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'Representing our ancestors:' Labrador designer wows at New York Fashion Week

April Allen, right, incorporates fox fur and seal skin and other design elements evocative of Inuit of Nunatsiavut in her designs. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images) April Allen, right, incorporates fox fur and seal skin and other design elements evocative of Inuit of Nunatsiavut in her designs. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images)
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New York Fashion Week was a family affair for Labrador designer April Allen.

Not only did she bring her daughter, Julia Allen, and cousin Coralee Evoy to model her creations — she also brought two pairs of homemade boots to the runway.

One was created by her grandmother, the second was made by her mom.

“It’s not just about representing myself, but representing our ancestors,” Allen said. “They didn’t get to do this, you know?”

Allen presented several works from her Stitched by April design company at Sony Hall in New York, during Runway 7’s New York Fashion Week schedule.

She presented alongside other Indigenous designers during a show focused on Canadian creations.

“It was absolutely amazing,” she said from a hotel room in Montreal, en route back home to Labrador.

“Showcasing all my designs on such a global, huge platform, it was absolutely amazing.”

Runway 7 is a production company that showcases emerging artists in their programming, which coincides with the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s higher profile, exclusive New York Fashion Week events.

April Allen’s Stitched By April design is showcased at Sony Hall for Runway 7’s New York Fashion Week show. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images)

Allen brought several models from Nunatsiavut on the north coast of Labrador with her to the show, including her daughter, Julia Allen.

“I definitely thought my mom would get there at some point,” Julia Allen said. “But just to be there with her and experience this life event together was really meaningful.”

Both her and Coralee Evoy have done some modelling with April Allen’s work before, but it was their first time on a stage of that size.

“It was a really nice experience to be able to be there with April and represent Labrador like that,” Evoy said.

“Her sealskin designs are beautiful, but they’re also bringing education to people on what seal skin actually is and about the seals and how we use it in our culture on a global platform.”

April Allen poses for a photo in New York City during a trip to present at New York Fashion Week. (Submitted by April Allen)

April Allen started her design work about four years ago, after returning to Labrador from a career in Saskatchewan.

Her work is getting attention — she presented at Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week in November, and since she presented in New York, has received interest from runways in Paris and Los Angeles.

There’s a therapy in creating her work — Allen creates everything by hand, but expects the business will soon grow too big for her to keep that up.

There are challenges involved when showcasing your work around the world, but Allen says she relishes the opportunity to share her culture and see her designs on the runway.

“You can’t even put a word to it,” she said. “It’s this feeling that you get. … You get those cold shivers. It’s just amazing.” 

Correction

A previous version of this story described Allen as returning to Labrador from a career in Manitoba. It has been updated to reflect that she returned from a career in Saskatchewan. 

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