On Thursday, May 31, 2018 Inuit Art Quarterly staff met with Inuk Designs during Indigenous Fashion Week in Toronto. They discussed how Inuk Designs got started and what being part of Indigenous Fashion Week in Canada means to Inuk Designs.
Inuit Art Quarterly: How did you get started with Inuk Design?
Inuk Design: We originally started in 2001 because my wife was a graphic designer and we make prints and advertising. But some years ago in 2012 we started the real Inuk Design.
But the trip began much before then. In 1987 I started to draw my cultural life and I still use many of the drawings from then. And actually it was an accident. I made some fabric of my own art and posted it to Facebook and the same evening people were knocking on my door and asking if they could buy it. I then made some new fabric and they knocked at my door again and asked if they could buy it. I said to my husband, ‘maybe this is something?’ That is how it all started.
Later I received an award from our municipality for my work and they also wanted to interview us. We had this room in our house where we worked and we took everything out of the room and made it like look like a store with all my things, and that’s how we started my store, in about two hours. I think we opened the mind of Greenlanders to make their own things and so in that way the mayor of our municipality decided to give us this award for entrepreneurship and innovative design of our culture.
I wanted to make a modern version of our culture; very graphic and very modern and very Nordic. People from all over the world like it, they connect to it because it is kind of Indigenous-very very deep Indigenous. People from Brazil, Japan, United States, Australia and Canada, they love my designs.
IAQ: What does being part of Indigenous fashion week mean to you?
Inuk Design: It means a lot. I have been dreaming about this for a very long time because Inuit are pure in our perspective. And female Indigenous entrepreneurs are important. So it’s really important for me and I’m so happy. I want the rest of the world to join us, aboriginal Australians and the Maori and from Hawaii. We have been working with Deakin University in Australia to make rules to protect Indigenous patterns, songs and words so big designers or companies can’t take them without asking. I’m not just a designer I also would like women entrepreneurs to join and to show the world we can do this too and you have to respect us.
In Greenland we are very far away from the rest of the world because we are an island and our connection from Greenland goes to Denmark on a four or five hour plane. So we have very limited possibilities to make business trips of our own. And we are only 56,000 people all over Greenland and in Nuuk we are only about 17,000. So it is the first time we are here in Canada and we have been talking about trying Canada out because we hear people are talking about Inuk Design in Nunavut and people are saying ‘please come to Canada.’ But it is expensive.
In Greenland we don’t have all these factories that can produce fabrics everything we make is produced somewhere else: Spain, France, Sweden, Iceland, Canada and the United States. We hope that we can find some people here in Canada so we can make products here. That is our aim.