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."
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.
"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.