Queen of the Yakut Spirit Fashion

If you walk in sustainability or locavore circles you might come across the term ‘100 Mile Diet.’ The term, which became popular in the early 2000’s, derives from a book written by Alisa Smith and JB MacKinnon about their experience with eating only foods that came from no more than 100 miles from their home in Vancouver, BC in Canada. The book was well received as a kind a dream or ideal for some who sought to make better food choices and put them in touch with smaller producers who were closer to their home producing food in ways that didn’t transfer to the local supermarket.
Yes the number of one hundred is arbitrary but it might be fair to say it’s a great thing to take on in principle. This approach reduces the carbon footprint of your food and probably the packaging as well. And you might cultivate all sorts of relationships with small farmers. And maybe your health would change because perhaps getting flour or sugar or oil wouldn’t be as easy. And even if it was the best thing you could do… it is very hard to do. Our lives are baked into this larger system that allows us to ‘get stuff’ from somewhere quite easily.
Imagine if you took up the ‘100 Mile Outfit’.

Avgustina Filippova is a fashion designer from Yakutia, or the Sakh Republic, in Siberia. Her designs have been shown on runways around the world but not by her choice. They have been taken there because they are so spectacular. She prefers that her creations stay in Yakutia if at all possible. Avgustina’s designs emerge from local stories in Yakutia and from the materials in her part of the world almost exclusively – the bark of trees, the fur and bone of animals, the seasonal plants.

Her dresses are not traditional Yakut clothing but have them as a kind of spring board into her fairytale understanding of what she sees the local spirits wearing.
She speaks of the cold as being one of the main forces that dictate her designs – winters there are often -50C. But not just the cold. She also sees the spirits of the place and she relies on local storytellers to tell her all about these local spirits. The spirits who are the rivers and the trees. She claims that cities don’t have these spirits. And maybe that is true. Maybe one day they might be courted back if they are indeed gone.

When asked to move to Cannes and become a designer Avgustina said “I can’t create anything in a different place. Who am I there?”

This woman. What a treasure. She is so bound to place that she knows that she couldn’t create reliably or as honestly or as beautifully if she left where she was from and bound to. So often here in the West we think the exact opposite – that we can go anywhere. And we can, for all intent and purpose, go anywhere. I don’t know all of the consequences of such a thing but I know there are some.

Primal Derma is built on a tradition of people who understood that their health was bound to place and the animals who lived close to them. While collecting and processing of tallow might not have been the most beautiful of tasks what those same people did with the hides and horns was beauty-making incarnate. So it might be that there is this deep relationship between belonging to a place and the capacity to make beauty.

It might be. So I’d pray that your use of Primal Derma is a reminder to be a bit more bound to your place and maybe have an ear out for the spirits that might be nearby waiting for your beauty-making with your hands or your carriage in the world.

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