Thea Harris, niece of Sophia and Aunalee, wears a dress adorned with spindle whorls. Photo provided by ©Ay Lelum/W. Good-Protected by Hul'q'umi'num Law. Photo Credit: Helena Lines

Coast Salish fashion house centres intergenerational knowledge in new collection

Ay Lelum’s latest features family, fashion and tradition.

Fashion is a family affair for Sophia Seward-Good and Aunalee Boyd-Good, sisters and co-founders of Ay Lelum Coast Salish design house. 

They launched their latest line — Yuxwule’ Sul’sul’tun – Eagle Spindle Whorl Collection — on Facebook and Instagram this weekend. The line is deeply marked by the traditional teachings and creative stylings of their parents, children and grandchildren.  

Coast Salish fashion Ay Lelum
Sisters Aunalee Boyd-Good and Sophia Seward-Good. Photo provided by ©Ay Lelum/W. Good-Protected by Hul’q’umi’num Law. Photo Credit: Helena Lines

Their fall/winter collection features the Supernatural Eagle, who was sent by the Creator in the time of darkness to bring back the light, according to their father, William Good’s teachings. 

Seward-Good says they featured Raven stealing the sun in a previous collection. “So this time we thought we would do the Eagle bringing the sun back,” she says. “We are just kind of praying that the Creator brings us out of this darkness”. 

“During this time of uncertainty, it’s important to celebrate art, history and culture collectively,” her sister Boyd-Good wrote in a press release.

Due to the global pandemic, Ay Lelum was not able to participate in person at events including Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, where they were to debut their new line on closing night. 

“We had a really exciting year planned. We were supposed to be in Toronto, Juneau [Alaska], the Santa Fe Indian Market,” says Seward-Good. “We really had to shift, specifically with everything being cancelled”.

Instead, the sisters came up with a plan to launch online, developing a video and a photo series. For their launch video, Seward-Good worked with her niece, Thea Harris, to record a music beat using taut pieces of wool.

“My niece and I held the wool really tight, kind of like a guitar, and my sister strummed it,” she explains.

The use of wool in their designs is significant as it references spindle whorls — disc-like tools traditionally used to spin wool. The spindle whorls feature on many pieces in their new collection, and are meant to represent women, their role as mothers, life givers, and water carriers.

Seward-Good and Boyd-Good say they were raised to carry on the artistic knowledge of the family. They were mentored in fashion design by their mother, Sandra Moorhouse-Good, who had a Coast Salish clothing line in the 1990s called Ay Ay Mut. The wearable art and couture fashion in their latest collection features art by their father as well as their brother, Joel Good.

Coast Salish fashion house Ay Lelum
Anisa White rocks a spindle whorl jacket from Ay Lelum’s fall/winter collection. Photo provided by ©Ay Lelum/W. Good-Protected by Hul’q’umi’num Law. Photo Credit: Helena Lines

The sisters also included family members in the photo and video campaign. 

“I have my eldest daughter and my new grandson in the video, and my twelve-year-old is making bird sounds in one of the songs,” says Seward-Good. “Our job is to educate and make sure that the children know their culture and their language’.

For Ay Lelum, involving the next generation in the creative process is a means of sharing and continuing Coast Salish knowledge. 

“That is a key aspect of our culture, to make sure the next generation is learning,” says Seward-Good. “We want to make sure that we are doing our part to revitalize our culture as well as keep it alive.”