Nanaimo-based Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design, along with three generations of their family, returned to New York Fashion Week to debut their ‘Transformation’ collection for the upcoming spring-summer season.
Ay Lelum showed through the Global Fashion Collective, a sister company to Vancouver Fashion Week, which produces runway shows with the object of expediting designers’ global development and increasing their international visibility. They present at New York Fashion Week every September and February.
On Sept. 11, Aunalee Boyd-Good and Sophia Seward-Good presented Transformation, a showcase that exemplified “walking through the lives of a modern day, multi-generational Coast Salish family from Snuneymuxw.”
“It was an amazing experience and a really great trip,” said Boyd-Good. “We worked with wonderful collaborators and creatives and people within the Indigenous community in New York while we were there. We were welcomed with open arms and were well-received … And it was really wonderful to work with other people from our own community here on the West Coast while we were in New York.”
Also accompanying Ay Lelum to the Big Apple were models from Supernaturals Modelling, an Indigenous modelling agency based in Vancouver, as well as Nanaimo’s Raymond Knight of Knight Studios as the videographer.
The show opened with Boyd-Good’s niece and nephews Nadia Good, Raymond Good and Bo Harris walking in wearing wool blankets and traditional headbands with eagle, wolf and sea serpent designs to their Two Worlds song.
“I almost cried when they were ready to walk out,” she said.
She emphasized the importance of involving younger generations in both the creative aspect and process to provide a sense of “involvement in their culture and what the family does as a unit.”
“The eagle and the wolf represents our clan crest, our families. And sea serpent in Hul’q’umin’um mythology is where the Snuneymuxw people gain their power,” said Joel Good, artwork designer for the Transformation line.
He said that every piece of artwork design that gets on put on clothing for his sisters comes from one of his own original traditional Coast Salish paintings.
“The song [Two Worlds] just reflects the duality of worlds that we live in, where we live with Coast Salish culture and protocols but we also live and function within our day-to-day world. It’s about being able to navigate the worlds and being able to combine them together in a beautiful way.”
Boyd-Good said they opened with garments of neutral colours to represent traditional Coast Salish wool garments, and when the song transitioned to their Transformation song, the garment colours shifted into blues, ocean tones and other vibrant colours to “celebrate transformation, embracing personal power and overcoming adversity.”
“[The song] is about the human who gained his strength from the ocean and the killer whale,” she said.
All songs played during the show, she said, were originals that she and and her sister wrote with Nanaimo’s Rob the Viking, and featured their nephew John Harris and his daughter Hazel Harris. She also noted that they plan to release all songs on streaming platforms soon.
Boyd-Good said the writing and the recording of their music went hand-in-hand with the design and the artistic process of the garment creation, and that they often go back and think about how the garment will walk on the runway and how they want the visual art represented.
For the show, they favoured fabrics with iridescent or metallic qualities that would change in different light or when viewed from a different perspective.
“There’s something really beautiful about watching a garment transform in various environments … And we did that with this collection,” Boyd-Good said.
The sisters attended New York Fashion Week for the first time last year in September by themselves, but were excited to return this year with a large support network.