Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 15th 2014 Contents | PROFILES |
By Roslyn Carrington
"T&T IS SO CULTURALLY RICH and vibrant," says designer
Tabitha St Bernard. "I'm inspired by the spirit of the people,
their openness, the beauty of Carnival. I also love Brooklyn.
The Brooklynites' approach to fashion is so effortless and
nonchalant." Although she grew up in Arima, she has lived in
Brooklyn, NY, for the past 12 years.
Her fashion line, Tabii Just, is a line of women's clothing that
promotes conscious consumerism through vibrant, beautiful
clothing. Those of us who became addicted to last year's
Netflix original series Orange is the New Black would be in-
terested to know that St Bernard was hired to do the styling
for Danielle Brooks, the actress who plays the irrepressible
and opinionated "Taystee".
"I met her through her stylist, who was seeking a look for the
New York premiere of Season 2 of Orange is The New Black.
She thought Danielle and I would be a good match because
we both love bold, beautiful colours, and we're not afraid to
make a statement. Danielle knows her body well and knows
what works for her. She played an active role in deciding on
the final look. I was out of the country for the premiere and
I saw pictures of her on the red carpet online. She looked in-
St Bernard is no stranger to the red carpet. "I'm constantly
working with stylists on looks for actresses. I've dressed Fa-
tima Ptacek, the girl who voices Dora The Explorer. It was
my first time making an outfit for a pre-teen, so that was
fun. Lenay Dunn, host of MTV's 10 on Top, has worn several
pieces from my collections. I usually dress the everyday
woman, so it's great fun to play dress-up for one occasion."
As much fun as it is, sometimes the workload can get crazy.
"Two weeks before New York Fashion Week in February, I
was getting together a small capsule collection to show to
buyers. I got a call from a friend who runs an incredible incu-
bator program in New York. She was producing events dur-
ing Fashion Week and asked if I wanted to show my collec-
tion. That would mean putting together a ten-look collection
for the runway in less than 2 weeks! That was one of the
craziest times of my life. I was sewing until 5:00 a.m. most
nights. But the show was beautiful."
Oddly enough, fashion was not her first career choice; she
completed a degree in Psychology before changing career
paths at age 25 and enrolling in FIT. It was as if her true pas-
sion had finally found her. "As a child and teen, I was always
cutting and remaking my clothing. I wanted to do something
in fashion from since then but didn't know what path I would
need to take or how to make it happen. Back then, there
were no fashion programs or anything like that in Trinidad."
She recently returned to her home soil for Tobago Fashion
Weekend. "It was incredible. I showed my line for the first
time in Tobago. Then, we snuck away to Trinidad for a few
days to see my friends and family. My friend, Booker, took
us for doubles in Arima to end the visit. The doubles man
was the same one I used to go to more than 12 years ago. It
was just perfect."
Although balance is almost a mythical concept for many
working women, she has risen to the challenge. "On average,
my work day ends around midnight. I got married last Au-
gust to Adam. My husband runs a non-profit organization,
so he understands the challenges of running a company.
It also helps that he's incredibly supportive and pres-
ent in my career. We both do a really bad job of not
being workaholics, but having a partner with the
same work habits helps me to not feel too
guilty. Every now and again, we just unplug and
spend time with each other and our friends,
which is so necessary."
Her hopes are high for the future of the local
fashion industry. "I visited the fashion de-
sign program at UTT, and let me tell you, if
someone wants a career in fashion, that's the place to start.
They have state-of-the-art facilities that are on par with FIT.
They're also working on bringing FIT professors to teach at
UTT. They're bringing New York to Trinidad and increasing
the opportunities for the students at home.
"People are realizing that there's real, legitimate talent in T&T,
and they're paying attention. It's a growing industry and
there are obviously growing pains, but I think in time those
things will be sorted out. I'd love to see more opportunities
for local manufacturing, and my hope is that that's the di-
rection in which the industry is moving. I remember growing
up and having my clothing made by local seamstresses, so
the skills are there. It's just a matter of getting things to-
gether to support young designers so that they're able to
manufacture their clothing consistently and focus their en-
ergies on business development."
The Tabii Just line is available at select boutiques in Brooklyn,
and online at Tabiijust.com and other retail sites.
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