‘I’ve always loved fashion’: Inupiaq designer that blends high-end fashion with Indigenous designs

‘I’ve always loved fashion’: Inupiaq designer that blends high end fashion with Indigenous designs
Published: Jul. 18, 2023 at 8:11 AM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

UTQIAGVIK, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s not the fashion capital of the world, but it is the northernmost city in the United States.

Utqiagvik is where Bobby Brower grew up and the place where her designer dreams started.

In her element at her home in Anchorage, Brower brings her creative fashion designs to life. She’s always been surrounded by a subsistence lifestyle, but also grew up around seamstresses and skin sewers too.

“My mom actually taught me how to cut out box furs,” she said.

Brower’s always loved fashion, but it wasn’t until middle school that she really started to take an interest in it.

“When I was growing up, though, in middle school, it wasn’t cool to be Inupiaq for my culture and I wanted to figure out a way how to make it cool that everyone would like it,” Brower said.

So, she started sewing and creating her own designs, and it wasn’t long before people took an interest.

“I just kept on being involved, slowly doing shows and figuring out what I was really, really good at, and then my parkas got really popular,” she said.

The mother of four is now the owner and president of Arctic Luxe, a brand where luxurious high-fashion meets handmade Indigenous-designed clothing.

“I really liked high-end designers like Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors,” she said. “Like, they have really nice stuff, so what I did one time to get a really nice pattern, I bought a Michael Kors coat, and I deconstructed it and then I altered the pattern to my pattern, and made it really like — that’s kind of like how I make the more high end.”

Her handmade parkas take between 40 and 50 hours to make, she said. Her designs have made it all the way to New York Fashion Week, have been featured on the set of the new television show Alaska Daily, and even made an appearance on the red carpet at the Emmy Awards.

Molly of Denali writer Lance Twitchell and his wife Miriah.
Molly of Denali writer Lance Twitchell and his wife Miriah.(Bobby Brower)

“Lance Twitchell’s wife — he was one of the writers for ‘Molly of Denali’ — and so she wore it on the red carpet at the Emmy Awards in December,” she said.

Proud of how far she’s come and as exciting as it is, Brower hopes by following her passion, she will inspire others in her culture to do the same.

“We can go to New York, we can do fashion shows in other cities, you know, we don’t have to stay only in Alaska,” Brower said. “We can do big things.”