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2015 QUÉBEC ABORIGINAL TOURISM AWARDS
NOMINATION CATEGORY MARKETING

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Promotion of Inuit culture through our unique garments around the world! 

Nunavik Creations is one of the 2 Inuit organizations from Nunavik having been nominated for the 2015 Québec Aboriginal Tourism Awards.

The names of the winners will be announced at the Entrepreneurship Recognition Gala hosted by Québec Autocthone Tourism at the enchanting Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Québec City.

The gala will be the highlight of the 4th International Aboriginal Tourism Conference (IATC) bringing together more than 300 aboriginal tourism representatives, enterprises and organizations from Canada and abroad and we will have a booth also to promote and sell our products on the site.

Visit the IATC 2015 website to register and for more details about the conference: www.iatc2015.com




BABY WEARING COATS
LOVING AMAUTIS
Jan 26, 2015

To be able to carry their baby on their stomach, many mothers of newborn or infants are buying baby carrying coats (or zippered panels similar to those available from Kokoala). In the harshest part of winter, there is even better: amauti parkas that enable Inuit women to keep their little ones cosy and warm while carrying them on their back. It is a secret that northern mothers are willing to share with us in the South.

A FEATURE WRITTEN BY MARIE ALLARD
LA PRESSE

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HOW DOES IT WORK?

“I use amauti to go skating or skiing with my baby and the two elders”, says Phebe Bentley, who was born and raised in Nunavik. With her son Tristan, aged 4 months, she showed La Presse how to use the amauti, a warm anorak with a built-in baby pouch allowing to carry the child on the mother’s back.

HOW TO CARRY YOUR BABY LIKE AN INUIT MOTHER?

Victoria Okpik grew up next to her mother’s skin who was carrying her in a built-in pouch under the big hood of her amauti, the Inuit women’s traditional parka. There was – and still is – nothing exceptional about it. “Up North, every baby is being carried on its mother’s back”, says Mrs Okpik who is native from Quaqtaq, a village bordering the Hudson Strait.

When she became a mother herself, Mrs Okpik, who is in-house designer for Nunavik Creations, was living in Dorval. “I would use the amauti to go for a walk with my daughter. I remember that she would fall asleep in no time when I carried her that way.”

“The amauti is the best symbol to represent Inuit women and mothers, adds Caroline Hervé, general manager of Saturviit, an Association of Inuit women from Nunavik. Every woman who gives birth owns an amauti. If she does not own one herself, she will manage to borrow one. Even little girls have one to play baby wearing on their back.”

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MULTIPLE BENEFITS

In the south of Québec, baby wearing in long scarves or in baby carriers inspired by what is being done in South America, Scandinavia or Asia is more and more popular. Oddly enough, we are not aware of amauti parkas, which have been used for ages by some 25000 Inuit women in our country. “Historical evidence show that the style and shape of amautis and of other traditional clothing from the Arctic have not changed much through the years”, says a report published by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada.

And yet, the benefits of this parka are numerous. The amauti “could very well be the most amazing garment in the world”, says McCord Museum in its web based exhibition.

“Inuits have a genius for adaptability in order to survive in extreme conditions. With the amauti, the mother keeps her hands free and the baby is kept warm by his or her mother’s body heat.”

— Louise Falardeau, general manager of Nunavik Creations.

“I’ve carried my 2-year old son in the amauti, and actually, he was keeping warm, adds Mrs Hervé. It is very handy because your hands are free and you can carry stuff. Besides, it is less straining for the back than to carry the baby in front and you can see where you’re going. If you are driving though, it is less interesting, because then you have to remove the baby from the pouch to place it in the baby car seat. But for mothers who are bus riding, it must be great!”

A LONG TAIL TO SIT ON THE SNOW

In the past, the amautis’ roomy shoulders enabled “the mother to bring the child from back to front for breastfeeding or for eliminatory functions without exposing the child to frostbite”, according to Musée McCord. Thanks to this parka, a baby can wear only indoor’s hat and garments until approximately the age of two. “This close and prolonged contact between mother and child helps lengthen breastfeeding period and space out pregnancy”, says a report from Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada.

Historically, the back of the amauti goes all the way down to the calves lending a folkloric air to the garment. “Women would sit on this tail when they were on icy spots or on the snow”, explains Mrs Okpik. In its 2015 line of fashion, Nunavik Creations is also offering a short version of the parka. “We believe that this style will be more appealing to the non-Inuit urban woman”, hopes Mrs Falardeau.

The amauti could very well suit all these women who fear the cold… What better than an Inuit parka? “Our amautis are very warm, they are guaranteed to keep you comfortable up to - 40°C, adds Mrs Okpik. But up North, winter is different from here in the South. Here, the frost bites you deep to the bones, while in the North, the weather is dryer.”

 

Total number of Inuit women in Canada: 24450, of which: 

  • 4725 reside in Nunavik (Québec territory located north of 55th parallel)
  • 5920 live out of Inuit regions of Canada

Source: Statistics Canada, 2006

 

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CARRYING TWINS IN THE AMAUTI

Mélanie Frigon, the mother of 5-month old twins, attracts attention when she is wearing her Inuit parka. La Presse met her in Trois-Rivières where she lives.

Where did you get your amauti?

“I was already wearing a baby carrier. My husband who is working in the Arctic told me: «You know you’re not the only granola style girl? All Inuit women wear baby carrying parkas». So he ordered me one custom made. My amauti comes from Hall Beach (Sanirajak), near Baffin Island. It is a 3-in-1 coat, with two layers inside. You can wear it up to - 50°C.”

Do you like wearing it?

It is a bit difficult to install the twins in it; I need some help to do so. But, with only one child, it is very easy. You might find it funny, but it’s like wearing a big bra on your back where you seat you child! It is a very comfortable coat, with a long tail protecting your back from the cold wind. This way, I can go out with the twins and my eldest son of 4 who enjoys building snowmen.

Do you think that your babies like the amauti?

They just love it, especially my daughter. I put them in the amauti, and two minutes later, they are asleep. It is so comfortable to sit close to mommy and to your brother or sister!

How do people react when they come across you in the street?

They ask me what this kind of coat is.  But as soon as I move the hood to let them see the twins, I can hear them say, “Oh my God!” People talk to me a lot about it. It is part of our heritage. It has been there for hundreds of years, so I am happy to let people know better the amauti.

TWENTY HOURS OF WORK ARE NEEDED TO SEW AN AMAUTI

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Fall 1999.  Donna Karan the New York fashion designer sends a representative in the Western Arctic. Mission: to bring back traditional Inuit garments – among which an amauti, a parka designed to carry a baby on one’s back – in order to get some inspiration. But, determined to stop this “misappropriation of Inuit culture”, Pauktuutit Inuit Women Association denounces the designer in the media. Finally, DKNY decided not to launch the amauti style.

Still today, “most people in the North will sew their own amautis and parkas or they will ask someone in their family to do it for them, says Victoria Okpik, who completed a degree in fashion design at College LaSalle and who acts as in-house designer at Nunavik Creations. Sewing workshops open in many villages. Older women teach younger ones how to do.”

Inuit women jealously guard their know-how, but they are nonetheless delighted when foreigners fall in love with the amautis. Nunavik Creations sells them on line, by appointment at its workshop in Ville Saint-Laurent and also in souvenir shops of Wendake and Kuujjuaq. Two very warm styles (long and short) are available, in different colors (red, brown, sage green and white), with a removable fox or coyote fur trim.

Six people in the South and two other in Nunavik are working for the Company which is not afraid to see other firms make copies of its styles. “These coats are so complicated to make, there is no risk to come across them at Forever 21, says laughingly Vera Greening, shop manager at Nunavik Creations. To make an amauti, it takes at least 20 hours of work to an experienced seamstress.”

This is why the amautis are so expensive: you can find some at $1499 to $1699, at Nunavik Creations. “The fur is very expensive, and we have to put twice as much on the amauti’s hood than on a regular hood, explains Louise Falardeau, general manager of the Company.

LESS EXPENSIVE AMAUTIS

You can find less warm styles, without fur trim or braided belt at $460.00 (delivery included in Canada) at Amauti Baby. “I make them in my spare time, at night and on weekends, says Suzie, seamstress at Amauty Baby, and native from Iqaluit, Nunavut. She started to put an interest in their making after an aunt gave her one when her first child was born.”

A Michael Jackson’s fan, Suzie has even designed some inspired by the look of the famous pop singer…

The seamstress hopes that all the North Face companies of this world will never start selling amautis. “If southern manufacturers start making amautis, they will simply make me and other Inuit women bankrupt, says she on her website. And we will lose control over another element of our culture.”

Source: LA PRESSE +




CBC News : Nunavik Creations sews made-to-order parkas for 100
Mar 13, 2014

'The seamstresses are all from this region,' says chef de mission Nancianne Grey.

nunavik creations sews team nunavik parkas

Three Inuit seamstresses sewed 100 parkas to outfit Team Nunavik at the Nunavik Creations workshop in Ville St. Laurent near Montreal. (Photo credits: Nunavik Creations, Barbara Valente and Vickie Okpik )

team nunavik uniforms

A model shows off Team Nunavik's parkas for the 2014 Arctic Winter Games. (Photo credits: Nunavik Creations, Barbara Valente and Vickie Okpik)

When it comes to the traditional trading of Arctic Winter Games coats and jackets in Alaska next week, the young athletes from Team Nunavik will have a distinct advantage: they’ll be wearing hand-made parkas, designed and sewn by Inuit women.

"We're part of the team going there," said designer Vickie Okpik.

“They have in-seam pockets, and they have a makkalik hood which is the traditional style,” she said, describing the parkas.

Originally from Quaqtaq, Que., Okpik did a degree in Fashion Design from Lasalle College before she was hired by Makivik Corporation in 1999 to launch a clothing project.

That project evolved into Nunavik Creations, which was established to "expand economic opportunities and produce products that reflect the culture, crafts and traditions of Nunavik to the outside world."

team nunavik uniforms

This is the seventh year that Nunavik Creations has outfitted Team Nunavik for the Arctic Winter Games. (Nunavik Creations, Barbara Valente and Vickie Okpik)

Today the company specializes in sealskin parkas, mitts and hats for men, women and children.

It's also designed and manufactured parkas for Team Nunavik since 2000.

Okpik remains the in-house designer for the company.

She started working on the project a year ago, and the seamstresses got to work last summer.

“I try to incorporate something Inuk in there,” she said. “Something Nunavik style. Something that the ladies will like to have, and the men.”

Team Nunavik’s chef de mission Nancianne Grey said the uniforms are “an interesting mix of modern and traditional.”

And she has praise for the company that made them.

“The seamstresses are all from this region and we’re very proud,” Grey said.

In fact, Grey said she can't imagine having the team uniforms made by anyone else.

team nunavik uniforms

Vickie Okpik is originally from Quaqtuq, Nunavik.

"They have the resources to make large orders such as ours. They have the experience, they have the fashion sense, they have the desire to try different things. It was the perfect business relationship.”

Nunavik Creations is based in Ville St. Laurent just outside of Montreal. The company also employs two seamstresses at its sewing centre in Inukjuak.

The company is wholly-owned by Makivik Corporation, the landholding corporation based on the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

The Arctic Winter Games get underway in Fairbanks, Alaska this weekend. They run until March 22.

Source: CBC News