After New York Fashion Week, Iñupiaq designer Bobby Brower gears up for Toronto Indigenous Fashion Week

After New York Fashion Week, Iñupiaq designer Bobby Brower gears up for Toronto Indigenous Fashion Week

On the February morning of the New York Fashion Week show featuring a collection of Iñupiaq parkas, designer Bobby Brower (Alaska Native Iñupiaq) woke up in Manhattan to snow.

“All of my role models were so happy,” Brower, 36, said. Indigenous News Online. “They’re like ‘finally! An appropriate thing to wear on the runway. It was perfect for my collection.

Eight professional models wearing Brower’s designs are pictured strut on a rooftop podium in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, comfortably decked out in felted parkas with elaborate fur hoods and trims as the snow falls.

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But coats aren’t just meant to look warm, Brower said. They are meant to keep wearers warm in sub-zero temperatures, down to -50 Fahrenheit.

“It’s part of our culture,” Brower said. “Being from Alaska and growing up in the Arctic, it’s survival gear. It’s not just, ‘I killed these animals so I could wear the fashion.’ It’s about keeping my kids warm and keeping my family warm.

Brower, the creator behind Arctic luxury, traveled more than 4,000 miles last month to fulfill his career dreams. After learning that she had been accepted into New York Fashion Week last April, she began packing eight atigiit, or parkas, at her home in Anchorage, where she recently moved from her hometown in the Arctic, Utqiaġvik.

One of the males’ coats was made from sealskins that Brower salvaged during a big storm last year, when about 40 dead seals washed up on Utqiagvik beach. Brower and his brother were able to skin nine and used the meat to feed animals at the beach.

“It was like I was recycling,” she said.

This coat will now be loaned as part of a nine-month exhibition at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

To offset the cost of the trip to New York, plus the $6,000 space, Brower held fundraising events and sold raffle tickets for his handmade parkas.

In the end, she said the New York Fashion Week exposure was worth it.

“I am a single mother of four children. So it was very difficult for me to keep all my parkas because it took me about a year to prepare everything,” she said. “But I didn’t do this just for me, you know, I feel like I’m representing Alaska Natives as a whole. I think it was really necessary for people, especially our young people. .

Although Brower couldn’t bring his own models to the show, his next big event… Indigenous Fashion Week in Toronto, Canada in June — will showcase their work on exclusively Indigenous models. She said the more her contemporary Iñupiaq products are on display, the better it will be for young Indigenous people like her children.

“There is still a lot of racism and hatred towards native people,” she said. “To be able to show that I went to New York Fashion Week and showed Alaskan Native culture on the catwalk, it’s crazy. I don’t know what’s going to come out of New York Fashion Week. York I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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About the Author

Jenna Kunze
Author: Jenna KunzeE-mail: This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Personal editor

Jenna Kunze is a reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. His bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Smithsonian Magazine and Anchorage Daily News. In 2020, she was one of 16 American journalists selected by the Pulitzer Center to report on the effects of climate change in the Arctic region of Alaska. Before that, she was a senior reporter at the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska. Kunze is based in New York.