VIFW 2022 Interview With Fashion Designer Yolonda Skelton of Sugiit Lukxs Designs

VIFW (Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week) 2022 will be held Nov. 28th - Dec. 2nd at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  Yolonda's show will be on the runway on Nov. 28th, Red Dress night. Links to purchase tix are on the website at

Bio - 

Yolonda (Loni) Skelton is a Textile Artist from the Gitxsan Nation and the House of Hax-be-gwoo-txw of the Fireweed Clan. Her traditional name is (Sug-ii-t Looks) and it is the name of her company which means "When the Whales Crest." Her fashion designs are inspired and created from traditional oral stories told to her by her late maternal grandmother Lily Jackson (Na-gwa). Since 2001, she has been creating numerous one of a kind textile projects for clients from; traditional ceremonial dance blankets and regalia, to contemporary clothing and accessories.

For the past few years Yolonda’s focus has been on developing her own North Coast design style, she was mentored in Prince Rupert by Tsimshian artist Russell Mathers and at the knee of her uncle Haida Argillite Carver Tom Hans. She has been studying textile design at the Pacific Design Academy in Victoria.

Her focus is on building her skills in North Coast Design and the art of 3-dimensional appliqué technique; and applying these two mediums to various traditional and contemporary fashion items. This is where she is able to combine the aesthetic beauty of her culture with her love of fashion. Her speciality is in creating one of a kind modern day robes of power and functional art for people of all nations.

One day she hopes to be able to complete a historical recounting of Gitxsan Adawak (history) through traditional images appliquéd on a series of ceremonial blankets.

By doing this cultures will be strengthened; private cultural property rights will be recognized; teachings will be shared to benefit all and indigenous knowledge based on oral tradition will gain a more respected place in our contemporary world.

Interview -

Can you please share with readers about your journey to embrace fashion design as a career. Was it a passion from a young age?

I wanted to be an artist from a very young age, but my life took a different turn. I majored in psychology at SFU and was going to be an art therapist in schools. I have always believed that art would heal the world. However, to council in schools you needed to become a teacher first. So I went back to school, became a teacher and found out I loved it and could use my psychology/art back ground to support my students. I taught all subjects in high school for 22 years.

How did you learn your skills?

I have been sewing since I was a teenager, and have taken courses over the years as offered at Pacific Design Academy, but I am basically self taught. It wasn’t until 2001 that I started to put art on regalia and clothing.

What comes easiest for you as a designer? What is hardest?

The pattern making takes the most time. I have my drawing and I know what I want it to look like. I just need to figure out how to create the pattern that will showcase my vision. 

Once I have the pattern the rest comes easy. I can see the design in my mind, know the story I am trying to tell and I visualize how it is going to wrap around the body to ground the wearer in their culture.

Where do you find inspiration for new collections? How important is colour to your design process?

I find inspiration all around me in nature, walking down the street, from historical fashion, and from my dreams. Colour is very important in my design process. I use it to create both traditional Northwest Coast style garments and very bold contemporary pieces.

What can you share about the new collection you will be showing at Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week (VIFW)? Do you have a favorite look?

As I am self taught, I struggle to work in one theme for a collection. You will see things like feathers recurring, as they were in my head, just not completed for the next collection yet. Various eras like the Victorian era, 1920’s, and 1960’s, really spark my process. I basically go where my imagination takes me on every piece, as a result they are are all one of a kind. Environmentally, to bring about awareness of the plight of the “keystone species salmon” and the need to protect our waters, you will always see something with a fish motif of some sort in every collection. 

I want the pieces I create to have cultural and environmental significance. This collection has both. I was inspired by traditional Chilkat designs, but it is showing it’s evolution in my brain and has an overall 1960’s mod vibe to it. To be more conscious of the environment in this collection, I focused on up-cycling beautiful natural fibre clothing like wool, cotton, and silk, as well as old quality leather coats and furs from VV. I also collaborated with Mead Simon, a talented artist who works in environmentally conscious chainmail. You will see these incredible pieces peppered through my collection.

My favourite look is the Chilkat inspired vest and skirt I made at my Banff residency with D’Arcy Moses. I love it as it was totally up cycled, but has traditional beading, quill work and caribou tufting on it. I was so honoured to learn traditional techniques, to bring my work to another level and connect more deeply with my culture.

Where can readers purchase your designs?

Right now it is only through special order and working with me directly. However, I am working on some unisex ties that you will be able to find in select stores. Stay tuned to my Instagram and Facebook for more info about that in the coming months. A sneak peek of them will be shown on the runway, with more designs to follow. My mind is overflowing with ideas for these ties. 

In closing is there anything else you'd like to share with readers ?

My hope is that people can learn about my Gitxsan culture in a safe way, through asking questions about my fashion designs and collection. To me it is all about creating a safe positive dialogue for understanding, healing, and reconciliation.