Last month, the Theodore Elyett fashion label launched the lookbook for the Desert Sun collection – one of the most beautifully styled and photographed lookbooks for 2011 within the Caribbean.
The man behind it all? Mr. Elyett himself.
Theodore Elyett is a man of many talents and then some. To me, he is one of the highlights of my trip every time I touch down in the Bahamas – a source of support; a calming voice in the madness of show preparation.
When I met Theodore in November 2008, he was one of the backstage coordinators during shows at the inaugural Islands of the World Fashion Week. A year later at the same event, he was the Operations Manager. Last November, Theodore Elyett finally took centre stage at IWFW 2010 as a designer, showcasing a beautiful collection with brilliant craftsmanship and showing the world that there is certainly more to the man than meets the eye.
At the tender age of 13, Theodore was an award-winning designer for the Miss Bahamas beauty pageant. The Bahamas takes great pride in its beauty pageants and beauty queens alike; thirteen years later, Theodore is the man in charge, having launched the country’s most successful beauty pageant ‘Theodore Elyett’s Miss Teen Bahamas Beauty Pageant’ in 2005. This competition has given Theodore bragging rights of a record-breaking six international beauty pageant titles for the Bahamas.
Aside from his obvious expertise and warranted respect in the pageant world, Theodore has a very extensive portfolio in Broadcast Journalism and Mass Communications. At the age of 17, he began his broadcast journalism career; aged 18, he was a television news reporter and radio news anchor and by 19, he had branched into television anchoring. This experience covers everything from official government meetings such as CARICOM to interviews with regional leaders, documentaries and coverage of general elections.
Driven? Most definitely.
Having emerged as the winner of a Bahamian production loosely based on the popular Project Runway TV show, Theodore was awarded with a summer scholarship to the prestigious Parsons New School of Design in New York as well as the opportunity to showcase his work at IWFW 2010.
The Desert Sun collection is Theodore’s most recent work, inspired by colour, prints and world culture.
‘I think it’s always my first instinct to present something of an homage to the beauty of print, colour, culture and texture,’ he says. ‘I wanted [this] collection to be a part of the global fashion trends emerging, showcasing hot Spring/Summer loves like bold colours, tribal and floral print, sweeping wide-legged pants, turbans, colour-blocking and very fluid pieces.’
And what of the inspiration for the lookbook and its styling?
‘I immediately drew inspiration from tribal aspects of the African culture. The auburn wig that the model wore was inspired by African warriors who coat their hair in red mud. The model’s skin was also darkened tremendously to achieve a very exotic look.’
Theodore has a very strong technical skill set, having learned the basics of sewing and tailoring through his grandmother – ‘she always took great pride in creating beautiful outfits for herself; there were always tons of fabric scrap boxes in her closet!’ He also picked up a wealth of knowledge as a young boy from his mother’s sewing factory, which produced uniforms and printed goods. He experimented with the industrial machinery whenever possible and was able to fine-tune his skills with the help of his father and older sister, who also pursued a degree in Fashion Design.
He counts Valentino as one of his top international designers: ‘The man is a genius! I feel he represents where I would like to take my design appeal and focus as a designer – a woman with a dress and not a dress with a woman.’ He also admires the ‘clean and crisp’ work of designer Jason Wu, along with Marc Jacobs’ ability to balance so many fashion lines that are consistent and uniquely branded. When asked about regional designers, Theodore admits: ‘I’m going to cheat and say Oscar de la Renta… after all, he is from the Dominican Republic! Locally, I’d have to say my favourite Bahamian designer is Jeff St. John.’
Theodore is a huge advocate of networking in order to achieve one’s goals – ‘It takes a lot more than talent and skill to crack the glass ceiling [in this industry]’. He fully believes that it is possible for Caribbean designers to excel on a global scale, but in order to do this; they must ‘engross [themselves] in constant research and have the ability to articulate [themselves] to ensure proper self promotion’. He believes that preparation is key, especially for unexpected opportunities, as well as associating oneself with the right contacts and maintaining those relationships.
‘Caribbean designers have a je ne sais quoi that is derived from our individual rich cultural backgrounds and this undoubtedly adds a unique element to our design aesthetic… Caribbean designers produce collections that are full of soul.’
And what next for this Caribbean prodigy?
‘Theodore Elyett is and always will be more than just a designer label; it’s a living, breathing brand. Too often people think in terms of a “boxed career”; I want to remain mogul-minded. [I believe] that by employing all of my skills with might and consistency, I am bound to succeed! Look at Tom Ford – a fashion designer, a beauty brand and a film director…
‘2011 is our stage of testing and growth. The collections produced this year are for promotional purposes only. As 2012 rolls around, the label will showcase a more mature and tempered palette, appealing to a wider demographic. For now we are focused on completing our website and possibly participating in four more runways before the year ends.’
- Darcel de Vlugt, Editor –
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Theodore Elyett photographed by Kovah Duncombe
Desert Sun S/S 2011 Lookbook
Photography: Kovah Duncombe
MUA: Nestaea Sealy
Hair: Cheryl Humes
Accessories: Cute Confections & FASHIONISTA