Canada Goose Project Atigi shared with all in the lead-up to Inuit Art Centre opening
Project Atigi, Canada Goose’s social entrepreneurship project in Canada’s North, has brought Inuit craftmanship to the world stage. It expanded Canada Goose’s northern roots and longstanding presence in the North, building on initiatives such as the Canada Goose Resource Centre’s supplies donation program, established in 2009.
Atigi is the Inuktitut word for “parka”. The seamstresses of Project Atigi are Inuit mothers and grandmothers, nurses, teachers, office workers, and small business owners—and when they pick up a needle and thread, they become designers. Calling upon a deep tradition of craftsmanship and their own unique creativity, they shape fabric into functional and beautiful garments.
Canada Goose celebrates these Inuit designers who are using their time and talent to share their culture and create opportunities for themselves and their communities. Each of the atigiit, handmade by the designers of Project Atigi, is an expression of their own unique point-of-view. When you purchase a Project Atigi garment, you’re also making an investment in the place and people that shape them. Project Atigi proceeds are distributed equally between all four regions of Inuit Nunangat—Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunatsiavut, Nunavut, and Nunavik— for craftsmanship and training programs through Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK). ITK is the national Inuit representational organization that uses research, advocacy, public outreach and education to promote Inuit health, well-being and prosperity through unity and self-determination.
The 2020 collection includes 18 unique atigi for women, men, and children. The inaugural collection launched in January 2019 brought together 14 designers from across Inuit Nunangat, with several in attendance at launch events that took place in New York City and Paris.
Mishael Gordon’s Atigi
Mishael Gordon’s design was part of the first collection, and Canada Goose graciously donated her atigi to the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
“Project Atigi is a great example of cultural appreciation, not appropriation. It’s bringing together a world-renowned company and Inuit culture that is represented through our clothing and traditions. This is an opportunity for a piece of our heritage to reach a global audience, especially while owning our own designs,”[i] said Gordon, an Inuk designer and entrepreneur based in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Unlike many of the other seamstresses of Project Atigi, Gordon did not learn how to sew as a child. She dreamt of becoming a fashion designer, and took sewing classes on her own, in her hometown of Rankin Inlet. As a teenager, she created her first atigi for her younger brother, and then went on to create atigiit for other family members. Since then, this self-taught seamstress has made unique designs for her entire family. She moved to Iqaluit to attend a nursing program at a local college, but she still hopes to make a living from creating atigiit. She now takes orders on social media for bespoke items.
“We are being acknowledged for our artwork, it’s very much art to us. Our form of art is sewing,” said Gordon. Inuit women being acknowledged for their hard work and their amazing skills is really empowering, not just for us Inuit women participating in the project, but for all Inuit women who provide for their families.”[ii]
Her bright red atigi honours the memory of her grandmother. It is based on a pattern from the atigi she wore as a little girl, which her grandmother made for her. Mishael used a sewing machine to reimagine the atigi, and attached the fur to the hood by hand, according to the teaching she received as a teenager. A woman’s atigi often has a U-shape in the front skirt, and this one has a pointed hood, just like the hood on the atigi her grandmother crafted. The sleeves and hem are embellished with a floral pattern and yellow trim.
“As seamstresses we really try to develop our own unique style of sewing,” she said. “We are proud of what we make and how we make it.”
WAG Inuk Style Exhibition
The WAG is thrilled to share Gordon’s atigi with all as part of Inuk Style. Opening this fall, the show is curated by Inuk Jocelyn Piirainen, Assistant Curator of Inuit Art.
“Inuit have always made their own clothing. Inuk Style celebrates the history of the varying styles of clothing and jewellery, and how contemporary artists are re-working traditional materials, knowledge and sewing skills to create unique pieces of wearable art,” said Piirainen.
This opportunity for the public to engage with Gordon’s atigi furthers Project Atigi’s impact, and the WAG and Canada Goose’s shared mission to connect North and South and amplify Inuit voices. In the lead-up to the opening of the WAG Inuit Art Centre, the WAG is honoured to hold in trust a Project Atigi design, and to deliver educational Inuit art programming to youth and adults throughout the North and Manitoba.
[i] Canada Goose/Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. (2019, August 8). Canada Goose Issues Call For Inuit Designers For Project Atigi. Retrieved from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: https://www.itk.ca/canada-goose-issues-call-for-inuit-designers-for-project-atigi/
[ii] Newman-Bremang, K. (2019, February 4). 14 Canada Goose Parkas That Will Help Inuit Communities Across The Country. Retrieved from Refinery 29: https://www.refinery29.com/en-ca/2019/02/223346/canada-goose-project-atigi-parkas