Living his dream
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Sep 20, 2013
Bahamian fashion designer Theodore Elyett is living his dream.
Having won the Jamaican-based fashion competition “Mission Catwalk”, back in June, Elyett recently completed a 60-piece collection that was debuted at retail chain store Lee’s Fifth Avenue on that island last night.
His collection, dubbed "United", features pieces in the colors of the Bahamian flag.
Elyett said it’s his way of paying homage to The Bahamas, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary of independence.
"Even though I’m in Jamaica, I want to kind of celebrate some Bahamian pride," he said.
Elyett had four short weeks to create the collection.
“The process was very rigorous, a lot more intense than I had imagined it would be,” he said. “Producing a collection takes at least two months. I had to do it this in a month.”
While Elyett has been creating designs since he was 15, this is his first retail opportunity, he said.
“It's been a really good experience. I always said it since day one when I started Mission Catwalk, that retail for any designer is where they'd like to be at the end of the day. No one creates a collection and just wants it to walk down the runway and just look good. You want it to walk down the runway, then you want the buyers to buy into it and for it to hit the retail racks.
“So for me this is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Elyett said the retail experience also provided him with invaluable experience.
“I consider myself a real designer now. Before this, I had been doing custom pieces, so it really helped me to understand the design business.”
The opportunity to sell his designs is one of the prizes Mission Catwalk offered.
“Definitely Mission Catwalk is not the solution to all of my problems as a designer, but it’s definitely providing me with a lucrative platform to get my clothing line out there, and the retail experience has really been awesome here in Jamaica.”
In addition to revealing a new line, Elyett is also introducing his new brand Theodore Elyett BASICS, which offers more affordable pieces.
“I’m used to retailing pieces at about $150, so it really was an experience for me because Lee’s is so different. It’s like the Macy’s of Jamaica. The price point is from $20 to $70.”
Elyett said Lee’s Fifth Avenue is not the only store interested in buying his pieces.
“A few other high-end boutiques have offered me retail contracts, so it’s just a matter of me ironing out the kinks over the next few months to find out exactly where I'll be retailing.”
And now with his first retail experience out of the way, Elyett will focus his attention on preparing for London Fashion Week in February, another opportunity he got as a result of winning Mission Catwalk. At the fashion week, Elyett will showcase a 24-piece collection.
But he said he doesn’t intend to stop there. Elyett said he wants to become a world renowned designer.
“Now that I have the opportunity to branch into the European market, there are tons of stores where I'd like the Theodore Elyett brand to actually end up.
“I don't want to limit myself and say I want to retail in the Caribbean or I want to retail in Europe. I really would like for Theodore Elyett to be a brand that's a global player. When you look at international brands like Oscar de la Renta, he was born in the Caribbean (Dominican Republic) and right now his brand is ranked among the top in the world. So he's an island nation designer who made a name for himself, that’s the kind of path I want to take. I want to have an international brand that is appreciated by experts around the world.”
As for his advice for young designers, Elyett said “perseverance is the key”.
“If you look at where I am now, 10 years ago I would have never imagined that I'd be here now. I would never have imagined having a retail experience. I would have never imagined that I'd be able to travel to London Fashion Week and participate. I would have never imagined being given the opportunity to study in one of the top fashion schools in the world.”
Elyett said he thanks God for all of this accomplishments.
In addition to sealing his spot at London Fashion Week, Elyett also walked away with about $5,000 to go towards his clothing line; industrial equipment to set up a production studio and a scholarship to pursue a fashion program at the London College of Fashion, among other things.
Since appearing on the show, the designer has outfitted Bernadette Christie, wife of Prime Minister Perry Christie and several other fashion enthusiasts.
Elyett said he will begin school in June 2014.