When I was in Convent I’d beg my friends to let me me cut + layer their hair…with totally inappropriate scissors... It would take anywhere from hours to days of convincing but eventuallyyy they’d let me. I mean it was a pretty sweet deal. For one it was free, and for two it was hella convenient- from the comfort of your own desk! All I had to do was score my first cut and use that poor soul as bait for the rest. It was an easy enough sell. Of course, it was probably the worst cut of their lives but at the time I swore they looked FLY!
Fast forward 7 years to November 2014 and I’m begging them to let me design their Monday Wear for carnival 2015. I was able to convince about 11 of …us (myself, my sister and 3 cousins included) – all they had to pay for was the fabric and the labour and I took care of the rest! It was a sweet deal barring the risk of my immaturity.
I think I should mention that I still can’t rationalise the motive behind my desire in 2007 to offer and perform free hair cuts and similarly why I decided to design and project manage free Monday Wear services in 2015. I’m weird and I’m totally comfortable with that conclusion. Somewhere in those 7/8 years (specifically during my time at THE U) I chose to refine rather than stifle my weirdness. I go with instinct. So I ran with LN Monday Wear 2015 and my 11 “clients”.
Nothing about LN MW 2015 was monetarily profitable (in fact I probably lost a few hundos). It was stressful, tricky, nerve wracking but I loved it. I learned so much about my friends, myself, the fashion scene in TnT and fashion in general. It was like a thesis study, the end product of which would be 11 costumes. I loved the almost instant gratification of seeing something I planned and designed come to life. My life in the profession of architecture is often not as instantaneous- this was refreshing.
So came LN MW 2016. I decided this year that I’d try to turn this Monday Wear “hobby” into a small business. It wasn’t my plan to make money but to break even, knowing I’d need to put whatever I earned back into the business for marketing purposes.
I’d take on 25 clients max. I’d work on 5 designs, shoot them all professionally, produce a physical booklet, invest time and money on branding, packaging + high quality fabrics and sell a ‘tailored to you service’.
Within 2 weeks I’d reached my goal of 25 clients- I was thrilled.
Crazily enough, the processes discussed above were the easy part. Production + Pleasing- the two Ps, were a bloody Pursuit (or Pain?) ….. and I’m a Perfectionist. My amazing seamstress lived in Sangre Grande, so there was that. My fabric all came from New York and for some CRAZY reason the import tax on fabric - an almost raw material, is the same as it is on clothes!!! Let me not get started on that injustice.
It is known in the Fashion Industry that one of our major set backs is the difficulty of production and the impossibility of mass production in Trinidad. Even on my teeny tiny tinyyy scale in 2016, I felt it.
Pleasing my clients is a must. I had one client- of my 30 (I opened up spots for 5 more people as I had enough fabric) that wasn’t happy in the end with her piece and it REALLY upset me. I felt like I did everything that I could to get it where she wanted but it just didn’t work out. I felt like LN MW 2016 failed. Then Trinidad Lookbook (now Caribbean LookBook), wrote me asking to feature my line on her blog as a post titled “The Monday Wear They Don’t Want You To Have”. I was honoured! Soon after, I got a call from Anya Ayoung Chee’s boutique “HOME” saying that they loved my pieces and wanted to have some in store. I really couldn’t believe it! Finally came the road reviews. My happy clients looked stunning and graced the pages of all sorts of social media! I was like... hmm.. maybe I’m not a huge failure after all?
LN MW 2017 was a must and I was ready to take it up a notch. I decided to take on 40 clients- MAX! I worked on a few designs over the course of 2 months and finalised on 6 that I wanted to shoot. With Ikenna Douglas, Melissa Yung, Nikitha Cornwall and Savanna Wharton- Lake in hand we shot for hours. We knew we’d got something good. I created a website on Squarespace (super easy to use) and- again with my amateurism- decided to launch the line online!
I awoke the next morning to hundreds of emails.
Savanna, a sister/friend of mine convinced me to take on at least 80 clients. I decided to hire her as my assistant and it was the best decision I made. She dealt with the emails, accounting, the registration, customer service, the running around and to some extent—me. It gave me the ability to handle production, marketing, packaging. I worked with 3 seamstresses- the coordination effort was real.
My clients ranged in personality from the easy going to the totally finicky (for the record I’m pretty finicky so I totally understand finicky...love that word ..finicky). I had clients from up the islands, from the UK and the US- of all shapes and sizes. My list of 80 grew close to 100 by the time carnival rolled around.
THEN, tragic STRUCK!
I had a particularly troublesome section that nearly killed me (sequined fabric that stretches 2 ways is gorgeous but deadly- lesson learned!), but I was determined to make each of my clients happy. After several sleepless nights (my poor newlywed husband had a rough first week of marriage), we were able to satisfy almost everyone.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that many women see their Monday Wear (and Tuesday Wear) as though it were their wedding dress. They dream of it. They envision themselves in their costume on the road for months and if the reality of this vision is anything less than perfect, it crushes them. I get it.
In the end I had to refund 2 of my 100 clients. As in 2016, this really, really got to me. I felt like I'd let them down. I was cloaked in that horrible feeling of failure.
Then came the road, seeing my clients in “real life” and on social media express their joy and shine in their pieces was fantastic. Another surge of emails came in, a mix of client thank yous and preregistration queries for 2018!
Somewhere in that list were emails from both Paris Fashion Week and World Fashion Week inviting me to have my work featured on their runways! I’d also gotten messages ranging from people like Machel Montano’s Manager to writers at MACO (name droppin’ --- hayy!).
It’s so easy for us to dwell on the negatives and kill ourselves over what went wrong and what we coulda-shoulda-woulda have done better, but the reality is (and I constantly have to remind myself of this), mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before.
As Albert Einstein says “the only source of knowledge is experience.”
2018 is going to be a bit different and it's going to be LN MW’s absolute best year yet.
Loooong story short- thank you for letting me zog-up your hair friends. I luh you.