stated. They’re meant to maintain wearers heat in subzero temperatures, right down to -50 Fahrenheit.
“It is a part of our tradition,” Brower stated. “Being Alaska Native and rising up within the Arctic, it’s survival gear. It’s not simply, ‘I killed these animals in order that I might put on vogue.’ It is about preserving my youngsters heat and preserving my household heat.”
Brower, the designer behind Arctic Luxe, traveled over 4,000 miles final month to make her profession goals come true. After she discovered she’d been accepted into New York Vogue Week final April, she started making ready eight atigiit, or parkas, at her residence in Anchorage, the place she’s just lately relocated from her hometown within the Arctic, Utqiaġvik.
One of many male coats was made out of sealskin pelts Brower salvaged from an enormous storm final 12 months, when round 40 useless seals washed up on the seashore in Utqiagvik. Brower and her brother had been in a position to pores and skin 9 of them, and used the meat to feed animals on the seashore.
“It was like I used to be recycling,” she stated.
That coat will now be proven on mortgage as a part of a nine-month lengthy exhibit at The Museum of Worldwide Folks Artwork in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
To make up the price of journey to New York—plus the $6,000 venue area—Brower hosted fundraising occasions and offered raffle tickets for her handmade parkas.
In the long run, she stated the publicity from New York Vogue Week was effectively price it.
“I am a single mother of 4 youngsters. So it was actually onerous for me to carry on to all my parkas as a result of it took me a couple of 12 months to organize the whole lot,” she stated. “However I did not solely do that for myself, you already know, I really feel like I represented Alaska Natives as an entire. I feel it was actually wanted for individuals, particularly our younger individuals.”
Though Brower wasn’t in a position to carry her personal fashions to the present, her subsequent huge occasion— Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, Canada this June—will showcase her work on solely Indigenous fashions. She stated that the extra publicity her modern Iñupiaq wares will get, the higher it is going to be for younger Natives like her youngsters.
“There’s nonetheless a number of racism and hate in the direction of Natives,” she stated. “With the ability to present that I went to New York Vogue Week and confirmed Alaska Native tradition on the runway is loopy. I do not know what is going to come out of New York Vogue Week. I am unable to wait to see what issues are going to come back subsequent.”
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