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Sara Connors
APTN News

A fashion and jewelry designer from Ross River Dena Council in the Yukon will soon be showcasing her work at one of the biggest fashion events in the world.

Natasha Peter, who is Kaska-Dena, will present her designs at New York Fashion Week in September.

Peter says she was shocked when she heard the news.

“Here I am going to New York, one of my goals I’ve been wanting to achieve for the longest time,” she says.

Peter, who now lives in Whitehorse, is known for mixing contemporary fashion with traditional design, such as granny hanky inspired denim jackets and heels – and her work is not going unnoticed.

Peter says her newly formed business, Kaska Dena Designs, can hardly keep up with orders from across Canada and the U.S.

Last month a presenter from the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada wore one of Peter’s dresses to the Juno Awards.

The designer also recently made her fashion show debut on Alexander First Nation in Edmonton where Indigenous models strutted her designs on a catwalk.

She says the last few years have been a whirlwind.

“When I started this business, I randomly said my stuff will be in a gallery. One of these days my things are going to be on a runway… and then four years down the road my stuff is in a gallery, I’m attending fashion shows,” she says.

Pressure is on

New York Fashion Week is a semi-annual series of fashion shows that features up-and-coming designers for major fashion brands like Michael Kors, Oscar de la Renta and Marc Jacobs.

Peter’s work was selected for RISE New York Fashion Week, a show featuring emerging and independent fashion designers.

While she’s not quite sure what designs she’ll flaunt at the show, Peter says the clothing and jewelry will likely be eye-catching and flashy.

She notes the pressure is on to start designing.

“The lady I’m talking to said there’s going to be a lot of celebrities and rich people, and I have to start curating because if they see your stuff they want to buy it right away,” she says.

Despite the stress, Peter says it’s a dream come true.

“I imagine after my show in New York everyone else is going to know who I am,” she says.

From addictions to fashion

But it wasn’t too ago that her dream seemed out of reach.

For 15 years Peter struggled with addiction.

“I didn’t really have a youth because I drank most of that part of my life away,” she says.

Peter says five years ago she picked up a sewing needle and has been sober ever since.

“It was healing me and I didn’t know,” she recalls. “I liked that feeling, so I kept going and I started achieving a lot of things.”

Thanks to her family, community sponsors and customers, Peter says she’s on track to present unique Kaska-Dena designs to the world.

“I’m so proud of myself that I’ve come so far and I was able to stick it out for as long as I did. There was a lot of times I was talking and getting upset with myself like, ‘What am I doing? Why are you doing this?’” she says.

Peter says she hopes her journey will inspire the next generation of designers.

“I feel like if you put your heart to something – and really have passion – you can go anywhere. Whether that’s working fashion or hunting or something you’re feeling passionate about. I hope my story will help somebody to follow their dreams, too.”

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This article was first published in APTN National News.