Sailing and designing

Sailing and designing

My husband and I were exploring the Caribbean on our little sail boat, with our 2 year old daughter when my good friend (who was the Production Manager at Billabong while I had been the Head Designer at Billabong South Africa) said to me "well when are you going to start your own line".  Until that time the thought had never crossed my mind.

I had access to amazing pure cotton fabrics from India, I was sailing around some of the most stunning islands on the planet and I had nothing nice to wear !  At the time my outfits were rayon sarongs and nasty t-shirts.  Here I am being a "dolphin whisperer" to the dolphins who visited us as we sailed along.  

And so West Indies Wear was born.  I used our "rice and beans" money to buy a laptop and started designing prints & color ways for the islands.  When the first lot of samples were ready, we were on the island of Grenada.  I contacted an old St.Maarten friend of mine who is Grenadian (we later named our 2nd daughter after Evie) and asked if she could please put me in touch with some of her family members, in the hope that they might receive the sample package for me.  Once we had samples, we hiked all over the island trying to take photos.

It was slow going building the customer base, as sail boat is not a very fast mode of transport, and the internet was just getting going.  Luckily buyers in the Caribbean had limited access to trade shows, and relied quite heavily on websites.  Often we would arrive on a new island and we would go ashore in our dinghy to show the line.  My husband would have to keep our daughter entertained on the beach while I went to see the buyer.  Here we are on the dinghy.

My husband was snorkeling and looking for dinner one day and found this starfish.  My daughter and I were in the dinghy nearby, so he put it in the dinghy with us.  My daughter was AMAZED.  Yes I had to paint that bikini bottom on her, as it was always a real battle to get her to wear clothes!  She liked seeing that starfish, but it wasn't allowed to stay in the dinghy with us for long.

So this starfish turned into this SEA STAR SARONG, which is still in the line today.  Sailing around the islands sure did give me an endless supply of inspiration.

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