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Selfdom 101: A Journey to Self-Love Through Fashion

Selfdom 101 was a long time in coming.

Although Charise “Reece” Parris’ first collection conveys a sense of ease and simplicity,  her design journey has been more complicated.

Those gathered at Port St Charles for the most recent edition of Bimhaus saw a collection called The Bare Essentials.  Reece calls it a “selfdom 101 remix of some of the basic wardrobe essentials”.

“It’s clothing that you can mix and match to create several different looks and it can also take you from day to night. I chose the basics because those are some of the main ingredients of impeccable style and versatility. Those looks were the first instalment of the collection, so yes there’s a part two,” she tells InMyWardrobe.

 

A Long Journey

But let’s talk about what led to this point. Reece recalls that fashion was a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Growing up with an aunt who was a seamstress, Reece helped her out and even worked on her own school uniforms.

By age 14 she was devouring fashion magazines brought home by her uncle. She sketched her favourite designs and altered some of the styles.

Yet when it came time to apply to Barbados Community College, fashion wasn’t her first or second choice.

“I had signed up to do information technology and Spanish and Italian for business and tourism.  I believed that was my purpose because I loved working with computers and from studying IT at CXC level, I got to learn more about how they work and I chose foreign languages because of my wanderlust.”

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But a summer job in 2009 pushed her to take a different path.

“I’d gotten a job working as an assistant web developer and it was then that I realised how much I’d hate having an office job. I was bored out of my mind. I remember I would always spend my lunch hour or spare time thinking about fashion, observing people and their style or researching fashion and it took me six weeks that summer and the day before my BCC interview to realise l signed up for the wrong course.”

Reece followed her heart and applied for the fashion programme.  She was accepted but unfortunately, it was not happily ever after.

“College was no joke and the workload was insane. I was already going through so many changes that I was still trying to get accustomed to and I was not good at handling any of it. I was lost and I did not survive past my first year. I was distraught and spiralled deeper into a whirlwind of depression. I made two more attempts at completing the programme, bearing in mind that the degree programme is only offered every two years. Both times I thought to myself, yessss this is it, I’m ready, I will pass and I will graduate. I still wasn’t passing and I still didn’t graduate.”

Instead, Reece took what she learned and continued to practise at home, designing and making clothing for herself until she got her first client and started doing custom-made clothing.

Selfdom 101

Learning Self-Love

Selfdom 101 is the product of Reece’s trials and journey to self-love. She recalls how she tried to change to suit other people’s idea of who she should be and what she should wear.

“Obviously, because of that I became even more misunderstood than I already was. People would always comment on how weird I am and I was literally always in defence mode trying to explain myself to people. I wanted so badly to be liked that I ended up not liking myself in the process.”

Eventually, Reece learned to accept herself and her unique style and now she wants the same for other women.

“I went through a lot of different phases and with every phase came a different fashion sense. I dressed, and still dress,  to suit my mood and reflect aspects of who I am. I’m not the only one. There’s no greater feeling than just loving and expressing yourself despite what people may say or think.”

The young designer’s  desire is for selfdom 101 to help women achieve freedom of expression.

“We’re not just a fashion brand we’re a lifestyle brand,” she says, noting that the aim is to cultivate spaces for women to  “inspire, be inspired, create and simply be”.

selfdom 101

Selfdom 101 is targeted at the woman who likes to make a statement.

“She’s quirky, fun, bold, an influencer just by embracing all that she is, a game changer. She’s the woman some people will try their hardest to forget but can’t.”

If that’s you, get your hands on some selfdom 101 ready-to-wear clothing, accessories and leather sandals. Just contact Reece with the design you like. Include the colour, your size and  “how soon you’d like to go from seeing it online, to hanging in your closet and better yet, on you.”

*Photos and video by Reco Moore.*

Jaye Applewaite: From Civil Engineer to Wedding Dress Designer

It’s hard to believe that Jaye Applewaite only started designing about two years ago. I first saw and photographed her work back in December 2014  at Pomp Wknd and I don’t think it occurred to me just how new she was to the scene. 

At that time, her focus was on floral headpieces and accessories but some bridal pieces crept in under her then social media alias Jazz Applewhite.

Since then her dresses have been featured in Living Barbados,  brideLIFE and Caribbean Zing, LIAT’s in-flight magazine. She had also shown at the Pompasette Brunch Party.

Jaye and I recently had a chat via email and as it turns out,  she was working in an unrelated field when she started making dresses.

Here’s the first part of her journey in her own words.

I was working full time as a Civil Engineer, and the local engineering industry wasn’t doing well. I realised I needed another source of income.  Also, generally I was beginning to feel quite unhappy about my career, there was no passion, nor motivation. I was feeling very unfulfilled, and my future in engineering looked quite bleak and boring. I’m a very creative person and, I love working with my hands, and I love all things weddings and lifestyle. After much thought, I decided I would love to create a wedding and lifestyle empire, starting with custom-designed wedding dresses.

It was quite a risk, since I had no formal training in sewing nor fashion before, I had never sewn anything before for myself furthermore for anyone. But I was confident that I could get it done. So, I created a small collection of dresses, dusted off my camera and took some beautiful photos with a model. I posted the photos on social media and within a month I had booked my first bride!

Jaye loves working with high-quality lace and adding intricate beadwork using pearls, crystals and rhinestones. She takes great care in applying each piece of lace by hand to create unique, gorgeous designs.

She also makes sure each dress is a perfect fit for her brides.

“When I design for a bride I am inspired by her emotion and overall vision for her wedding day. During consultations with my brides, I find out what they like, their personal style and their vision for their wedding day, and then I take everything that they have told me and create a design that is perfect for them and their big day!  The lace is also very inspiring, as each piece is applied by hand the dress design process evolves as the lace is applied. The unique designs created by the lace is always different. Each dress is custom made for the bride, and as such I don’t make the same design twice since each bride is unique and each wedding is unique,” she says.

 

It is obvious that Jaye enjoys the dressmaking process, from consultation through to the final fitting.

“Couture dress design is an evolving process, each gown takes hours of hand-work applying lace appliques and beadwork.  My dresses are handmade works of art, and it’s always exciting for the bride and me to see what the dress evolves into! And then there is dress collection! Dress collection is always exciting, the look on some of their faces, priceless!! It truly is an amazing process and definitely the best part of my business!” she says.

Not just dresses

Jaye doesn’t only offer dresses; veils, garters, and jewellery are also available.  The veils range from bird-cage veils to long breath-taking cathedral veils and the jewellery is made of 18K gold- filled chain and components as well as semi-precious gems and freshwater pearls.

She also provides styling and dressing services.

“The dressing service is very popular. So far all my brides have requested that I be there when they are getting ready to help them dress,” she tells InMyWardrobe.

I asked Jaye about some the trends in bridal wear in Barbados and she revealed that many women travel to North America to buy their dresses.  A-line and mermaid silhouettes are all the rage and most blushing brides still prefer traditional white.

If you want something different, Jaye’s your girl.

“My style is not very traditional, nor do I follow the popular trends here.  I like a variety of styles, and I find inspiration in many things, and that’s reflected in my designs. My designs are sexy, romantic, dramatic, and whimsical. I like for the dresses to have an effortless feel, much like light and air.”

The young designer has lots more in store for her wedding and lifestyle brand.

“I have only developed the custom-designed wedding dress product; this is a small aspect of the overall brand vision that I have. Other bridal products I will be creating are ready-to wear wedding dresses, getting ready clothing, and bridal accessories. I also have to start the lifestyle aspect of the brand that will include resort style clothing, accessories and jewellery. Not to mention the marketing and promotion aspect of the brand that still has to be developed. It’s an exciting journey ahead and I am looking forward to expanding and building my brand,” she says.

We can’t wait to see what’s next!

Cultured by Zhané: Bright Colours, Bold Prints

Cultured by Zhané is just a seven-month-old brand but already it is catching the attention of trendsetting fashionistas both in Barbados and the Caribbean. The neck pieces, which go up to ten strands, have been adding dramatic flair to outfits and speaking volumes about the personalities of the wearers. The necklaces are most popular but the line also includes headbands and belts, all designed by dancer/ pageant queen/entrepreneur Zhané Padmore and made from bold, brightly coloured wax and foil prints on mainly cotton and twill.

Zhane Padmore, bajan designer, Cultured by Zhané

What’s the story behind the brand?  Well, I sat down with Zhané recently and I got the details. She shared how she was inspired by a necklace she saw online and attempted to make one for herself. A friend saw it and wanted one and that kicked things into gear. That was in 2015 and Zhané wasn’t quite ready to start the business.

“I was juggling school and dance and I’m into pageantry.  I was doing a pageant then so I didn’t really want to focus  on creating it into a business as yet but I had my plan there and I said to myself after I graduate I can really take this seriously. So it’s only in January that I decided to start the business,” she says.

Zhané Padmore , bajan designer, Cultured by Zhané

As for the name, Zhané wanted something easy on the tongue and catchy.

“I originally didn’t want to add my name to it, I wanted to leave it as “Cultured.” However, after realising that my name is unique enough and would distinguish the brand even more, at last minute I decided to add “by Zhané”. Also, “Cultured” means being artistic, polished, sophisticated and educated, and the type of customers I wish to attract embody these traits.”

Zhané Padmore, Cultured by Zhané

Zhané’s personal style has factored into the brand.

“I would say I’m trendy but I like to add my personal style to it so I love bright colours and I love prints. Say for instance I wear a plain top, I would look for a printed bottom or vice versa. I wouldn’t say I’m definitely outgoing as in I’m not gonna wear something that’s gonna be too outstanding but I definitely like to add my own li’l umph to an outfit,” she says.

Zhané Padmore, Cultured by Zhané

Unsurprisingly, Zhané ’s typical customers are those who like to think outside the box; including some who are quite comfortable giving her almost a free hand with their pieces.

“I’ve had customers that [when] they see the prints, they get overwhelmed ….  I let them select the prints that they like then I would deal with everything else after that but in the event that they don’t know what they want, say they like a print and they want me to incorporate other prints that would complement it and they just leave it up to me, I get really creative.

“The fact that they’re willing to give me that leverage, I think that’s what stands out for me. I love those customers,” she notes with a smile.

Zhané Padmore, necklace, Cultured by Zhané

Asked what her plan was for Cultured by Zhané , the designer said she wants to see it going internationally.

“There’s a market internationally and I’ve already had people regionally asking me for orders. I had some friends in our Caribbean islands that they saw  it, they loved it, they came down here, or had contacts down here and they would ask me to send it up to them,” she says.

Zhané Padmore, bajan designer, Cultured by Zhané

As for how these necklaces should be worn . . .

“Because it’s a statement necklace . . .  go with a simple but effective outfit. You want something that’s going to flatter you and that’s going to showcase the necklace. You obviously don’t want to have to clash if you have a multi-print necklace; you don’t want to wear it with other prints unless they complement each other,” Zhané advises.

Check out Cultured by Zhané’on Instagram and email orders to culturedbyzhane@gmail.com.

Zhané Padmore, necklace, Cultured by Zhané