At the coronation of King Charles III on May 6, 2023, amidst finery worn by politicians and celebrities from around the world, one woman stood out in an annuraaq with emerald-green sleeves and intricate beaded details, accessorized with sealskin leather boots with matching beading. It was Governor General Mary Simon, wearing an outfit created by Inuk artist Beatrice Deer.
Simon’s annuraaq featured three-quarter sleeves in sheer emerald-green organza with black satin cuffs, an intricately embroidered black satin chest piece with beaded trim, a curved hem trimmed in black and gold, caribou-fur details and a fox-fur collar. Completing the ensemble was a pair of modified kamiks with matching beadwork and a set of hairpins.
Simon wears the ensemble on Coronation Day COURTESY GOVERNOR GENERAL OF CANADA OFFICE PHOTO SGT MATHIEU ST-AMOUR, RIDEAU HALL © OSGG, 2023
Deer is an award-winning artist from Quaqtaq, Nunavik, QC, best known as a singer/songwriter and front person of the Beatrice Deer Band. In 2005 her debut album, Just Bea, won the Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for best Inuit/Cultural Album, which combined traditional throat singing with indie pop rock. Deer is also a keen designer who, alongside Julie Grenier, was commissioned to create an arnauti for INUA, the inaugural exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq.
Although Simon requested that the outfit include emerald-green and black and gold trim, many of the details were left up to Deer to decide. She produced a design that pulled in both traditional influences and modern ideas, alongside personalized beadwork to symbolize Simon herself. Curved hems can be frequently found in both traditional and modern Inuit women’s clothing, and the beaded chest piece is another reference to traditional garb, with richly beaded trim with orange, green, purple and white stripes that is reminiscent of many historical parka examples.
The beading on the front of the annuraaq, featuring the Governor General’s coat of arms COURTESY GOVERNOR GENERAL OF CANADA OFFICE PHOTO SGT MATHIEU ST-AMOUR, RIDEAU HALL © OSGG, 2023
The image Deer chose to add to the chest piece is the official coat of arms designed for Simon as Governor General, which highlights the Arctic and Inuit culture through arctic foxes, an owl, two kakivak fishing spears and Simon’s personal motto Ajuinnata—which means “to persevere,” or “never give up,” in Inuktitut—both in roman orthography and syllabics. To the boots Deer added a floral motif in fuschia and gold with Swarovski crystals. The whole ensemble took her approximately 50 hours to complete, with Deer working on it every day for two months.
This isn’t the first time that Simon has used her clothing to celebrate her heritage and promote the work of contemporary Inuit designers. For her inauguration as Governor General, she commissioned Julie Grenier and Victoria Okpik to design a navy dress featuring a beaded collar with a floral motif symbolizing Indigenous Peoples throughout Canada. Simon wore this same dress to meet the Queen in March 2022 for an afternoon tea to mark Commonwealth Day.
Close observers will also spot the Governor General wearing a variety of Inuit designers during her official duties, like earrings designed by Katie Manomie or a kalikuk, a traditional lightweight women’s top, commissioned from by Clara Evalik of Nukariit Creations, which Evalik designed to include delta trim, a traditional trimming method in the Western Arctic. Simon has worn this outfit on a variety of occasions, including on her first trip back to Nunavik after becoming Governor General.
Deer and Simon at the final fitting for the garment COURTESY GOVERNOR GENERAL OF CANADA OFFICE PHOTO SGT MATHIEU ST-AMOUR, RIDEAU HALL © OSGG, 2023
By wearing Inuit clothing that meshes elements of the traditional and contemporary to a 1,000-year-old coronation ceremony, as well as in the discharge of her other formal duties as Governor General, Simon raises the profile of Inuit and more broadly Indigenous designers across the country, showcasing how special their work is on the world stage.