This year’s Ottawa-Hull Winterlude in February featured the first ever national Inuit cultural festival. Qaggiq ’95 was held at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull. Nineteen Inuit organizations from across Canada worked with the museum to put on the festival.

Included in the festival were info booths for the organizations involved and demonstrations of traditional activities like soapstone carving, throat singing, harpoon throwing, whip cracking and games. The video displays, square-dancing and fashion show lent the festival its modern air. One member of the audience said of the festival, “It’s like an Inuit version of a pow wow.”

The highlight of the event for most of the attendees, yours truly was no exception, was the fashion show organized by Pauktuutit, the Inuit women’s association. Their aim was to expose the work of Inuit designers from across Canada who create “wearable art,” sportswear and clothes to wear at home and around the office for the young and old in traditional and contemporary styles. Also in the show were accessories like ivory jewellery, caribou hide mittens, seal mukluks, shawls and a pair of denim jeans accented with tiny polar bear stitchings along the seam. They were… shall we say… funky. There was also a nice collection of sweaters made from what I assumed, in my ignorance of all things woven, to be wool from muskox.

The models, of all ages from the very young to one octogenarian who modelled one of her own creations, charmed the onlookers. One young child drew oohs and aahs from the crowd when his mother lifted him naked out of the oversized hood of her amautik and put him back where he disappeared into its folds.

The overall quality in the first show of this year’s collection swung from the garish to the exquisite. But some people prefer garish don’t they? Yes, I know the extent of my fashion expertise may go only as far as having a nice collection of boxer shorts in tartan, one tie and knowing to shop at the Gap. But I do know some colours should never be paired. I found out the organizers agreed with me on this at another show when “only the best” was paraded before an audience of a select few. When the show ended someone was overhead exclaiming, “There’s never been anything like this before.” And even noted fashion critic and sometime accordion playing politician Zebedee Nungak warned the “fashion houses of Paris and New York, Inuit fashion is coming.” Correcting himself he added, “Inuit fashion is here!!”