Aunalee Boyd-Good and Sophia Seward-Good of Nanaimo’s Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design (from left) are making their New York Fashion Week debut on Sept. 11. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)

Aunalee Boyd-Good and Sophia Seward-Good of Nanaimo’s Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design (from left) are making their New York Fashion Week debut on Sept. 11. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)

Even after fire, Nanaimo fashion house Ay Lelum won’t miss New York Fashion Week

New collection tells Indigenous creation story through art and music

Undeterred by disaster, a local clothing design company is heading to one of fashion’s biggest stages.

On Sept. 11, Nanaimo-based Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design is unveiling its latest collection at New York Fashion Week for the first time. It’s also Ay Lelum’s first in-person fashion show since 2019.

“It does feel like a really big deal to be a part of that fashion scene,” said Aunalee Boyd-Good, who runs Ay Lelum with her sister Sophia Seward-Good.

The show comes only two weeks after a fire tore through the facility from which Ay Lelem operates its business, destroying almost all of its inventory. A crowdfunding page has since been set up.

“We had spent years building our clothing line and can’t believe how quickly it was gone. We have all been in a state of shock for the past few days,” said a post on Ay Lelum’s Facebook page. “Thankfully, the fire was contained and everyone is safe and unharmed. Also, the majority of our couture collections, including our NYFW showcase that was being sewn in our studio, are safe. NYFW will go on.”

Ay Lelum is showing through the Global Fashion Collective, a Vancouver Fashion Week program that organizes shows in the world’s “fashion capitals” to promote emerging designers and “bring about a more inclusive and diverse industry.”

The new Ay Lelum collection centres around a Nanaimo River-area First People’s creation story told by Aunalee and Sophia’s father William Good about two wolves shedding their fur and becoming the first man and woman.

Sophia said the story and its ideas around adapting and change are relevant to modern times, as “we’re all kind of learning how to re-walk in this new world” due to COVID-19.

“Thinking about how the wolves transformed into the man and woman and the changes that that man and woman had to make to survive and change, I think we’re really focusing on that concept because everything is new now again,” she said.

That creation story is told through music written and recorded by eight family members spanning four generations and illustrated by visuals designed by William and Joel Good, Aunalee and Sophia’s brother.

“Dad and Joel are master carvers. We don’t have that skill, but we can carve out fabric,” Sophia said. “And so what we’re doing right now, like with almost every one of our shows, is we are literally carving our stories in fabric.”

After telling the origin story, Sophia said the show will proceed to cover First Nations’ history, reflect current times and look to the future. Aunalee said it’s exciting to come from a smaller community and get exposure in a place like New York. Sophia said, “I think people need to see who we are.”

“I’m really excited to be able to share our culture more worldwide and more globally and be able to tell our stories and really just show who we are as a people and share our language and art and … what we do and where we come from,” she said.

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