From Fashion Girl to Mama Duet
“They say most children have a moment where they know exactly what they want to be when they are older. Mine was when I was nine years young, tall and shy – I loved being part of something! I went to Brownies once a week, a group of local enthusiastic girl guides. We would learn, play, and build our inner strength so that we could become anything we wanted to be in the world. This one particular day was a peg doll competition. Something inside me buzzed. We had to create an outfit from the scraps of material we were given. I suddenly went into concentration mode; all the girls around me were laughing and enjoying while I went from shy to confident in seconds. Glue, scissors and determination, I won the competition out of 20 or so girls. That was the moment, even typing this gave me chills, and I will never forget it.”
“My parents knew that I wasn’t going to be a doctor or lawyer, although my Daddyo (that’s what I call him) always says I love to argue my point. I convinced them fashion is what I loved. I expressed myself at such a young age with clothes, accessories, hair and overall style. I was shy; I wasn’t into boys – maybe due to lack of confidence – I just was in love with fashion. My parents would take me to exhibitions with black creatives; my dad would buy me magazines. I watched my mother’s side-hustle selling beautiful African prints to family and friends while working for the NHS.
In school, I would express myself in art and textiles, although I did always fall behind against my peers, I believe due to daydreaming! I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box and left school with low qualifications. I still remember my interview for my BTEC fashion and clothing course when they said due to my GSCE results, I would have to complete two years of art & design before I would be accepted. That first year I ‘worked my fingers to the bones’ as my Grandma would say. I made it on to the course in one year and although I was a year older than my classmates and the only black person in the whole department it didn’t stop me!
Those were my best teenage years, from working at Topshop during that time to work experience at my local fashion boutique dressing windows. I was a huge fan of Will and Grace and saw Grace expressing her joy of work in a window display at a department store; another love was born.
In Topshop, I started assisting the visual merchandiser; then I applied for the University of the Arts London’s Display and Design foundation degree. At the time that was the only course of its kind in England. I moved to London and changed from my local Topshop to the High street Kensington store. This was a whole new world, and I was excited to be in a fashion capital. Although my course was interior designed based, I had taken another evening course in fashion display. During my time at Uni, I looked for internships within the fashion industry. I wrote to magazines and was always on the waiting list – until I got a call from NOW magazine’s fashion department, I will always remember walking into the offices pinching myself! That was the beginning of breaking down doors for myself in fashion. I was still shy; however, I worked alongside the amazing fashion editor, the style editor assisting them on shoots with models and celebrities. This one particular Christmas photoshoot was with the girl band Sugababes. I remember how nervous I was; however, it was such a great shoot. I went on to be one of their assistant stylists working for the creative queen Cynthia Lawrence John.
Once I graduated, I fell in love with the father of my future children. Being in my early twenties, I soon learnt that freelance work wasn’t going to pay all the bills. I went on to work as a visual merchandiser for Baby Gap, and within a year, I was promoted to senior visual merchandiser of a bigger store covering all departments. I was so determined to see all the work that goes on behind the images we follow instore. I was selected, amongst others, to work with the Gap visual stylist for Europe. The childrenswear display I created while there was chosen for the lookbook to be used by Gap stores across the country, this led me on to Harvey Nichols’ display design team, and I knew my Grace (Will & Grace) moment was coming. I loved working there. However, I soon fell pregnant and believed that was the end of my fashion journey.
During my maternity leave, my mum would support me while I would go out and work intern jobs! I left London and worked back in Surrey at the airport close by so I could be nearer to my daughter. Although years past, a few amazing assisting jobs came while on my days off. I worked with some incredible stylists and kept on pushing to keep myself in fashion.
Age 29 married for two years and pregnant with my son, I knew there was no way I could fit in a full-time job with two kids and freelance work. I was disheartened; however, the focus was elsewhere and being a mother was my priority. I didn’t understand the word balance I just worked to put food on the table.
In winter 2016, I had a light bulb moment. My son was a month old and we attended my cousin’s wedding. He wore this beautiful print, but because he was dribbling, I ended up putting on a bib that didn’t match. Baby Duet was born, two items that sing together! Matching baby wear – including bibs – with prints inspired by my motherhood.”
I will continue to share the journey of motherhood and fashion! Also, those within the industry who are balancing this role! Keep an eye out for the next instalment of Mama Duet.