IN the last instalment, last Thursday I introduced, Kimberly Charlery, a designer from Castries. Today, I bring you more on her work.
It’s been a six year journey of learning, hard work, trial and error for Charlery, who has nurtured and developed her passion for design, turning her hobby into an entrepreneurial venture. Naturally, her decisive move to entrepreneurship was preceded by a few detours: part-time study at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, an interest in marketing and work with a computer information systems programme at Monroe College.
In the past years─ especially this year─ she has made significant strides with her brand, K-Cha Clothing, which will hopefully grow into her very own design empire. Her first public appearance as a designer was at a small fashion show at Kay’s Lounge in Castries, where she showed some of her top pieces and, according to her, “got a mock experience for what it [a professional fashion show] could be like.”
Charlery also participated in the “ Aspiring Designer of the Year” event which was a great opportunity to be right in her element, picking apart already made pieces to create an original fashion piece. Aside from gaining vital exposure, Charlery was pleased to receive feedback from renowned designer, Vincent Mc Doom. He was quite impressed with her work and encouraged her to continue what she was doing.
This year, she designed a dress for local personality, Claudia Edward for the St. Lucia Jazz Festival and another for Miss BoKa Group for the National Carnival Queen Pageant. Recently, she worked on an unconventional and creative dress for the Miss Queen of Gros-Islet Pageant, which won best dress.
When we spoke, she informed me about her participation in Suriname’s Fashion Week, slated for the end of August. Yet, with every new experience, she remains humble. “At this point I’m just so humbled at every opportunity…that people feel like out of everything, that they can feel like my work is attractive to them,” she told me. “As an artiste, I feel like it’s an amazing experience to work with so many different personalities.”
Charlery understands all too well the importance of having a support system not just from family, but more seasoned professionals. She acknowledges that she is “still a baby in the game” who has fallen into the hands of many experienced, helpful and encouraging people who have advised and assisted her especially during difficulties in her career as a designer. Her simple but clever advice summed up the importance of mentors: “You have an idea. You think you should push it. Go for it! Then seek advice. Always seek advice. Don’t be proud and feel like you know everything, ‘cause you don’t. That’s a given….Seek advice from people in the same field. Seek advice from people who know people in the same field….”
Aside from her enthusiasm and fervent desire for success, her passion for her work hardly clouds her judgment, especially concerning turning an individual’s interests into a business. I asked her how she felt about people who sacrificed doing what they love for more lucrative, but less appealing jobs. As a writer who loves writing inspirational pieces, I anticipated a sentimental response about following one’s dreams or doing what you love, so you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s the stuff that great inspirational pieces are made of, some might say. She offered this eloquent but realistic response: “To be honest, I have a day job. I’m not one to judge. …There’s no cookie cutter situation and my advice would be, do what works for you. It’s not because you love something that you have to turn it into a job because that could easily turn your passion into a chore and [then] you no longer love what you love. So you know yourself… Not everybody is cut out to be an entrepreneur.”
Charlery’s journey has been one marked by excitement, but it has not been void of challenges. She bears the risks associated with entrepreneurship, the constantly evolving nature of the fashion industry, and health issues. Yet, with the help of family, mentors, and determination she perseveres, unhindered by naysayers, and convicted in her belief that, “the only person who could wilfully doubt you is yourself.” She has nurtured a business that she hopes leaves behind a legacy that her young son can one day be proud of, and fuels her creativity through diverse, seemingly unrelated elements. Moreover, she’s driven enough to turn her business into a dynamic representation of what a young, determined and ambitious St. Lucian can achieve.
Kimberly Charlery, the K and Cha behind K-Cha Clothing, is poised to make waves (and frills) in the fashion industry.