For as long as I can remember Fashion/making clothes has been a part of my life. I am fromJamaicawere people still made their own clothes and my grandmother made the school uniforms for my district. At the beginning of every school term there would be a constant stream of fabric and i was in charge of sewing on buttons and making sure there was no treads handing. However I didn’t really know what fashion was until I came to this country. I discovered Valentino and Vivienne Westwood and realised the possibilities in fashion. I also developed an interest in art and realised that I could paint. I am not sure I where I was headed inJamaicabut I don’t believe I would be a designer if I had stayed. I remember being beaten for drawing a pregnant woman and my grandmother was a very strict Christian wish means that I wouldn’t be able to make corsets or draw naked people it is just not godly.
I didn’t always think I would be a designer, along the way I toyed with the idea of being a doctor an archaeologist and artist. However, I don’t like reading that much the national museum did not reply to my letter I sent them aged 12 to ask if I could go on an archaeological dig with them inEgypt. It had to beEgypt. My art work isn’t really contemporary, I don’t really understand conceptual art I think its artists just taking the piss and I don’t do installations, I paint nudes. Anyway, I decided that I was more artistic so needed to do something creative I decided that as an artist I wouldn’t make that much money so I choose fashion, who knew.
So it was off to college I went to study A-level Art History of Art and Psychology. I was still dithering a bit about what I should really do. In the end I went for fashion after all I would make more money doing that than being an artist and I could always paint in my spare time.
My degree was a nightmare, I hated most of it. I was just not very ‘fashion’. It seemed to me that everyone had so much more money than me and could afford to buy the best fabrics. In the first year I remember one girl spent £100 on our first project I could only afford £20. I wasn’t interested in reading vogue cover to cover. I didn’t want to be influenced by other designers so I read history books liked and was influenced by period dramas, anything old. I thought Comme de Garson (the fashion darlings of the day) were idiots, they did eventually go bankrupt.
There was also a little bit of pressure to be ethnic but I wasn’t interested in batik I loved clean lines and elegance I wanted to discover new ways of cutting a garment while keeping the integrity of the human form.
Students were always going to fashion shows inLondonandParis. For a start my mother wouldn’t let me go toParisand I could not afford it. Then there were the parties and I was a little shy. I was also still being bullied for not being black enough. I’ve never really understood what that meant and didn’t really care too much but it made things more stressful. Both girls failed the degree in any case, should have concentrated less on me and more on their work.
Throughout my three years at university I sent my holidays with a local tailor learning the principles of bespoke tailoring. Which I still now still apply to my work. At the time however I couldn’t use it as tailoring wasn’t fashionable it was all very casual and denim. Neither of which I understood. Another reason to hated university.
It was a blessing when I finished university but I had to find a job. I applied for a million jobs had various interviews. Most of the work was inLondona few where unpaid internship others would barely cover my rent inLondon. Not only that but the bank was demanding their money back I had to get a job any job so I started temping at eon as well as working weekends in a bar. I finally got to the point where I thought ‘what am I doing wasting my life’. So I used £100 from my wages to stage a show at Blu Bar and took two weeks off from working at EON. I made the garments and the catwalk from drinks crates. Amazingly the show was a success and lots of people turned up. I think I made about £300. At the end I was exhausted and got a throat infection which turned into laryngitis and had to ask for more time off from EON who fired me. Sod it. I remembered a mintel report I had read about workers being more efficient if they had good uniforms to work in and started finding out what companies needed uniforms inNottinghamand went about convincing they that they needed designer uniforms. I had some connection to the owners at world service; I served them alcohol at market bar. I can’t remember how I found out they needed uniforms but I pestered them until they said yes, I could make the uniforms and I got my first commission and for three years I made the uniforms for world service. I decided on the colours and style which they still use to this day even though I no longer make uniforms.
World service led to uniforms for salt water pure aesthetic and a few others. I wasn’t really interested in making uniforms it was too repetitive. Commissions for other things started to come in and I managed to get my designs into the Independent Boutique inManchesterand Ethos in derby. I had been trying to do this all on my own working part time and working from home. It got to the point where I could no longer work from home, my house mates were getting upset and I lived and worked in the same place which was making me ill.
I approached the Prince’s Trust who initially couldn’t help me as I had a part time job so I was encouraged to get the sack so that I could go on the dole and therefore would be eligible to get help. It was the hardest thing I had to do and it took forever. I remember turning up late to work but no one seemed to notice. I really thought that would do it. I had to meet targets in my part time job so I just stop trying to meet my target. Eventually I was given £2500 to get my industrial machine and I got a studio.
I have never really understood a system that doesn’t help if you show too much ability or initiative. I remember wanting to go on a free business course* but I could only go onto it if I had something wrong with me. It didn’t matter that I wanted to learn a skill that would help me set up my business. Anyway I had my first proper fashion show and gained my first commission for a wedding dress. I started selling to two more shops which brought problems its own. Two shops where sale or return and I struggled to get my money. I got into trouble with the bank going over my overdraft. Most recently a shop I sold to went into liquidation owing me money. Due to my experience I am not too keen to sell to shops and tend to prefer doing individual commissions. But even that comes with its own problems. Its funny people wouldn’t go to a high street shop and ask if they can take the goods and pay later. I have to deal with that every day. I always take a deposit and give an end date to collect the rest of the payment.
A large part of my business involves designing and making wedding dresses. I am also trained to make men’s suits and quite often I design for the bride as well as the groom creating a theme for the wedding which is very exciting and creative.
In the near future I want to have my own fashion boutique so look out for it.
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Article by Callecia (Fashion) / 6th January 2012