Advertisement

Inuk designer showcases fashion on the world stage in New York

April Allen is taking her Indigenous designs to New York Fashion Week 2024. (Alana Paterson/Submitted by April Allen - image credit)
April Allen is taking her Indigenous designs to New York Fashion Week 2024. (Alana Paterson/Submitted by April Allen - image credit)
April Allen is taking her Indigenous designs to New York Fashion Week 2024.
April Allen is taking her Indigenous designs to New York Fashion Week 2024.

April Allen is taking her Indigenous designs to New York Fashion Week 2024. (Alana Paterson/Submitted by April Allen)

A designer from Rigolet, Labrador, has made her way to one of the biggest fashion events in the world and she's bringing Inuit fashion and a team of models from Labrador with her.

New York Fashion Week is a semi-annual event that takes place in September and February, bringing designers from all over the world to Manhattan. April Allen will be showcasing her label, Stitched by April, at her show on Sunday night.

She's also brought a team of models along with her, including five from Nunatsiavut. She said having Indigenous models was an important choice to her.

"Attending the New York Fashion Week is definitely a dream come true for me. And you know, it's important to ensure authentic representation of Inuit and Indigenous models," she told CBC News.

It not only validates her brand and adds to its authenticity, she said, but also provides opportunities for potential careers in modelling within her community.

"And it's heartening to witness, you know, all the progress of Indigenous representation."

One model in her show has previous experience and is helping the others on what to do and expect.

Listen: April Allen is in New York, preparing for her show at New York Fashion Week, along with a team of models from Labrador.

"We have time before the show. The show is not till the 11th, so we have time to go through it with the models from home and just ensure that they're prepared," she said.

One of those models is Raeann Brown, who said the opportunity came about around Christmas when her friend Allen said she was attending New York Fashion Week and asked her if Brown was interested in being a model.

Brown recalled being "taken aback" by the offer and declined at the time. At the time she was busy with her own business but suggested her daughter Billie for the role.

"We decided we'd do everything we could to get Billie there," said Brown — but then she recently decided to go with them and take part herself. "I didn't want to miss seeing her in New York Fashion Week."

This will be Brown's first time modelling, though she and Billie did a photoshoot for Allen a few weeks ago, which she called "the first taste of modelling."

Allen sees her designs on a Times Square billboard in New York. 'It feels good to see Indigenous representation, and that it's going places,' she said.
Allen sees her designs on a Times Square billboard in New York. 'It feels good to see Indigenous representation, and that it's going places,' she said.

Allen sees her designs on a Times Square billboard in New York. She says it feels good to see increasing Indigenous representation. (Alana Paterson/Submitted by April Allen)

New designs on display

On Saturday, Allen's work was lit up, literally, with a Times Square billboard.

A couple of the designs she will be showing off on the world stage are from the recent Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week.

"I do all the sewing myself. A lot of it is by hand. So the timing between Vancouver and New York, it was so condensed. Like, it wasn't hardly any time at all for the turnaround," explained Allen.

Some of the designs at fashion week will be new ones, she added.

"I have a full sealskin dress. I have a couple of really detailed nice boots to put in there and a couple of leather dresses."

She also designed a red carpet dress for the person hosting her fashion show.

"We did a fitting with her yesterday, and it's a leather dress with sealskin and silver fox fur on there. And it looks really great," said Allen.

April Allen says she doesn’t work with professional models often and for New York Fashion Week she’s brought people with her.
April Allen says she doesn’t work with professional models often and for New York Fashion Week she’s brought people with her.

April Allen will be showcasing her label, Stitched by April, at her show on Sunday night. (Alana Paterson/Submitted by April Allen)

To be ready for New York Fashion Week, Allen said she worked all through Christmas and that included making a pair of boots for actress Kali Reis, which were meant for the red carpet premiere of the new season of the HBO series True Detective.

"The boots didn't make it in time. They got held up in customs, so that was a little bit of a downer. But they did eventually make it to her, and they ended up on The Kelly Clarkson Show," said Allen.

She said she started her business only a few years ago and said it already feels empowering — and feels good to see increasing Indigeonous representation.

"[I'm] someone who is from a very small community on the north coast, Rigolet and Nunatsiavut, and, you know, just still living in Labrador."

Download our free CBC News app to sign up for push alerts for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here to visit our landing page.