Bobby Brower, right, and two Inupiaq models showcasing parkas and leggings made by Brower. Photo courtesy Yves Brower.
Bobby Brower has been interested in fashion since at least middle school. She would watch early seasons of Project Runway and buy clothes that were trendy. The short-term result was being on the receiving end of teasing when she wore wide-leg jeans to school, but in the long run, following her passion paid off. Brower makes her living as an Anchorage-based fashion designer, creating clothes and selling them through her brand Arctic Luxe. In February, she showed some of her handmade parkas on a runway at New York Fashion Week. “I can’t believe I went from being in my hometown sewing regalia and sewing for my family to New York City. It’s crazy and I feel so blessed,” she said.
Brower started sewing when she needed to make clothes to keep her infant daughter warm. A skin sewing class at Iḷisaġvik College in Utqiagvik helped her find a way to express her culture and do something she loves. “I show my culture through my clothing,” she said. Arctic Luxe products—which include fur parkas, leggings, makeup bags, and skirts—showcase designs that are a mix of contemporary fashion and traditional clothing.
It wasn’t considered cool to perpetuate Inupiaq culture when Brower was younger, but now she’s proud when she sees people wearing Arctic Luxe parkas. When she took designs to New York Fashion Week, it felt like representing her people on a world stage. “This isn’t only for me. I’m standing up for my culture and Alaska Natives,” she said.