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CREATIVE SPACE: FASHIONING A HIT! SPOTLIGHT NICOYA HENRY
Wednesday 30th October 2019

By Joanne C. Hillhouse

The Independence Fashion competition – part of the line-up of arts activities (minus literary arts) organized by the Festivals Commission for Independence season – was held on October 27th 2019.  With some minor critiques, it was overall a good show – though the acoustics at the Multipurpose Centre were not ideal for the video introductions and theatrical touches incorporated in to each of the 15 competition presentations. But this article isn’t about the show.

It is about winner Nicoya Henry and her creative vision.

“I’m happy, I’m excited, for some reason I’m still nervous, I’m still a little bit emotional,” she said the morning after the show. She designed and made the piece, served as her own fitting and runway model, wrote the poem that set up the piece, selected the music – Todrick Hall’s No Place like Home, with Kadeem Joseph directing the presentation. Understandable that it’s been an emotional roller coaster.
In the end though, “I’m happy that my vision came to life,” she said.

So, what was her vision?

“I wanted to show Antiguans that there is no place like home”, she said, a concept she summed up in the words paradise, tranquility, and family and friends.

“People come here all the time for our beaches,” she said. So the beaches were something she tried to capture, hence the blue and white colour palette. But she wasn’t just going for the visuals. “I wanted to bring the element of sound to my piece,” she said. “If you saw my design in a room (by itself), I wanted you to hear the waves crashing on the shores…that’s why I did the ruffles on the bottom (and the peplum at the waist).”

Other details included the elements referencing family and friends. “My family and friends, they make me feel at home…so I did a belt with butterflies around the belt – butterflies represent souls; I put it (i.e. the butterflies representing family and friends) in the belt because they hold me together.”

One of the things Nicoya said she wanted was to be “unexpected” and she was that.

The wow element in her presentation came during the swimsuit reveal, an element that makes sense when you consider that that’s been her niche since she’s been trying her hand at design. “I’m a swimsuit designer,” she said. “I’m doing a gown to challenge myself…In my head, I did not want to enter just to win; it was about pushing myself to do something out of the norm.” The butterfly on each side of the swimsuit, bring the two pieces together thematically. 

The swimsuit is nude with rhinestone pieces, each representing a memory, hand-placed for the desired effect.

She lists among her challenges time management and finding the exact fabric type and colour to match her vision (even with each designer being credited EC$1,000 at a local fabric store – with her spending an additional EC$500+). Not being able to match the colours exactly, however, turned out to be a happy accident. “This could work,” she thought to herself then, because as she said “our sea is not one colour.”

She had to learn as she worked – how much fabric was not enough fabric, how to shape the fabric to fit her (that was one of the bigger ones, as she adjusted and pinned the dress, to make it fit what she describes as her “unusual shape”).

“I didn’t want to model my dress,” she said – but that in the end also turned out to be a happy accident as it’s hard to imagine anyone showing the dress to greater impact.

Nicoya’s excited about the cash prize (EC$5,000), the steamer (which she always wanted), the sewing machine, and other prizes, but she admits that the scholarship could be a game changer. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to really develop and learn. I did clothing and textile in school, but most of myself and my technique is self-taught.” It’s also, though, about helping her figure out her path. “I know what I want to do but what is it that I’m going to be,” that’s what she wonders.  “I don’t know where in the fashion industry is my real calling. (I’m) seeking to find where is the right place.” She’s hoping this opportunity will help her find the answer to these questions even as she develops the skills and creates the network she’ll need.

“It was worth it,” Nicoya said, in the end, of the challenges and ultimate triumph of the Independence Fashion Competition, as she begins to make plans to head off to school in 2020.

This post, sponsored by the novel Dancing Nude in the Moonlight: 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, is part of the online edition of the culture-and-arts-focused CREATIVE SPACE series which gives local businesses an opportunity to boost their brand while boosting local art and culture. Contact author and content creator Joanne C. Hillhouse at jhohadli@gmail.com for more information. The original/extended edition is posted at her blog – Jhohadli.


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