The transformation of seal fur into clothing and accessories is an essential activity for the economic survival of the Indigenous people living in the circumpolar region in Canada (but also in Greenland, Russia and Alaska, in the United States). But beyond fashion, it is also a practice that perpetuates the spiritual and cultural traditions dear to the Arctic peoples. Let’s take a look at this ancestral knowledge passed down from mother to daughter since the beginning of time.
Sealskin’s characteristics and functions
Sealskin is without a doubt the most shielding of the animal kingdom: it is dense yet light, has a remarkable ability to repel water and durable, but above all, it keeps the body warm, even below zero. This fur comes from harp seals, a renewable natural resource whose hunting is well supervised and practised without cruelty in Canada. It is a malleable material: it can be shaped in all sorts of ways (coats, bags, jewellery, decorations, etc.) and tanned as desired since it absorbs dye well. When the time comes to create with seal fur, artisans can give free rein to their eccentricities, styles and daring: anything goes!
Transforming sealskin from mother to daughter
When it comes to Inuit fashion, we need to pay homage to women artisans. Indigenous women have been passing on this knowledge from mother to daughter for thousands of years. There are no formal courses or schools to teach this art in the northern territories: the tradition is perpetuated orally. Cutting, beading, sewing and tanning techniques: Inuit women know everything about the transformation of seal fur (or seal, if you prefer). And they lead by example! The creations that emanate from their workshops ensure the transmission of traditional knowledge to future generations and are a direct reflection of the history of the Inuit people who have been present on the Arctic territory for over four thousand years. It is a testimony to the Indigenous heritage and culture, rich in unique knowledge and glorious traditions.
Indigenious fashion: between tradition and modernity
The markets’ new openness now allows Indigenous fashion to shine at its true value and on a large scale. Standing out, it caught the eye of many around the world. Because the Canadian native artists create by being inspired by their ancestral heritage while evolving their art constantly, hence conjugating their fashion to the present and rooting it in the modernity. The ancestral knowledge combines contemporary processes and styles. What is created in Inuit communities is more than ever plural and original. No more stereotypes! For example, in 2021, seal fur is no longer reserved for parkas and moccasins: a designer like Cheryl Fennell now also combines it with metals to make unique bracelets, handbags and earrings.
The history and traditions cherished by Indigenous peoples, communities and nations ignite the spark plug for all this creativity. The clothing and accessories created from fur and sealskin combine beauty with utility and modernity. They are odes to the northern wildlife and testify to a deep connection of their artisans to the land, the sea, the environment, the cultures and the Indigenous ways of life. These are meaningful creations, as ethics and eco-responsibility have forever been dear to the hearts of Indigenous peoples: they are the very essence of their way of life. Celebrating Aboriginal creativity means encouraging meaningful fashion that is in perfect harmony with nature. Visit the Proudly Indigenous Crafts & Designs online store today for a wide range of authentic, high-quality seal fur and leather accessories made by talented Indigenous artisans.