There is the common misconception that all artists are starving. Society is still adamant in its belief that in order to have a successful future one must be a lawyer, or a doctor or working in a bank. I spoke to two young, rising entrepreneurial women Arielle Rock and Shanika Grimes on what it means to successfully pursue their passion despite the resistance they may face from society.
Arielle is only twenty-three years old and has just completed her third year at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute Of Technology. When you think wedding dress what really comes to mind? Perhaps Megan Markle’s gown from the last royal wedding ceremony. You think white, lace, overflowing – but do you necessarily think Caribbean? Arielle is one designer pioneering the wedding dress shift in Bajan culture.
“I really like wedding dresses; I like designing them, I like a lot of color . I like getting inspiration from nature, different things and colors. Different fabrics inspire me.” She smiles, sipping peppermint tea in Coffee House Italia. There is soft reggae music vibrating against the wooden décor. We are sitting at a table in the corner, which provides a perfect outlook into the streets of Bridgetown. People are passing by in rush – some on their way to work. A lot of them are women in heavy suits.
“I find that in the wedding industry in particular a lot of the styles kind of look the same; they take on a very traditional heavy look and I find that right now they are more people who want to stray from the traditional look. All of that white or ivory and try something new, something that fits their personality better. I’m seeing more brides wearing coloured wedding dresses both locally and internationally, who want to try different things. Some people may want something like a tie-dyed wedding dress or they may have seen something they like and they may want their wedding dress design based off of that. I am able to do that for them.”
Arielle says she is influenced by styles from both the Caribbean and overseas. It is a mixture of both the traditional and the avant-garde.
“I really like looking at different cultures and the different traditional dress that they would wear and then I would just pull inspiration from that.”
“If you could define your style in one word what would it be and why?”
“That’s a hard one. I would say my style real crazy, really extravagant, I just like to think out of the box. Right now I am designing a green wedding dress. It is based off of a green sea anemone. It is going to be dyed to be mostly green in varying shades with flecks of, blue, yellow, black and white… so I’m going to put all those colors in this one dress and I am going to do a bit of hand-painting on the fabric flowers; that I handmade and placed onto the train. There will also be some swarvoski crystals and hand beading done around the waistline, and to make it more dramatic there will be a detachable shoulder watteau that’s 144 inches long. These are the kinds of things I really like to do.” She grins, eyes sparkling.
“So who are some of your inspirations in the fashion world, with regards to wedding dresses?”
Arielle pauses for a minute, deep in thought. The music switches to funky jazz and the coffee machines whir noisily as she thinks. To make it easier I tell her it doesn’t have to be a person or a particular brand- what is she inspired by in general?
“Well, I really like doing some trend research and looking to see what the trends in coming years will be. I like seeing all of the new trends that come out on the runway. I try to take all of that into consideration when designing my garments. Some of the trends right now for bridal internationally are kind of centered around the nude look, basically it looks like the gown is just a thin layer of lace and you can see the outline of the bride’s figure, however some designers line this with a light skin toned fabric to appear that way while still giving the bride modesty. I find that internationally this trend is really, really growing. I like it and I would try it in some of my designs in the future. I’m also seeing bows coming back, like big bows, shoulders bows, and capes, I have been seeing a lot of trends from the eighties and the twenties coming back in terms of the necklines, types of sleeves, silhouettes and even the way the dresses were beaded. I really want play around with those trends in my future collections, it’ll be an interesting challenge to take them and make them look more modern and artistic.”
Of course there has been one question at the back of my mind, I had just been bursting to ask:
“Why wedding dresses?”
“Well in school whenever I had an assignment I always used to find myself doing the most extravagant and the most time-consuming things and I was really interested in a lot of construction and detail. Then I got really interested in corsets. I just started to wonder what I should get into – it was either making costumes for theatre, or bridal where I could really and most fully express my creativity.”
“How has your journey been as a young Barbadian entrepreneur?”
“Well I’m now starting, but so far I am just trying to promote myself so more people can know about me and what I do.”
Most young artists when they are first starting out see collaboration as highly important as it gives them an additional push. Arielle described to me some models she has collaborated with and would love to have feature her gorgeous designs.
“In terms of models, I really like Eboni Ford. She wore a red wedding dress I designed at Fashion week in 2017. She has a great walk, a unique look, a joy to work with and her skin is lovely like her name. I have directly collaborated on a shoot with Jewel Burton, and a few other models recently and you can find those photographs on my Instagram. I find I like models who either have very dark or very light skin, since I work with a lot of colour, bright colours just pop on those skin tones.“
“Any favorite materials to work with?”
“Yes I really like cotton; I like cotton sateen-which is cotton with a satin weave, therefore it gives the same breath-ability as cotton. Which I find in this Caribbean climate is important. Everybody tends to wear the same traditional satin and polyester lining and it will just make you feel really hot and cling to your skin. Nobody wants to feel hot and sweaty on their wedding day so I think that a wedding dress that is made out of relatively natural materials is better suited for the Caribbean.”
Not only are Arielle’s designs comfortable but they are inclusive. While she mostly caters to those on the smaller side she also caters to those women on the larger side, because in Arielle’s words:
“Every woman deserves to feel beautiful on their wedding day.”
To gain better insight I asked her to describe her creative process:
“Well right now I put out a collection so people can have an idea of what I do; then you can contact me and we can discuss your ideas and what you would like to do. I draft a design according to that and show them and if they agree they sign off on it…. and then we go from there.”
“Where do you see your brand in the next five years?”
“Well in the next five years I am hoping to work with a lot of brides. Hopefully one every month, I know that for most people that might not sound like a lot but making a bespoke gown is time consuming, materials may have to be ordered and there are multiple fittings that a bride goes through to ensure that ,that gown will fit her like a glove. I just really enjoy seeing my creativity grow. I would also like to get into resort wear in the future.”
Arielle has high hopes for her brand, and it is clear to see with her passion, colors and creativity how she will diversify the bridal industry.
The journey continues next week as the writer, T’afari, travels to Coffee House Italia to continue the conversation with Shanika Grimes.
- written by T’afari Steede.