FASHION designing is one of the most lucrative businesses worldwide, but few people understand the “ins and outs”of the industry.
The Pepperpot Magazine sat down with Karen Hughes, a Fashion Designing Teacher, at one of the country’s leading arts schools, the E.R. Burrowes School of Art.
Born in the ancient county of Berbice, Karen always had a love for fashion since she was a teenager.
“I had no knowledge that I was a fashion designer. I was just dabbling in stuff at a young age, but my mom is the person who saw it. She was the one who told me when I became a single parent and I was looking for something to do, a career of choice and she mentioned, why don’t you take up fashion designing?” Hughes told the Pepperpot Magazine.
Coupled with being a single parent, Karen recalled that she lost her job and began classes in textile- making on her way to developing her career.
“My mom encouraged me to buy a sewing machine, but instead, I purchased a washing machine, but since I was already working, I did not have the patience to sew. However, three months after I lost my job, I decided to give it a try. This was in the late ’90s. Thereafter, I migrated to Barbados and attended college where I perfected my talent after three years,” Hughes told the Pepperpot Magazine.
Hughes recalled the first time she sewed her first piece, she had no idea but conceptualised that she wanted her seams to be straight and present a neat finish.
Motivation to move forward despite challenges
“At one time, I said I am going to sell out everything. I am going to finish with my career, but my passion grew when I went to college and discovered ‘Pattern Making,’ which is the technical side of fashion,” she said.
According to Hughes, she likened it to building a house; pattern-making is the plan for the best fashion creations.
“When I went to college, in my mind I thought I would have learnt the basics of sewing, not realising that it is more expansive than I realised. I had to learn things like the history of fashion, fashion illustration, political science, ethics and citizenship, Maths, English and more,” Hughes explained.
Hughes recalled that she would supplement her income by making food items for sale during her times of discouragement and despondency.
She noted during her interview that she was a household name in the fashion industry as a result of her exposure to the fashion world through tradeshows and the like, even on the international scene.
The ever-evolving fashion industry
Hughes lamented on the fact that in the fashion world, styles and technics improve consistently.
“Whenever persons bring clothing to me for alteration, I normally pay keen attention to the finishing of the garments, because everyone is trying to improve all the time, to raise the standard, raise the bar, because in the fashion industry, you want to stay unique, that is the way I think all designers should go,” Hughes told the Pepperpot Magazine.
She emphasised that as a designer, your finishes play a very important role.
“In the fashion industry, there are different body types…this is where you as a designer stand apart from a seamstress…it is your responsibility to bring out the shape in that person and make them look good,” Hughes emphasised.
She explained that her mission is to help young fashion designers understand that there are certain fundamentals in the fashion industry that you should upkeep to go forward.
According to her, one should follow the simple rules of garment construction; these include a neat finish, lining of the garment and the right colour thread on the garment.
The most important thing that distinguishes her as a designer, she said, is the fact that she is proud to showcase her own clothing.
According to Hughes, sometimes it might not be possible to wear her clothing, but she would wear her accessories. This, to her, speaks a message and makes an emphatic and profound statement.
The fashion designer noted that she is always working on a collection. She noted that creativity is very critical to cushion the effects of financial challenges.
This, she noted, is very helpful to combat the challenges that most creative artists face countrywide, since most creative careers aren’t lucrative and do not create financial sustainability for the artists.
Additionally, she added that she uses the classroom to keep her dream, as she lectures to young fashion designers.
In pursuing her dreams, Hughes says that she is always looking for opportunities and meeting the right people.