VIFW 2023 Interview With Fashion Designer Yolonda Skelton of Sugiit Lukxs Designs

Yolonda Skelton will be showing her collection on Nov. 20 - Theme Red Dress. Please wear red to remember and celebrate Indigenous resilience and strength, and to honour our missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit members of our communities. Tix HERE!

From the VIFW Press Release -

Fight for Earth

Nation: Gitxsan

Yolonda Skelton (Sug-iit-looks) is a visionary fashion designer from the Gitxsan First Nations, whose work beautifully intertwines cultural heritage with contemporary aesthetics. Yolonda's deep connection to her roots as taught to her by her late maternal grandmother Lily Jackson is evident in each and every one of her creations. Her innate ability to fuse the old and the new has made her a trailblazer in the industry, captivating audiences worldwide with her unique style. Yolonda's designs tell stories of her ancestors, invoking a sense of pride and reverence for the Gitxsan culture. Through her work, she aims to honour the traditions passed down through generations while embracing the ever-evolving world of fashion. With a commitment to sustainability, Yolonda utilizes eco-conscious materials ensuring that her designs are as environmentally friendly as they are visually striking. She firmly believes that fashion should be a force for positive change. 


Yolonda's talent has not gone unnoticed. Her designs have graced the runways of prestigious fashion shows, earning critical acclaim and attracting a loyal following. With each collection, she pushes the boundaries of what is possible, challenging conventional notions of fashion and redefining what it means to be an Indigenous designer. Off the runway, Yolonda is a mentor and advocate for inclusivity and empowerment, using her platform to uplift underrepresented voices within the industry. She is a beacon of inspiration for the next generation of fashion designers. Her unique perspective and unwavering passion continue to shape the future of fashion, one exquisite creation at a time.

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 background to support my students. I taught all subjects in high school for 22 years and just created fashion off the side of my desk. I recently took early retirement from teaching after taking leave to do the Marie Clements film “Bones of Crows,” and I am now doing fashion and film full time.

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. I was mentored in North Coast design by Tsimshian artist Russell Mathers in Prince Rupert, as part of a woman's art/wellness carving program.


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 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. I like to use pattern, texture, and colour to make eye-catching fashion that speaks to the senses on many levels.

What can you share about the new collection you will be showing at Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week (VIFW) 2023? Do you have a favorite look?

My collection for the Red Dress Gala night is called “Flight for the Earth.” The theme of the show is two fold. Firstly, it is focused on the plight of endangered species that are threatened by human and environmental factors. I am focusing on various animals that fly. I am hoping to bring attention to how various mining practices, oil drilling, pesticides, and microfibers are impacting our winged creatures. For example, without the Bees we will struggle to survive, as they pollinate approximately 35 % of the world's food supply and three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants. So the first challenge I gave myself for the collection was the task of Indigenizing my closet using these animal motifs.

The second aspect of this collection is that it was inspired by the need to upcycle our old clothing, to help reduce our carbon footprint. In this collection I will be using at least 50%-100% upcycled material for my garments.


I want the pieces I create to have both a cultural and an environmental significance. This collection has both. After my last collection, I was even further inspired to be more conscious of the environment in this collection. I focused on up-cycling beautiful natural fibre clothing like linen, wool, cotton, and silk, as well as old quality leather coats and furs from VV. I also continued to collaborate 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 3-D Bee tie, because I love that it was not only upcycled, but has traditional beading, quill work and caribou tufting on it. I was so honoured to learn traditional techniques from my Banff aunties, 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 hopefully be able to find in select stores or from me online. 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 that have not been made yet.

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.

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