SAMI, Rosa-Máren Magga attending Monte Carlo Fashion Week 2018

Sami Reindeer Herders

Sami culture and reindeer herding

For most people living outside of Finland, Norway and Sweden, reindeers are usually associated with the arrival of Father Christmas every year. However, the existence of these beautiful species of deer is intimately tied to the rich culture of the indigenous Sámi community who have lived in the region since the prehistoric era.

While Lapland is known throughout the world as the home of Santa Claus, Sámi life and culture continues to thrive there. It is estimated there are more reindeer than people living in the area, with reindeer herding still the primary source of income for many of the locals. This is a way life for the Sámi herders, with the skills of their trade handed down through several generations to sustain local traditions.

Reindeer and Sami people have a connection that is thousands of years old. The Sami people have since prehistoric time using reindeer leather to make disparate handcraft goods, especially clothes, shoes, various accessories and artefacts like ceremonial Shamanic drums.

The Sami people lived and worked in so-called “siiddat” (reindeer herding groups) and reindeer where used for transport, milk and meat production. The Siida is an ancient Sámi community system within a designated area but it can also be defined as a working partnership where the members had individual rights to resources but helped each other with the management of the herds, or when hunting and fishing. The Siida could consist of several families and their herds.

Reindeer herding requires large areas, reindeer are often frightened and are forced to flee from natural pastures. Today’s reindeer are not watched year-round and reindeer wander freely during certain periods.

While reindeers are free to roam as they please they typically remain in herds and tend not to travel large distances. June sees the birth of new calves which are then marked by herders at the end of July. Once the winter months have begun, reindeer stocks are counted in full and those selected are taken to the slaughter’s house.

This largely involves the ethical selling of reindeer meat and skin to national and international buyers. Every part of the reindeer is used once the animal has been processed, including skins for decoration and leather, bones for jewellery and tools, while the horns are used in the medical and furniture industries.

Local governments in both Scandinavia and Finland dictate how many reindeer are killed each year, basing the decision on the amount born during the previous 12 months. The number is proportionally small in comparison to the total number of reindeers living in the herd, which is what makes the skin such an exclusive and special leather material to own.

Due to the nature of the local environment in some parts of the Nordic region, which includes Finland, as well as Norway and Sweden, it can prove difficult to cultivate and produce food. This means the export of reindeer meat plays a crucial role in sustaining both the Nordic economy and Sámi culture and traditions. This is why we continue to work closely with the Sámi community to provide a sustainable method of production that enhances their way of life. 

Mariela Pokka has taken the centre stage of global high fashion by fusing cutting age design with traditional norms of reindeer hide handicraft of the Sami people.

Where possible Mariela Pokka uses traditional methods combined with modern techniques to guarantee the highest quality leather is produced for her designs pieces. If the skins are not suitable to make into hides or into beautiful handmade decorative pieces this wastage is then repurposed for use in her collection, resulting in a sustainable raw material supply, while the ethical farming and the ecological production lend support to the local culture.

The exclusivity of reindeer leather is just one of the many reasons why the Mariela Pokka brand has become synonymous with producing luxurious fashion garments that create bold and refined statements. The unique characteristics of reindeer leather are also why it is such a special material. It is smoother than almost any other type of leather, and its elasticity enables it to fit perfectly with any body shape. Reindeer leather is also extremely durable, which makes it a great long term fashion investment.




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