Arielle Rock designs gowns for brides who want to step away from the traditional and embrace the vibrant colours synonymous with the Caribbean.
With a love for the silky West Indian Sea Island Cotton and bright hues, the 24-year-old Barbadian plans to have an established luxury bridal brand in the next five years.
Arielle is a graduate of the Garment Technology programme at Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology. She said her education there was instrumental in her development.
The programme was an extensive one in which students learned about how to make patterns and source materials. They also learned illustration, how fabrics are made and how fashion houses are structured.
Arielle says instructor Joy Prime made sure students knew about available job opportunities, internships and fashion shows.
Because of this, Arielle was able to benefit from two internships and she is currently working doing embroidery in a garment factory.
However, she wants to focus on design full-time and specialise in bridal gowns, veils and garters. Arielle also wants to get into bridal lingerie and resort wear.
“I made a lot of clothes for class and then in second year, we got a little bit more creative and I realized I like doing the most. I like doing extravagant things,” she says.
From the time Arielle mastered the basics of garment construction, she began entering her work in fashion shows. First up was a dress made from tissue paper, sargassum seaweed spray-painted gold and broken CDs.
During her third and final year of the course, she knew she would specialise in either bridal or costume because she wanted to tap into her creativity every day.
Bridal won and although many designers opt for white and/or lace for brides, Arielle opted to go another route.
“The Caribbean is really hot so it doesn’t make sense using heavy satin lined with polyester since it would stick to the skin. Cotton gets wrinkly but the wrinkles could be a style too. I don’t have a problem with lace, but I like to be different. I like to be creative. If I were to use lace, I think I would get the lace custom-made,” she says.
As for her use of colour, it’s not just about Arielle’s personal preference.
“In third year, we had to learn trend research so when I was looking at the bridal trends internationally, I was seeing a lot of colour. The next year I saw Vera Wang – who is like the biggest bridal designer – come out with her first collection with no white. That just confirmed my suspicion that colour would be the next big thing,” Arielle recalls.
Even though Barbadian brides have generally leaned towards the traditional, Arielle says she’s seeing more use of colour.
This is no doubt a positive sign for the designer whose 2019 collection is entitled Into the Depths. It was inspired by the sea and the colourful creatures who call it home like sea slugs and sea anemones.
Asked about her favourite designers, she mentioned Christian Siriano without missing a beat.
“His gowns and suits are loud, bold and from the time you see one, you know it is Christian Siriano. They’re always colourful, they’re always unique. I even like his shoes in Payless. They just seem to fit better than the rest,” she says.
Arielle also looks up Barbadian luxury bridal designer Jaye Applewaite who quit her job as a civil engineer to build her business.
“We’re friends now and I learn so much from her. We talk about business all the time, she says.
For 2020, the island’s gullies will be Arielle inspiration.
Asked how long it takes to make a dress, Arielle said one gown can take “a good couple months”.
However, she enjoys the entire process from design to patternmaking, sewing and dyeing.
“When you go through this whole process and it comes out exactly how you sketched, that feels so rewarding,” she says.
Meet some more Caribbean fashion creatives.
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