So a visit to my friend Renaldo’s office in January resulted in me meeting this talented artist featured below. She’s local fashion designer Anna White. I tell ya Trinidad and Tobago is filled with talented people. This article was published in this Monday’s Newsday.
First published here (abridged version) http://www.newsday.co.tt/features/0,224712.html
Read full article below:
Designer Anna White owes her inspiration for fashion to her mother who was a home-based seamstress. It all began when she was only 8 years old and was given scraps of material to make doll’s clothes. “I was designing without even knowing I was designing,” she reveals. White remembers exchanging dolls with her school friends back then, which would be returned with full wardrobes.
She shares that she started to sew her own clothes at age 16 due to the fact that she was a “cross-size” and could not get a seamstress to fit her the right way. A cross-size epitomizes the shape of many Caribbean women who are not perfect Barbie’s. They do not always have everything in perfect proportion, but viewed rather as voluptuous.
White recalls people always asking where she bought her clothes, each of whom were pleasantly surprised by her response. However, it was her brown cotton creation that she wore to a wedding at age 18 that became a hit. That day her business was borne.
After leaving school, she did not want to conform to the status quo which was to get married and start a family, so she attempted courses in cosmetology and later cooking but this was not her calling.
She boldly entered the world of entrepreneurship in 1999 and started Nykell’s Designs. She worked for a Carnival mas band making costumes and acquired contracted work to sew uniforms for companies until 2007.
While at school, she loved CXC Art and wanted to take it further, so she closed her business in 2008 to pursue her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Fashion Design full time from the University of Trinidad & Tobago. In 2012, she re-branded and re-opened her business L’image Beyond Design T&T and in 2014 she was awarded UTT Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year.
White returned to her alma mater after graduating and volunteered her time and skills for a year and was later hired as a guest lecturer.
“Money is not my motivation. I love sharing my knowledge. My satisfaction comes when I see the delight on someone’s face or the strides they have made.”
She also taught sketching to an intern at her business and would like to offer internships to graduates in the future.
White’s style is uniquely tailored to each customer. She uses natural fibers – all imported fabric: silks, cashmere, cottons. She also offers sophisticated hand painted, airbrushed, tie-dyed and batik designs. As you step into her studio, you instantly feel at peace as she creates an environment where clients won’t want to leave.
“It’s therapeutic as clients are free to express themselves not only through dress, but also about what troubles or inspires them from health to family and travel which sometimes inspires an entire collection.”
White wears many creative hats and also writes poetry about real things that happen to real people and does canvas paintings in water colours and acrylic, which again is sometimes a product of a client’s experience.
The local talent tries to emulate designers such as Vera Wang and Tom Ford, “I love how they portray their craft – the skill, time, seriousness and how they focus on their clients demonstrating that this is a business not a hobby.” If she could collaborate with any designer in the world, she beams, “I would choose Ethiopian born Amsale of New York.”
In 2015 the local designer sponsored the wardrobe for the TT delegate for the Miss Supranatural competition in Poland and her gold gown placed in the top 10 for the Best Evening Dress.
However, her proudest moment came when she took part in the Las Vegas Fashion Week in February 2014.
Her collection “Jewels of T&T” was inspired by the different ethnic groups that live and celebrate in harmony in TT.
She received partial sponsorship from the organizers, however it was very challenging to receive funding from the local institutions she approached, so she sold her car at the last minute in order to fund her trip.
“It’s difficult to get assistance if you don’t have a ‘big name’ behind you. I decided I could not let this opportunity slip through my fingers, so I did what I had to do and I have no regrets.”
No greater pride was felt than being backstage and hearing her name and country being announced as the carefully selected blend of local music began to play and the models strutted her designs on the runway.
Her moment of truth came when the lauded German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld walked up to her after the show, shook her hand and told her that she had the best presentation.
One of the directors even told her that designers seldom get orders on their first showing, however she defied all odds and received multiple orders.
“Once you are following your passion for the right reasons, the experience is worth the sacrifice,” she says proudly.
Anna hopes to attend the San Diego Fashion Week later this year and knows that if is meant to be, things will fall into place in Divine Order.