Haida and Cree siblings Erin and Jesse Brillon, grew up surrounded by the vibrant world of Northwest Coast native art. Erin’s earliest work experience in her teens was assisting her mother in promoting, marketing and selling Northwest Coast Native art. Growing up in the field of a thriving and internationally revered art form has had a lifelong impact. Being close family friends (distant relations) to famed Haida artist Bill Reid profoundly influenced Jesse’s art work, as one of his first commissions as a teenager, was painting a Bill Reid original. Being raised on the ocean as a commercial fishing family, art show openings, urban feasts and Indigenous gatherings were the most impactful parts of their upbringing. The pair has always held a deep sense of pride and reverence for their culture.
In 2004, Erin registered the business Totem Design House to begin making a clothing line featuring Jesse’s designs, but the business didn’t get off the ground until 2014 when Erin and her then 14 year old daughter learned to screen-print. In 2016 she launched her first eco-friendly collections of women's wear and home decor textiles.
In 2016, Andy Everson, acclaimed Northwest Coast artist joined forces with Erin, all aspects of their lives melded personally, professionally and culturally. Totem Design House produces an exclusive line of his works in the “Andy Everson Collection”. This collection ranges from traditional motif on hemp pillows to Andy’s uber popular melding of traditional art with pop culture. The fruition of this creative connection is the expansion into a beautiful new studio, Gallery & Boutique as their own flagship store. Brillon designed every square inch from the ground up, from the production studio to their living space above the waterfront store on Comox Avenue on K’omoks First Nation.
Totem Design House is a 100% Native owned and operated social enterprise, which has a focus on giving back, with 10% of annual profits being donated to Copper Legacy Indigenous Empowerment Society.
THD is founded on Indigenous values, and is careful to not “trinketize” or devalue the art form. Erin explains that the market for northwest coast apparel and giftware is flooded by mass produced, mostly overseas goods, where native artists are paid only nominal royalties. “We are the antidote to the ongoing commodification of our culture, by what has largely been dominated by non-Indigenous business owners.”