In the Edge Gallery, visitors are immediately greeted with pops of vibrant red, blue, pink and violet. The colours come from the floral granny hanky fabric used by Natasha Peter, an emerging fashion designer originally from Ross River. Peter’s exhibition is titled after her business, Kaska Dena Designs.
Using both traditional and contemporary influences, Peter’s work features modern dresses sewn from the granny hanky fabric, which she says brings back memories from her childhood. There are also jean jackets embellished with the fabric. Even footwear is adorned with the hanky design, including heeled booties and a gorgeous pair of white mukluks.
The clothing is accented by jewellery, some of which is a mix of beadwork and other materials, such as fur and horse hair. Other pieces are made from carved materials such as ivory or antler, and have a wonderful symmetry and balance.
All of the work was designed and made by Peter, who learned sewing and beading from Elders in Ross River. She also learned how to carve from her father, Gordon Peter. However, it wasn’t until the last five years that she started making artwork after she left her camp job.
“When I first started do this – the beadwork, the whole fashion journey – was five years ago and [I was] just randomly talking, ‘One of these days my stuff is going to be in a gallery, it’s going to be on a runway, people are going to know me.’”
Peter’s determination and exceptional talent have brought her to where she wanted to be. She’s now having her first gallery show.
“The show is amazing, I’m like super happy,” she says. “I was there when they set it up, and I was kind of like, holding back my tears. I was like ‘Oh my god I can’t believe this is happening.’”
She’s also been invited to participate in a fashion show in Alberta, which was postponed due to COVID-19.
Peter started making work as a hobby and a way to make some extra income after returning to school. However, it wasn’t long before she was getting noticed on social media and people across Canada were asking for custom orders of her clothing.
She’s also had local exposure at the Adäka Festival, the Yukon First Nations Arts online shop, and Unorthodox Yukon, where one of her neckpieces sold less than an hour after she dropped it off.
“I couldn’t believe that,” she says. “I was so impressed with that.”
Peter’s passion for fashion has more than financial rewards. The process of designing and making clothing and jewelry is therapeutic as well.
“Little did I know that when I created it, it was healing me,” she says.
Peter gets her design ideas from a number of sources. She’ll find things she likes on the internet or in magazines. Or she’ll take a walk and be inspired by what she sees.
“An idea hits my head, and I make it,” she says. “It’s like that with everything I make.”
She’s incredibly productive. With the exception of a sealskin corset, everything in the Arts Underground show was made in one month. Last summer she filled 20 jean jacket custom orders in a month.
With so much production underway, Peter’s Kaska Dena Designs became an official business last month. Her business license is framed and hanging on her wall. She’s taking programs in business at Däna Näye Ventures and Yukonstruct. Most importantly, she’s proud of what she’s accomplished.
“There’s a lot of things I still need to do but it all comes in time and I’ve made it this far,” she says. “And I can’t believe I made it this far. This is the first, the very first thing I’ve done in my life that I’ve stuck it out, this long. And I’m pretty impressed with it.”
Eleventy-Leven and Kaska Dena Designs are showing at Arts Underground until October 30.