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Cultural Threads

Cultural Threads

Arviat’s Hinaani Design is on the cusp of something big
By Marc Fawcett-Atkinson
Aug 08
From the July/August 2018 Issue

There’s inspiration all around Arviat designer Keenan (Nooks) Lindell. “The snow, the weather, our family. We want to show how proud and grateful we are to live where we live.”

Founded in the growing Kivalliq community in 2014 by Paula Ikuutaq Rumbolt, Emma Kreuger, and Lindell, Hinaani Design reflects Inuit culture and Arctic landscapes in its clothing and accessories. Their bright legging, skirts and shirts decorated with uluit, kakiniit (traditional tattoos), and piruqhiat (flowers) are increasingly being spotted in communities big and small all over the North. And its popular INUK line of shirts and ball caps are popping up across the country—including at the 2018 Juno Awards, where they were worn on the red carpet and onstage when The Jerry Cans and members of the Aakuluk music label performed live on CBC from coast to coast to coast.

Lindell grew up in Ottawa (his mother is a former Nunavut MP) and worked as a TV producer in Iqaluit. When he returned to Arviat in 2014, it was clear there was a demand for contemporary clothing that reflected elements of Inuit culture and lands. “I noticed people were already buying clothing with designs similar to Inuk ones,” says Lindell. “I thought that people would like clothing designs inspired by the Arctic.” And made in the Arctic.

Hinaani Design is quickly becoming the territory's go-to clothing and accessories brand. Courtesy Hinaani Design

Teaming up with Kreuger and Rumbolt, he proved that hunch right: most of Hinaani’s clientele are Northerners, the majority of whom live in Rankin Inlet and Iqaluit. Their orders come primarily online, though some stores in Iqaluit carry their clothing items. Collaboration is central to Lindell, Kreuger, and Rumbolt’s design process. They bounce ideas off each other and offer support throughout the creative process. They also reach out to family and the community for advice. For Lindell, that means regular visits to see his grandmother, accompanied by his and Kreuger’s “rambunctious” toddler. “I visit with my grandmother at least once a week,” he says. “And everything we do gets approved by her.” If she likes it, odds are customers will.

Food is a motif in many of Hinaani’s designs precisely because it brings people together. The ulu, used for preparing country food, appears regularly in their designs. The company’s Instagram page is filled with elegant pictures of maktaaq and tuktu. They’ve even designed an ‘all you need is maktaaq’ shirt. “Understanding and respecting the importance of food, where it comes from and how it strengthens traditions and communities is important to us,” Lindell says.

And having an ethical product is important to them, too. Manufacturers are chosen based on the quality of their environmental practices, working conditions, and the products’ overall carbon footprint from production to sale. Eventually, they plan to build a silk-screening and embroidery factory in Arviat. The company already sources as much as it can locally, says Lindell. Most of their handmade items are produced in the community including Lindell’s speciality: handmade earrings and uluit. “My back porch is covered in antler dust from making caribou antler jewellery,” he says. It’s been his workshop the past few years and it isn’t heated, so it gets cold in January and February. “Keeping my hands busy can help keep them warm,” he says.

Some of those pieces were highlighted in early June at the inaugural Toronto Indigenous Fashion Week. Bringing together Indigenous artists from across North America, the event was an opportunity to further promote Hinaani’s new spring Upirngaaq 2018 line on the national stage.

“Hinaani” means to be on the edge of something. Right now, that’s something big.