In Rankin Inlet, the secret to staying toasty outdoors starts with the bob of a needle and thread indoors.
At least for Corinne Pilakapsi, one of half a dozen seamstresses in town sewing up a storm.
She takes a break from sewing a series of plain black uniform parkas for the local fire department and hauls out her personal collection. She wears a lighter parka for driving, and a heavier one with fleece lining for snowier days.
“This pattern I have is from the Baffin region, she says. “It is a straight arm fitted look — it just gives that hug.”
Pilakapsi explains that all three regions in Nunavut have different styles based on their use.
“The Kivalliq parka is different than the Baffin,” she says. “The Baffin looks nice for the wear, but for a woman that does a lot more than the man does–like holding bags, throwing out trash–it isn’t as practical.
“This kind of look is more for, ‘let’s go to the store and you can hold the bags and I can walk beside you.’”
Each piece weighs only a few pounds — lighter and less bulky than your average Canada Goose jacket.
The trick to the trade lies in the ‘in-between’, Pilakapsi explains, with the middle layer of the parka made up of thinsulate and purchased at your local Rankin Inlet Home hardware.
Corinne Pilakapsi models one of her custom-made parkas. Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs/APTN.
“You have your commander for the outer layer, the hollow fill for the side of the jacket that touches your body and then the thinsulate.”
Although she started off sewing as a way to keep her husband warm when he is out on the land, Pilakapsi has expanded into crafting more luxe looks, like her fancy collection of hockey parkas with hand stitched logos for every team her brother, former NHLer Jordin Tootoo, played for.
It takes Pilakapsi around four hours to whip up a plain parka. Ones with fur and trim take a few more hours.
Custom fitted parkas run between $500 and $600.
And a growing number of people from outside Rankin Inlet are showing interest.
“I know many kabloonas that wear the parkas,” she says. “If you want it, I can try to make it. If you like it, go ahead.”
Pilakapsi says she doesn’t consider herself an artist.
With eight-month winters, bills run high. Filling orders is just one way Pilakapski puts food on the table.
“This kind of thinking — keep the lines straight, make sure it lines up, and hold it — it just soothes me and my soul.”
In Rankin Inlet, people know you by your jacket.
Thanks to Pilakapsi, my friends in Yellowknife will now know me by my very own custom-made three layer Kivalliq parka.