How to wear sealskin in summer?
Fur doesn’t have to be the domain of thick parkas in the winter. Northern designers are using seal skin and other furs to start summer trends.
We know what generally comes to mind when one thinks of wearing fur: Big fluffy coats that shelter from the biting winds and freezing snow falling to the ground. But fur doesn’t have to just be for the winter—especially when it comes to seal fur. Many Northern designers have expanded their creative collections from boots, mitts and parkas to smaller accessories that add a unique twist to any outfit. Here are some of the ways Northerners have reinvented the use of fur for your summer wardrobe.
Seal skin can cover more than just winter boots. Thanks to Rankin Inlet-born designer Nicole Camphaug and husband Edgardo Mendieta of ENB Designs, seal skin heels have become quite popular over the last several years. Camphaug began refurbishing modern shoes in 2012 by buying heels and attaching seal fur over the straps as well as layering it over the heel of the shoe to add a unique accent. She also dyes the furs so the heels can be bought in numerous colours. Her designs are gorgeous as they add new texture and patterns to an otherwise simple and neutral look. ENB Designs’ products vary from men’s dress shoes and flats to stilettos and heeled boots.
This year, one of the major trends in purses is all about texture. To add some texture to any look, many Northerners turn to fur, whether that be on shoes, jewelry or handbags. Local designers create different styles of bags using seal fur—from gym bags with seal fur cut outs to slouchy red bags made of dyed fur. There are others who keep the original print of seal skin without dyeing it, showing off the dotted pattern that naturally graces the material. Some of the fur accessories you’ll find can also be embellished with beading. Just check out this green seal fur wallet. Plus, it’s waterproof so you’re prepared for whatever comes your way.
Some of the most gorgeous things to come out of the North are the jewelry. Up here, you’ll see exquisite dangling earrings or fur seal cuffs on dozens of people throughout the communities—as well as on celebrities (just look to Tanya Tagaq and Shina Novalinga). It’s a trend that has become highly popular and celebrated across the territories and beyond.
There is a growing number of Indigenous artists who hone their skills creating traditional crafts such as tufting and beading and so it isn’t difficult to find eclectic pieces that can accessorize any outfit. Designers like Cheryl Fennell utilizes both natural and dyed seal fur, to create dangling earrings. That includes ones shaped like leaves as well as long dangling strips of moose hide (or other materials), which are a popular choice up North.
Another common style up here are pom-pom earrings, which you may have also seen in major fashion magazines and stores throughout North America. While most southern shops use synthetic dyed furs, Northerners have chosen a more authentic way of re-creating the trend by using real fur.
Inuvialuk artist Erica Lugt has put a twist on tufted earrings through her blue jean seal disc earrings, while Kuujjuaq, Quebec-based Janice Parsons of Yaya Inspirations uses a mix of seal skin, leather and fox fur to create colourful and fluffy earrings, complete with designs that imitate traditional Inuit tattoos.
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Scrunchies have been the “it” accessories for a couple of years now and it isn’t just the domain of cotton and velvet fabrics. Designers like Rannva Simonsen use white rabbit fur to make her scrunchies in Iqaluit, while the NWT brand Dene Fur Clouds sells scrunchies from beaver fur. That comes in a few different neutral colours including white, brown and black.
Dene Fur Clouds also specializes in keychains, adding a dash of colour to your ring of keys (plus it would be hard to lose them with one of these keychains attached to it). The collection includes silver fox fur keychains as well as others that look like mini mink foxes. There is also a set of rabbit fur keychains that look like small fur coats in various colours from neon green and pink to royal blue and purple. Not to mention, there are others that resemble fox and raccoon tails.
Why wear seal fur if it’s not for warmth?
The main function of wearing fur is usually to keep warm, so you may wonder—why buy seal fur for any other reason? Well, aside from the fact that the texture and natural designs make for gorgeous accessories, it’s also another way to support Indigenous fur harvesters and designers. By buying Indigenous fashions, you’re supporting the artist’s culture. You’re helping to keep valuable traditions alive and an economy based on those traditions. It’s one way to be an ally and a fashionable supporter of the arts.