Nanaimo Clothing Design Company Ay Lelum Wins Excellence in Culture Award

On April 30, in lieu of a ceremony, Nanaimo City Mayor Leonard Krog hand-delivered the Culture and Heritage Prize 2021 to this year’s winners. The city also posted online video profiles of the recipients. This is the fourth in a four-part series on this year’s winners. To read part 3, Click here.

The chimney fills up at Good Housekeeping.

Sophia Seward-Good and Aunalee Boyd-Good of Nanaimo fashion and design house Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design are the recipients of the City of Nanaimo Cultural Excellence Award for Culture and Heritage. They are the last in their family to win culture and heritage awards, following their mother Sandra Moorhouse-Good and father William Good, who won Culture Excellence in 2002 and Culture Honor respectively. in 2018.

“We didn’t even know we were nominated, so it was a bit of a shock and we were really excited,” Sophia said.

“It’s so important to be recognized with our parents doing the same kind of work as them and respecting their heritage,” 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, the language of the Snuneymuxw First Nation to which they belong. Sophia and Aunalee began designing their own clothes in 2015 when the Nanaimo Museum hosted an exhibit recognizing their parents’ 35 years of collaborative art. Aunalee said that when they approached collectors to borrow items to put in the exhibit, she realized what her parents’ work meant to people.

“Seeing the impact they’ve had on arts and culture and how it affects people’s lives, that’s part of what got us excited…” she said. “We didn’t know how to sew, but that’s its own funny story.”

Aunalee initially said they didn’t know what to do with t-shirts, and Sophia said that when they made their first magazine cover in 2016, they only had two pieces of clothing. Since then, Ay Lelum, which translates to “good home,” has exhibited works across North America and in the past year debuted at Toronto Indigenous Fashion Week.

Ay Lelum is a family project, with clothes bearing designs by their father William and brother Joel. Even the music they play to accompany the fashion shows they record themselves and features the extended family. Aunalee said, “Part of what we do is take those collaborative efforts from our family and bring them up on stage and that’s our art.”

“I can’t just cook up a beautiful design. I have ideas of what a design should look like, but I don’t have that talent and I certainly don’t have my mother’s talent for painting…” Sophia said. “I think the hardest part was actually saying we were artists, because when we started, we certainly didn’t see ourselves in the spotlight.”

“Having the vision is what we do,” Aunalee said. “We have the vision of what we can do and then we make it happen.”

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 try. Sophia said one of the best things about Ay Lelum was the time they could spend with their parents.

“Rather than being away, working a job outside [from home], our job is to work with our parents and learn from our parents and make sure we retain as much history as possible,” Sophia said. “And I think one of the greatest things you can have in life is being able to have a paid job and spend time with your family.”

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