grew up watching our mothers and grandmothers, so it's in our
accessories on display at Winifred Designs' booth at
the Northern Lights Business and Cultural Showcase in Ottawa
last week. (photo by Sarah Rogers)
parka of Nungak's was selected to take part in a travelling
exhibition of contemporary Indigenous fashion in 2016, visiting
four different American museums. (photo by Sarah Rogers)
OTTAWAIn a sea of sealskin and colourful commander fabric,
Winifred Nungak's booth stands out for its pop of pink, from
plush pompoms to dyed fox-fur mittens.
The Kangirsuk seamstress has curated a booth at this year's
Northern Lights Business and Cultural Showcase, where her parkas
and pualuuk (mittens) are embellished with colourful siniks or trima
look that's become something of her trademark.
Nungak's work, which she sells through her business Winifred
Designs, has made a name for itself through the Inuit Nunangat and
beyond, but Nungak said she considers herself more of a seamstress
than an artist.
"Growing up, I think every Inuk woman sews," she said.
"We grew up watching our mothers and grandmothers, so it's
in our DNAit's part of our lives."
Like many beginner sewers, Nungak started making miniature amauti
for her Barbie dolls as a child.
"When I was a teenager, that's when I started making my
own clothes," said Nungak, who is the daughter of Nunavik writer
Zebedee Nungak and Makivik Corp. governor Jeannie Nungak.
fitted pualuuk show the colourful siniks that Nungak likes
to add as trim to her creations, a throwback to 1950s Inuit
fashion. (photo courtest of Winnifred Designs)
"I remember my very first coat, I think I was 16,"
she said. "It was very rookie-looking. I had no experience,
but it was wearable."
As she experimented with different styles, Nungak looked at
photos of the traditional and handmade clothing Inuit women wore
in the 1950s and 60s. She was immediately drawn to the siniks, or
trim embellishing the cuffs of parkasa look that makes many
of her pieces stand out.
Nungak was already selling pieces to clients when she decided
to learn more about the southern fashion industry. She studied fashion
design at LaSalle College in Montreal, earning a diploma in college
studies in 2013.
By this point, her style was intact: "fitted, feminine,
curvy," as Nungak described it. "I like colourful, colourful
Her work has been seen and sold across the continent and beyond.
One of her parkas caught the attention of an American curator in
2016, who selected it to be displayed as part of a travelling
exhibition of Indigenous fashion that visited four museums that
These days, Nungak is juggling a full-time career as a seamstress,
in addition to raising her one-year-old son, Nayen. She sells her
work through her business Facebook page and at the occasional trade
show, like Northern Lights.
Nunagak said she's proud to be one of a growing number
of Inuit seamstresses who are making a name for themselves and re-defining
It's not always easy though. Nungak would like to see regional
organizations offer support for small businesses like hers.
"I work alone," Nungak said as her toddler clambered
up her lap. "I have no seamstresses to sew for me. And living
up north, it's hard to have all these materials.
"I get a lot of messages and requests, so I can't
make parkas for everyone," she said. "So it's more
like, I can only offer them whatever I have available."
You can visit Winifred Designs online here.
and her one-year old son Nayen work the Winifred Designs booth
at the Northern Lights trade show in Ottawa Feb. 1. (photo
by Sarah Rogers)