Owner and principal designer of Shasha Designs (shashadesigns.com), Keisha Edwards, says she has always had a designer’s mind. Born in Georgetown, Guyana, she recalls, as a child, sketching outfits and asking her mother, a seamstress, to bring her creations to life.
In fact, coming from a line of seamstresses and tailors has given her an almost hereditary talent. She taught herself to sew, and the art of design, she says, came from God.
“The seed was planted fully in high school where I was motivated to start designing and sewing my own clothes so that I would be the only person in that outfit,” she says of the ways her quest for individuality helped her hone her skills of design and garment making.
Shasha Designs is a ready-to-wear brand that creates day and night clothing, specialising in unconventional wedding gowns. “A blend of Guyanese and Caribbean culture with a luxe finish”, the brand’s mission is to create quality clothing that is unique, elegant, and stylish from conception to completion.
A professional designer for almost a decade, Keisha launched her career in fashion at the Guyana Fashion Week in 2008. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Guyana, she also completed a certificate programme in Fabric Selection and Design Style at The New School – Parsons School of Design in the US.
Since the inception, her garments and unique wedding gowns have been requested for clients in Guyana, the Caribbean, and the US.
She loves Mannerist and Surrealism art, professional dance styles, hip-hop and classical music, and the author Paulo Coelho. “I draw on these to inspire new creations,” she shares.
“When looking at art, for example, you look at symmetry, balance, tones and textures, and light and shadows – I use the same ideology when approaching my designs. I think about how different textures and tones will look or how well it will curve and shape the body. I take on a holistic approach by viewing my designs in this way because it is wearable art.”
Since her first showing in 2008, she has also constantly grown and honed her craft. Notably, her design style has become more expansive: “When I first started designing I only used spandex and I only made dresses without buttons or zips,” she shares of her simple tactics. With the knowledge gained from enrolling in different fashion programmes and through her own research, her skill and craft developed. Today, she makes wedding gowns and three-piece suits for men – a growth she is proud of.
Her knowledge of the inner workings of the fashion industry has also grown; when she began in the industry much of the jargon was lost on her, and she did not understand the importance of market research for better understanding of her demographic. “Now, I do market research before mass producing certain ready-to-wear pieces. I also took time to become formally trained in fashion, so that I am better skilled and trained in my craft.”
In fact, Keisha is currently enrolled at the Caribbean Academy for Fashion and Design (CAFD), pursuing a Bachelor’s in Fashion Design. It is this thirst for knowledge and humility in a sphere she already commands that sets Keisha apart. Even with her years of experience, she doesn’t believe you’re ever too seasoned to learn. Understandably, many of her contemporaries questioned her decision to pursue Fashion Design at CAFD, “since I seem to know the field well, but the fashion industry is developing and I cannot be left behind. It is important to seek as much knowledge in your field to grow with the industry.”
She also believes in the power of fashion to engage social change and bring necessary awareness to causes. “Designers have used fashion to bring awareness to issues such as domestic violence, sustainability, gender equality, and sexuality issues,” she elaborates, and adds that as a designer she holds a responsibility to use her platform to effect change. An area she is focusing on currently is eco-fashion; she has been thinking through methods for Caribbean designers to use materials that are harmless or result in minimal harm to the environment.
She also continues to learn from the Shasha brand, citing that it has taught her discipline, commitment, and patience. “It isn’t easy dedicating your time into a business but it’s made easier when you love it.”
And Shasha isn’t only teaching her; she hopes the brand teaches others how to love themselves, to be comfortable in their bodies, and to trust how they feel. “And depending on the collection, it teaches others to embrace and love Caribbean heritage and culture,” she adds.
After her course of study at CAFD, she plans to continue working with young women in Guyana, teaching fashion and sewing for the development of entrepreneurial competencies and opportunities. She says Shasha Designs has several collaborative projects coming up in 2018, which she is excited to share with the public.
“I want my brand to take me as far as I have imagined,” she says of her vision. “Our goal at this time is to make Shasha Designs a household brand throughout the Caribbean.”
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