Over the years, Canadian artists and designers have been inspired by the rich imagery and symbolism of First Nations culture. But walking down the streets of downtown Montreal, which offers a good representation of the Canadian fashion scene, the style seems to be a mishmash of American and European styles manufactured in the Far East. Bucking this trend, a new brand has emerged that is offering Canadians a part of their cultural history while making them look good.
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Inspired by First Nations culture and with over 20 years of experience working in the Paris fashion scene, Nathalie Benarroch founded Inukt in September 2012, in order to promote First Nations and Canadian artisans around the world.
After working as the creative director at Femme Magazine and at BCBG in France for 23 years, Benarroch returned to Canada. “Being back in Canada after two decades my perspective changed. I realized how vast and beautiful this country is. In the past I had taken things about Canada for granted, but now they inspire and fascinate me,” Benarroch said.
The Inukt brand is a part of the global style-hunting trend that has taken over the fashion world in recent years. Benarroch and her husband were inspired by a simple road trip to Wendake, where they met Ginette Bastien, the third-generation owner of a factory, said Mitchel Garfield, Benarroch’s husband and co-founder of Inukt.
This meeting led to the creation of over 20 styles of First Nations-inspired footwear, which includes the Mauhican red-on-red ankle-length boot and the men’s Macawi moccasin boot crafted from the iconic Woolrich blanket and bull hide. These boots are sure to turn heads from the forests of northern Quebec to the runways of New York.
Inukt has been making its mark with a lineup of moccasins made in Wendake. Their moccasins take the traditional look to a whole new level as a high-end fashion statement.
The brand not only encompasses clothing, but also a selection of furniture, such as chairs and tables designed by Canadian artists. “All designers today don’t like to be limited by one source of expression. Our whole aesthetic can be applied to furniture and jewelry among other things,” Benarroch said. “That’s how we achieved our total-look brand image.”
With the entire current lineup of high-end bags, shirts, shoes, accessories and furniture being manufactured in Quebec, Benarroch is working on turning Inukt into a community of Canadian artists, designers and producers who can have their work shown around the world.
All of Inukt’s products and featured artists can be found on their website Inukt.com as well as in Montreal boutiques and, in the near future, Beijing. For now, there is still much work to be done in order to make the brand take off. However, with increasing globalization, Canada’s Aboriginal culture is sure to be embraced as it is introduced to the far reaches of the fashion world.