Louisette Boudreau poses in one of her fashion designs. (Submitted)

Burwash Landing designer hopes to highlight Yukon fur, themes at a Toronto fashion show

Louisette Boudreau will be travelling with her team to Fashion Art Toronto at the end of April

Attendees at a popular annual art and fashion show in Toronto will get a taste of a unique Yukon-tough-meets-Moulin-Rouge this year.

Longtime Burwash Landing resident Louisette Boudreau, perhaps best known as the founder of the Yukon Tough brand, will be travelling to the city at the end of April to take part in Fashion Art Toronto. The event is a five-day showcase featuring the work of cutting-edge, up-and-coming designers and artists from Canada and around the world and attracts thousands of guests.

It also happens to be the first time Boudreau will have participated in a fashion show, ever.

“I’m a little bit nervous,” she admitted during a phone interview with the News on March 18.

Originally from New Brunswick, Boudreau has called the Yukon, and Burwash Landing in particular, home for the past 18 years. In that time, she’s immersed herself in the territory’s vibrant trapping culture, applying the sewing skills she learned from family members as a child to create clothing and accessories with the fur so readily accessible to her.

Over time, Boudreau said, she also began forming friendships with other local designers, beaders and seamstresses, learning from and working with them while also taking inspiration from her Acadian roots.

The result of all those influences is apparent in the name of the collection Boudreau will be showcasing in Toronto — ”La Collision par Louisette Boudreau,” a women’s-wear line that’s part boudoir, part Gold Rush, part Yukon-bush-life. It currently features 15 outfits, which, along with corset-like tops and long skirts also feature accessories like capes, boot covers, necklaces and earrings.

“My stuff is really unique because it’s not really often that you see all those things put together, like jean and canvas, skin, fur, and beading, like all of that in one shot,” she said.

“…There’s not going to be so much of an influence of one thing, like it’s not just going to be First Nation influence, it’s going to be a big mash of all of those things that came together in the Yukon.”

While she’s the lead designer of the collection, Boudreau emphasized that she hasn’t created it alone. It’s been the result of working with other creatives like beading artist Lucy-Ann Kay and jewelry artist Taylor Hunter, and Boudreau also counts trappers like Luke Johnson as among her collaborators. Seven other people involved in the collection, including assistant designers and models, will be travelling with her to Toronto for the show (they are currently running a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the trip).

“I love sewing, but the part I like the most is being around my friends and being able to share that experience because sometimes it gets lonely, just to be sewing by myself,” she said, adding that, because of a bad wrist, things like beading and fine sewing can be tedious and painful for her.

Combining ideas and different talents can also result in something greater than a solo effort, Boudreau said.

“I always find that when you have a whole bunch of beautiful artists putting work together, it just makes it that much more unique because we’re all kind of working together with our own unique styles and putting it together just makes it the most beautiful item.”

Although clothing and accessories made with locally-trapped fur or moosehide are part of everyday life and celebrated in the Yukon, Boudreau said she knows that’s not always the case down south, especially in big cities. She’s anticipating some resistance about the animal-based materials in her collection, but said she’s prepared to answer questions and dispel myths about fur and fashion.

“I think (I will be) introducing the Yukon and maybe bringing some awareness about the lifestyle of trapping and being out on the land,” she said, adding that she hopes her collection helps display the high quality and value of fur produced in the Yukon and across the North.

The show is also a chance for Boudreau to prove herself to the larger fashion industry and, if she’s successful, build a larger platform and business for herself.

“I think because my wrist is in so much pain, I’m having a hard time sewing, maybe this is just (my) one shot to try to be recognized as a designer,” she said.

“… Maybe (I’ll be) able to make enough money to in the future be able to hire people to do the sewing part for me, because I think I’m really good at putting things together to make something beautiful, but the sewing part is really hard for me.”

Fashion Art Toronto takes place from April 24 to 28. Boudreau’s GoFundMe can be found at gofundme.com/la-collision-a-fashion-line-for-change

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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