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Beyond Haute Couture

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Designer Biography

Peter Williams (Yup’ik Eskimo) was born and based in Alaska. As an interdisciplinary artist, he strives to express and celebrate the oneness of all things, with emphasis on the human spiritual relationship with nature. He produces high-end fur garments that blur the line between art and fashion. Under his label Shaman Furs, Williams carries on the historic art of elegant and simple textile construction built to endure the Alaskan elements. He has demonstrated the technique of sewing seal and sea otter fur by hand at Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, Alaska State Museum and has taught skin sewing to college students at University of Alaska Fairbanks. In 2015 he presented at New York Fashion Week and was profiled in The Guardian. His first runway show was at Fashion Week Brooklyn, 2016. Later that year, the New York Times chief fashion critic, Vanessa Friedman, published an article on his work titled “Is All Fur Bad Fur?” Williams completed a Rasmuson Foundation Artist Residency at Santa Fe Art Institute, a Artist in Residence at Institute of American Indian Arts and has guest lectured at Yale University, Portland Art Museum, and 516 ARTS. Williams was awarded a 2018 First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership Fellowship.

Inspired by Connection

Sea otter fur is historically prized as one of the rarest furs in the world. In 1968, Neiman-Marcus purchased four pelts at $2,300 apiece. After a history of foreign exploitation, Alaska Native tribal groups now have exclusive rights to hunt for and work with the fur. Because of traditional Native hunting practices and conservation efforts, Alaska sea otter is no longer listed as an endangered species. The luxuriously warm, soft and durable fur contains up to one million hairs per square inch, making it the densest in the World. Shaman Furs is the first label to bring seal and sea otter fur back into American high fashion since the 1970's. An exemption in the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 grants Alaska Native tribal groups exclusive rights to hunt and work with the fur. In Southeast Alaska, where Shaman Furs harvests for food and fur, the animals are not listed as an endangered species. Ranging in shade from white to gold with energetic patterns and a sleek texture, seal fur is an ideal material for one-of-a-kind looks. Shaman Furs does not ship outside the United States due to regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and CITES.  

Relationships and how we interact with the World paint the landscape of inner peace

A horizon produces the illusion that the sea and sky are separate

My hand functions like your hand, my heart beats the same way your heart beats

Within you dwells truth and beauty
— Shaman Furs
I want to be in a boutique or the like in N.Y.C., though keep Shaman Furs a microbusiness,” he said, “to maintain the individual relationship I have with the animals, and create an intimate experience for those wearing my work.
— The New York Times, Fashion & Style by Vanessa Friedman "Is All Fur Bad Fur?"