Native Alaskan models walked a red carpet runway to showcase the work of Native Alaskan designers during the Far North fashion show at Anchorage Museum Thursday.
The event was part of the Arctic Encounter Symposium, a two-day conference in Anchorage that this week brought together hundreds of people from across the Lower 48 and the circumpolar north.
“The Far North Fashion Show is basically about celebrating the arts and helping people realize, perhaps for the first time, just how rich the fashion and design of the far north is,” said Rachel Kalander, executive director of Arctic Encounter.
People crowded around a raised red carpeted stage in the center of the museum’s atrium and cheered as some 20 models walked by. Dozens more spectators leaned over the second-floor balconies to see.
The event is part of the conference’s emphasis on Arctic culture, marrying indigenous traditions, high fashion and contemporary social commentary. Crystal Toolie of Nome modeled four looks. It was her first experience in a fashion show as a model or as a spectator.
“I thought it was so cool to be able to see Native Alaskan artists and their work, and that it was promoted and shown,” he said. “There was traditional clothing for evening wear. It was wonderful.”
Some designers took the opportunity to make specific statements. Siqiniq Maupin wore a knee-length kuspik with “LAND BACK” sewn in colorful letters on the back. Ruth Łchav’aya K’isen Miller modeled a drawing of her, a wrapper created with fabric and glue with the inscription “Endi’ina ya bach’a’ina?” In the Dena’ina Athabaskan language, the words mean “Where have our loved ones gone,” she said.
“We know that with the onset of colonization and extractive capitalism, we have seen an increase in violence against our people, not only through boarding school systems and genocide, but even now through the disproportionate pace at which our women indigenous people and two – spiritual relatives are raped, mistreated and murdered, “Miller said.
“It is our responsibility as indigenous women to tell our story as loud as possible,” she said.
Arctic Encounter, an annual conference, brings together political experts, officials and thought leaders from countries in the region. The conference will run until Friday.