On April 30, in lieu of a ceremony, City of Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog hand-delivered the 2021 Culture and Heritage Awards to this year’s winners. The city also released online video profiles of the recipients. This is the fourth in a four-part series on this year’s award winners. To read Part 3, click here.
The mantelpiece is getting crowded at the Good household.
Sophia Seward-Good and Aunalee Boyd-Good of Nanaimo fashion and design house Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design are winners of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Excellence in Culture. They’re the latest in their family to earn Culture and Heritage Awards, following their mother Sandra Moorhouse-Good and father William Good, who won awards for Excellence in Culture in 2002 and Honour in Culture in 2018, respectively.
“We didn’t even know that we were nominated so it was a little bit of a shock and we were just really excited,” Sophia said.
“It is so meaningful to be recognized along with our parents in the same type of work that they do and in honouring their legacies,” Aunalee added.
The sisters grew up working alongside their artist parents, who had their own clothing line called Ay Ay Mut, which means “beautiful” in Hul’q’umi’num, language of the Snuneymuxw First Nation to which they belong. Sophia and Aunalee started making fashions of their own in 2015 when the Nanaimo Museum put on a show recognizing their parents’ 35 years of collaborative art. Aunalee said when they approached collectors to borrow items to put in the show she realized what her parents’ work meant to people.
“To see the impact that they had in arts and culture and how it affects people’s lives, that’s part of what sparked us…” she said. “We couldn’t sew, but that’s its own funny story.”
At first Aunalee said they only knew how to make T-shirts, and Sophia said when they made their first magazine cover in 2016 they only had two garments. Since then Ay Lelum, which translates to “good house,” has gone on to exhibit work across North American and last year made its debut at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto.
Ay Lelum is a family project, with clothing items bearing designs by their father William and brother Joel. Even the music they play to accompany fashion shows they record themselves and features extended family. Aunalee said, “part of what we do is taking those collaborative efforts of our family and elevating them to the stage and that’s our art.”
“I can’t just whip up a beautiful design. I have ideas of how a design should look but I don’t have that talent and I definitely don’t have my mother’s painting talent…” Sophia said. “I think the hardest part was actually saying that we are artists, because at the time that we started we sure didn’t see ourselves in that spotlight.”
“Having the vision, that’s what we do,” Aunalee said. “We have the vision of what we can do and then we realize it.”
Despite their initial lack of experience in the fashion industry, Aunalee said having their parents mentor them along the way made it easier for them to give it a try. Sophia said one of the best parts of Ay Lelum is the time they get to spend with their parents.
“Rather than being away, working a job away [from home], our job is to work with our parents and learn from our parents and make sure that we are retaining as much history as possible,” Sophia said. “And I think that’s one of the most beautiful things you can have in life is to be able to have a paid job spending time with your family.”