By James Dupraj
Growing up in a single parent home, Megan Williams said she always had an awareness that whatever she wanted from life, she had to make for herself. It being a religious household also developed a strong sense of belief in her life.
Williams’ mother was a seamstress and naturally there was a sewing machine. “Sometimes I would sew curtains for the home and then at one time I started a basic garment construction class in the community centre in our area, which I never really finished,” she said of her first experiments on machine. With knowledge of how to make skirts, she would cut a myriad of patterns, shapes, and designs for her creations.
Williams would eventually experiment with making more complicated garments, such as dresses, and graduated to constructing blouses and tops. Her limited knowledge of constructing these garments lent itself to innovation and uniqueness as a designer. She pointed out, “Because I didn’t know a whole lot (about garment construction), I would come up with a lot of out of the box ideas, unaware that (it) was God developing the ability in me to design and create.”
After finishing school Williams worked at several government offices. It was while on contract in Port of Spain that she kept being drawn to the National Library, which she described as a personal haven.
“I would gather books on beadwork, painting, art, and craft and I would spend all my free time just reading and reading,” she recalled the ways she expanded her skill set and knowledge base in her own time. “Eventually, I convinced myself to leave my job and explore my dreams and talents.”
Thus, Williams’ company, Havilah Creations, was born. She chose the name Havilah from Bible; said to be a land of good gold, bdellium and onyx stones, among other “creations”. Havilah seemed like the right fit for this departure from a life of office work.
“I really started doing clothes, but then I always wanted to know how to make handbags. One day a friend told me about a hat and bags class at the Exports Centre, so I joined it,” she said of the trajectory her business would eventually take.
“It was basic bag-making, but I really enjoyed it and sometime after, I joined another bag making class where the major fabric used was leatherette.” After this second course, Williams began making leatherette handbags and clutch purses.
The responses to her creations were astounding, she said. People complimented the quality and design, and this encouragement from her clientele encouraged her to take it further. She frequented fabric stores and got excited about the different colours, textures, and prints on display, visualising how to bring them all together to make beautifully unique pieces for her line of creations.
“When people see my bags, I want them to be looking at art expressed in a bag of quality. Everywhere I go, people say my work is ‘neat’, which I’m very thankful for.”
Working mostly from home, she personalises her bags, which are usually purchased through referrals and phone orders. “I definitely do custom bags for customers and I love design challenges. I’ve even started a wearable art collection in handbags where I feature patchwork pockets, appliquéd leaves, and hand-painted flowers,” she said.
Williams is also an avid visual artist. “One day I was feeling down and frustrated so I took my son’s colours and started to draw and draw. I printed the pieces to see how they would look as art pieces; they came out really well. A nine-year-old girl even referred to my art as ‘speaking and feeling’.” She hopes that her art will hang on the walls of guest houses, restaurants, and commercial spaces around TT.
As for Havilah’s expansion, Williams said people who live abroad have been enquiring after her work, her handmade bags in particular, and she hopes to ship these regionally and internationally in the near future. She also loves teaching bag-making and plans to start teaching girls and women to learn more about creating wearable art and building sustainable lifestyles and financial stability.
“I always thought and said that I couldn’t teach older women because I thought I didn’t know enough about handbags to teach it,” she shared of self-doubts she has had in the past. It was on a trip to Tobago, however, that some friends took an interest in her work and suggested she apply to teach at a Community Development project.
“I was actually called in by Community Development and the very thing I thought I could not do, I was there doing it!” she said proudly. “I taught my very first adult class and I must say it was a very enlightening and eye-opening experience.”
Although initially support was tough, Williams believes she is on the right track as an entrepreneur and creative agitator. With the popularity of her creations on the rise through social media marketing, she is confident that Havilah will be a brand known for quality, individuality, and innovation.
“Support does not only mean dollars and cents, but support is also doing whatever you can to see someone go forward; whether it’s by encouragement, word of mouth marketing, sharing ideas, or making a phone call. You can always support small business owners in little ways that can make the world of difference, she said.