April 30, 2019 - 4:00pm
As co-owner of the second-generation Coast Salish fashion design house Ay Lelum – the Good House of Design, Aunalee Boyd-Good (Bachelor of Arts, Major in English ’15) is playing an important role in the preservation of culture – one garment at a time.
Growing up, Boyd-Good was surrounded in art – her parents are both artists – instilling in her a deep respect for traditional Coast Salish culture and the stories told in the artwork. In recent years, the company has made regular appearances at Vancouver Fashion Week and received a 2018 Business of the Year Award in the one- to two-person enterprise category at the BC Indigenous Business Awards Gala in Vancouver. Boyd-Good, who started her VIU education in 1992, took a break and then finished her degree while working full-time, was happy to share what motivated her and her sister, Sophia Seward-Good, to start their own fashion line, and how they work together as a family.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in Nanaimo in The Art Studio on Nicol Street, and life was essentially an immersion art class for my siblings and I where we all learned pottery, painting, silk screening, carving – we did everything. As I grew older, my parents, Sandra and William Good, expanded from a working and living art studio to owning a working retail and wholesale studio on Victoria Crescent, where my mom started the Ay Ay Mut (which means beautiful in Hul’qumi’num’) clothing line with my dad’s silk-screened artwork. They had both been hand-pulling limited-edition silk screens taught from a course my dad had taken at Malaspina College, which proved to be a pivotal skill in art garment development. As their wholesale business and art studio thrived, they eventually opened a gallery that I managed called Art of the Siem on the waterfront. I worked in all aspects of the family business: retail, marketing, wholesale shows, cultural events, fashion shows and product development, all the while working alongside my sister Sophia and my brother Joel.
How did Ay Lelum - The Good House of Design start?
Around the time I was graduating from VIU, I coordinated an exhibit with my family at the Nanaimo Museum called Ay Ay Mut, which showcased my parents’ 35-year artistic collaboration. We displayed a variety of works from private collections, and we also made a small anniversary edition run of garments with our mother. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that my sister Sophia and I experienced a strong desire to have a family clothing line again.
Our business is based out of Nanaimo and our ready-wear garments are manufactured in Vancouver, with our Coast Salish couture pieces made by custom order at our family home and studio in Nanaimo. We use eco-friendly fabrics whenever possible such as recycled materials, hemp and organic cotton, and we feature traditional Coast Salish art by our brother and father. Our clothing is available in a variety of fine stores and galleries, as well as pop-up shops, cultural events and on our website: www.aylelum.com. Locally, it is also in The Nanaimo Art Gallery, The Hive on Gabriola and on select BC Ferries.
We all work collaboratively as a family of artists, as well as independently. Our parents were taught by their grandfathers, so we are all educated with information that spans over at least four generations, and we are in sync with each other artistically. We are often working on similar ideas at the same time. There is a tremendous support system working as a family, as well as very intense, challenging, rewarding, interesting and fun times together.
How did your VIU education help you in what you’re doing now?
My parents taught me to be independent, artistic, cultural and to be my own person within that framework. My education at VIU taught me to embrace those teachings, think critically and support this background within an academic framework. It taught me to connect to what I know while honouring those traditions and it provided me the skills to do this successfully. I use my writing skills on a regular basis to prepare artist biographies, document family history, write various applications and manage our social media.
What part does Ay Lelum play in revitalizing the traditional Coast Salish art style?
My dad did his research and produced a large body of work in the pre-digital era, circa 1980-1990s. My siblings and I worked closely with our parents during that time. With this knowledge, we are able to bridge the gap to the next generation by sharing this information digitally in a modern format. We create traditional Coast Salish art garments as our parents did, and this process has enabled us to further document and catalog our dad’s, and now our brother’s, art and our oral family history within the garment production medium.
We are also recording traditional music and re-connecting to our childhood teachings of the Hul’q’umi’num’ language. Since our first showcase at Vancouver Fashion Week in March 2018, we have recorded numerous songs that were then remixed by Rob the Viking, and now all the children know songs they were unfamiliar with a year ago. We incorporate the Hul’q’umi’num’ language into all of our showcases.
Under the teachings of our father, we are able to connect art, history, music and language, which are inseparable, and work together holistically to define our culture. It is truly an honour and a blessing that Ay Lelum plays a role in this cultural revitalization, as it is not only essential to continuing the legacy of our parents, but imperative to pass this knowledge on to the next generation.
What is the fashion world like?
Words cannot express the absolutely thrilling feeling of watching your collection being modelled on the runway to the music you recorded with your family. It is the most exciting aspect of a grueling months-long process of design, development, research, recording, marketing and late nights leading up to the showcase. The fashion world is glamorous, exciting, evolving, exhausting and challenging – all at the same time!
Tags: Teaching and Learning