Kajue: Tell us about Theodore
Theodore: I started designing in 1998 when I was thirteen. I began as a costume and evening wear designer for young ladies in the Miss Bahamas and Miss Teen Bahamas competition and since then the brand has evolved into a more ready to wear, women to wear collection. I simply launched the brand in 2010 with the 2011 Spring/Summer collection and since then I’ve produced two collections, a Spring /Summer collection for 2011 and a Resort Wear collection for 2012. Now the design career has blossomed into participating in the Mission Catwalk reality show and I am hoping that as the competition progresses I’ll be able to walk away with the top prize.
Kajue: I am really liking your designs so far, especially that design that was created using inspiration from a piece of art.
Theodore: Thank you, I appreciate that. That was a really exciting challenge for me, mostly because I am more of the clean cut designer. I like clean lines, not a lot of fuss, just a very simple, sophisticated, luxurious wear. That challenge was an opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone as a designer which is sometimes necessary because fashion design is an art form as well. Being able to get inspiration from Shediene Fletcher’s piece in the Biennial showcase took me out of my comfort zone and took me to a new level as a designer and I enjoyed the challenge, it was nice.
Kajue: As a designer, what does fashion mean to you?
Theodore: Fashion is my life, it sounds cliché but when you look at doctors, they make the medical field their life, lawyers put so much time into going to school just to perfect their craft. As a clothing engineer, fashion design is my life. I research fashion all the time it’s just a constant process of growth for me. Many people have a misconception of fashion as something that is just creative, but for me fashion is more than just a creative expression, it’s a business. I don’t only keep my designs as creative and as sleek as possible but I also understand and appreciate the business side of fashion and that’s why for the past two to three years I’ve been really trying to hone the brand and really promote the brand ThodoreElyett as a serious company. Fashion design is something I’ve looked forward to being successful in since I was a teenager and now the fruits are blossoming as natural progression over the past three years and now I am enjoying the fruits of the seeds I had planted.
Kajue: When did you realize you wanted to become a Fashion Designer?
Theodore: I realised I wanted to become a fashion designer since around 8. My mother had a garment factory in the Bahamas and she produced a lot of garments so every day after school, that’s where I spent my free time (in the garment factory). Since I was around 7 or 8, I knew I had a passion for manufacturing, for design, for clothing and construction but I never really produced a piece that was sold to the wider market until I was about 13.
Kajue: Are there many fashion designers in the Bahamas or do you consider your talent to be a rare commodity there.
Theodore: There are quite a few very talented designers here that I look up to. My favourite Bahamian designer is Jeff St. John, I admire his pieces because he has not only designed for some of the most elite women in the Bahamas but his pieces are sophistication and that’s what I try to achieve with my brand. I am my biggest fan so of course I am going to think that my work is the best but I can’t take away credit from other great and successful designers like Jeff St. John, like Jabot Bethel would not be fair. There is a lot of talent here in the Bahamas, however, there needs to be more opportunities on the regional and international stage for designers like myself, to showcase their talent. Therefore, taking advantage of the Mission Catwalk experience is definitely something that I look forward to since I watched the season last year and I am literally just taking the bull by the horns. I don’t just want to get exposure for myself or for my brand Theodore Elyett but to also get exposure for the Bahamas as well, to show the talent that we have because we are not as fortunate as the other Caribbean islands such as Jamaica. Jamaica used to be a hub for fashion manufacturing at one point and also Trinidad and Tobago whose government pumps thousands of dollars into their fashion industry. Being able to put the Bahamas on the map through a fashion reality television such as Mission Catwalk is something that is good for me.
Kajue: I agree with you, if this type of talent exists in the Bahamas, it needs to be pushed. I didn’t realise Bahamas had this much talent until I saw you on Mission Catwalk.
Theodore: To be honest, Mission Catwalk has opened so many doors for me. We are not even half way through the competition yet so many doors have been opened. When I won the first challenge with the African print dress, it has been so well received. I came to Jamaica for the launch of it in Lee’s Fifth Avenue store and it was well received then and as far as I know, the six other garments that had been reproduced had already been sold out. The sales here in the Bahamas have been phenomenal. Tons of women at Lyford Cay have been calling and ordering the dress. So for me, it is a good sign that doors and opportunities, even though I haven’t won the competition yet (as I hope to do) have been opened for me, from runway to retail. I have already sold 10 custom pieces of the dress and it is going to be retailed here in the Bahamas in July.
Kajue: What inspires you as a designer?
Theodore: I am influenced by a lot of things. My design brand is really always influenced and inspired by world culture, pattern print, texture and the character of line. I always tend to take these things into consideration as a designer. There are always several elements of designating that I think every designer should take into consideration but for me, I embrace the aspects of line, cut, pattern and texture. Cultures from around the world always influence me. A culture of a place is always so much richer than when you just look at it on surface values so, that’s a common pattern for me.
Kajue: How did you learn of Mission Catwalk?
Theodore: I was surfing the internet one day on Facebook and I came across the page. Any Caribbean person is always skeptical of something being produced in the Caribbean, that’s just how we are. I further went on a limb and I looked on the information on the page and I found it on Youtube. Having an extensive background in journalism and videography, being a radio and television broadcaster for ten years, watching Mission Catwalk impressed me. The quality and production of the programme was so on par with the international stage and, as a designer, I saw it as something I would definitely want to be a part of…Kudos to Mission Catwalk for that.
Kajue: You have mentioned the name of your favourite Bahamian designer but regionally, who would you say is your favourite fashion designer?
Kajue: What makes Theodore stand out?
Theodore: Sophistication which spills over in my brand as well. I think that for me as a fashion designer, I can’t just say that I want my brand to be a sophisticated, luxurious brand as expect these types of clients to come to me. I have to attract it to the way I dress and carry my brand as a brand ambassador as well.
Kajue: Tell us about your winning design in week 1.
Theodore: We were asked to design a piece that was indigenous to the Caribbean that someone from the international arena could see and identify it with the Caribbean. I wanted to pay homage to our African heritage so I went for a double African print dress, something that was very simple but still very elegant and a piece that could translate from day to night. For me a piece that could translate from runway to retail would mean something that could be worn at day or in the night, it can be worn around the world and also have an international appeal. For the silhouette and fabric choice for the design, I wanted to choose fabrication that was very light and so I went with the brushed waxed cotton fabric and I think it translated well on the runway as well. Women don’t only want to look beautiful, they want to feel beautiful as well and brushed waxed cotton is a very breathable and airy fabric gives that feeling because it doesn’t stick to the body.
Kajue: Tell us about your Evening Gown design in Episode 4.
Theodore: We were given three looks that we had to design for, one was cocktail, one was avangard and the other was red carpet. I went with the red carpet because I wanted to be dramatic. The fabric was interlocked, it was a very nude shade and for inspiration. I get inspiration from some of the coloured women in the film industry so I chose Dorothy Dandridge and imagined myself designing a dress for her…so that’s what I came up with.
Kajue: Well all the best on your journey Theodore, I see you as a very talented designer and not only talented but also confident. I don’t know if you have any fears but I don’t see that.
Theodore: Thank you. Being in the fashion industry, people expect you to be this roaring lion so I guess you just have to live up to that and the fashion industry isn’t easy at all.
Kajue: How has your experience in Jamaica been so far?
Theodore: I love Jamaica, Scotchies is like my second home. I’ve been back to Jamaica three times and every time Scotchies is the first places I go, Scotchies is for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When I don’t go there I go to a place called Yawd, the food is so good! I love Jamaica, we are always so busy when we come there so I really didn’t get a lot of time to see as much of Jamaica as I would have liked to. If I do have a chance to come back, I would like to go to Dunn’s River and the Bob Marley Museum. I went to the Emancipation Park when they were having the Bob Marley birthday celebration so I was able to take part in that. It’s a new Island destination for me and I must say that Jamaica has a really rich culture, and it’s not just one culture, you have Rastafarian, West Indian and Real Jamaican cultures so it was a really good experience for me. I did’t really get to experience the Island but I want to see more.
Kajue: We hope when Kajue travels to the Bahamas again, we will have the opportunity of meeting you Theodore.
Theodore: You better!
Kajue: All the best Theodore, thank you for your time.
Theodore: Thank you too.
Feast your eyes on Some of Theodore’s Designs: Mission Catwalk and TheodoreElyett’s Resort’ 12 Collection