Sewing parkas and gowns is a team effort for Coral Harbour designer Ujaraatsiaq Ningeongan and mother Elizabeth Ningeongan.
After all, Ujaraatsiaq learned the trade as a young teenager through her mother. Ujaraatsiaq recalls her first completed project—a pair of wind pants—but it's her second creation that Ujaraatsiaq credits as the piece she’s most proud of. It was a silk and seal skin dress she made with help from her mother.
“I would say that first dress we made [is my favourite piece] because it was a challenge to us,” says Ujaraatsiaq. “It had to be perfect. If we made mistakes, we had to start over. If it didn’t fit, we’d have to make a new pattern so it could fit. It took us a month and it was such a challenge. There were breaking points, but my mom told me to have patience and to never give up.”
Seven years have passed since completing her first project and things have certainly progressed, as Ujaraatsiaq and Elizabeth have sold dozens of their designs online. But it isn’t easy work. Ujaraatsiaq focuses on designing full-time, explaining it usually takes about 10 to 16 hours to make a single parka.
“So it’s time consuming, but really worth it,” she says.
Ujaraatsiaq is currently learning how to make her business more viable through the EntrepreNorth Growth Program. The program works with northern Indigenous artists and teaches them the skills they need to make their passion a business.
“Our first gathering was in Yellowknife back in October. It was such a great experience, so much information and it was about business strategy and if we’re going to have lawyers and Indigenous models,” says Ujaraatsiaq. “They also taught us a lot about entrepreneurship.”
While the mother-daughter duo currently run Ujaraatsiaq’s Garments together, Ujaraatsiaq says retirement may be on the horizon for her mother, who has had a long and successful career. Among her accomplishments is designing a parka for Canada Goose’s Project Atigi, which was a collaboration with Inuit designers to create a unique collection of outerwear.
And while Ujaraatsiaq and her mother make a great duo, Ujaraatsiaq is ready to take the reins of the family business.
“I want to carry on what she loves to do—sewing.”
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