Meet The Urban Tiger, a Jewellery Brand for Caribbean Girls

Shantell Bancroft wants to make it easier for island girls to get Caribbean-centric jewellery no matter where they are in the world. The London-based fashion designer who was born to Barbadian parents has set out to achieve this through her label The Urban Tiger.

Shantell, who holds a BA in Fashion Product Development from Kent Institute of Art and Design, specializes in silver earrings. However, she has been designing, sewing, drawing and painting for more than 20 years. The Urban Tiger was launched in 2011 after she spent time working in various UK design houses.

The Urban Tiger’s latest collection is called Bathsheba. It includes dangle earrings, hoops, and demi-hoops, many with beechwood beads. While some pieces are oversized, others are tiny. All have clean lines. Shantell made sure there was something for everyone; she wanted her island girls to have both showstoppers and office-appropriate pieces.

Handmade from ethical and sustainable materials, Bathsheba was inspired by “a blend of indigenous symbols which the tribes of the Caribbean used to communicate and the geometry of martial arts”.

the urban tiger

The earrings are eye-catching but the story behind the collection and the designer also commands attention.

Shantell tells InMyWardrobe she couldn’t find jewellery which she felt adequately represented her culture so she set out to create it. Now she wants to bring more visibility to Caribbean-inspired fashion.

“Unlike our African brothers and sisters, we don’t have West Indian tribal prints widely associated with the Caribbean. Even though this is an oversimplified barrier between the Caribbean aesthetic being interpreted, it is a contributing factor as to why our aesthetic is often misunderstood, if in fact understood at all by anyone who is not from the Caribbean, and does not know our cultural heritage”.

Shantell also points out that “West Indian designers not being invited to attend the major fashion weeks which are the world’s stage for exposing designer talent and new trends and global media coverage”. It also makes for what she calls a vicious cycle since buyers from both high street and luxury department stores watch the catwalks to identify trends.

the urban tiger hoops

“Unlike my African sisters and brothers, I don’t have the freedom, luxury or ease to go down to the high street and grab me something off the rack, which empowers me as a black West Indian woman. I made an intentional decision to shift the focus of my design aesthetic and my business model towards providing those freedoms to West Indian women worldwide. After years and years of carrying feelings of frustration and tired of feeling my Caribbean culture was invisible within the British fashion industry, I wanted me and my brand, to be part of the solution.”

Shantell is focused on offering a full customer experience. She wants shoppers to have all the information they need before they make a purchase.

“Shopping online is really difficult. You can’t touch the product. You can’t have that level of engagement and so if you put as much information out there or you try and cover as many bases, I think it makes it easier for her to make the right decision when she needs to. You need that level of convenience,” she says.

Unlike many designers, Shantell shares her design process.

She has a private Facebook group called The Inner Circle in which she documented her year-long journey of creating the Bathsheba collection. Members got a detailed look at exactly what the process involved.

Shantell is open about how she sources her materials and how each piece is made. As an independent designer, she believes this is key to building a relationship with prospective buyers.

The Bathsheba collection is currently available for pre-order and will begin shipping worldwide on June 18.

You can connect with Shantell via her website, Instagram or Facebook.

Natasha Beckles

Natasha Beckles is a freelance copyeditor, writer and content creator. She has over a decade's experience in both traditional and online media. In addition to blogging about fashion and travel, she uses the written word to help brands and individuals tell their unique stories.

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