Ain Earle is no stranger to putting in the work needed to redefine how beauty is seen. Living with alopecia, an autoimmune condition causing hair loss, Earle slowly lost all the hair on her body in the five years after a 2004 diagnosis.
For the better part of those years, insecurities were unmasked and the lens through which society thought her to see beauty was adjusted.
Emerging focused and with redefined purpose after overcoming the personal obstacles associated with her Alopecia diagnosis, she now applies that fighting spirit to transform local fashion – an important part of her identity.
“The fashion industry is so much more than clothing. It is an industry of fashion designers, photographers, models and make-up artistes,” said Earle, 35, in an interview with WMN about the desire to see greater growth of TT’s fashion industry.
With an undergraduate and postgraduate degree in hospitality from the University of the West Indies, she founded Fashion Arch in 2015 and serves as its lead consultant.
The company was birthed after Earle and a few friends hosted Racked, a series of upmarket-inspired sales event exclusively for fashion designers.
“Those small local designers could have stood up to other known designers who were selling in stores,” she said of the designers at the event.
While the designs were good, during her concurrent work in the field of marketing at the time of hosting the events she noticed that many designers didn’t fully understand the workings of a sustainable and marketable fashion brand.
Under the motto Creating legacies through connectivity, emerging fashion designers are taught topics like branding, social media strategies and developing business strategy, through interactive workshops.
Clients’ fashion pieces have been given the opportunity to be showcased at fashion events in Barbados, Guyana, St Vincent, Jamaica and the US.
“It has been a whirlwind thinking of the initial plan for the Fashion Arch. It was just supposed to be one on one consultations.”
“I didn’t think over the last few years I would have been doing all of the service offerings. At least it has shown what I am offering is needed and people are actually interested in the services.”
Playing her part, she is proud to see to overall growth in the local fashion industry. Fashion events have evolved to be a year-round product while support has expanded to include local entertainers and state agencies like FashionTT.
“We must push locally towards more collaboration from all fields of the industry in terms of what people are doing.”
Yet, more work needs to be done and she is up for the task. Currently, TT’s representative to The Collection MoDA, a fashion event series in Jamaica, the work of local designers has been displayed at the event.
In recent years she has secured the support of FashionTT and Caribbean Export to help maintain and increase TT’s presence at the event.
“They (local designers) don’t have to worry about flights and accommodation (to Jamaica).
“They just give me the pieces and I help put together a booth area at the event where the pieces are exhibited.”
In 2018, she was invited to conduct branding workshops at the Caribbean Style, Culture Awards and Fashion Showcase hosted in Washington DC. Meeting a Guyanese designer at the event, she was invited to Guyana and spoke at a 2019 leadership conference titled Empowering to Lead with Confidence for student’s in the country’s creative sector.
In August, she is expected to host workshops at this year’s edition of the event. Her work was recently highlighted and promoted by Rare Bird, a UK-based blog with a focus on marketing.
Fulfilling life-long goals of taking TT’s potential to the world through fashion and other avenues, her alopecia condition continues to be championed. This is not done to be defined by the condition but to remind others that what may look like obstacles can be sources of strength.
“We put so much pressure and substance into women’s hair or how they look. For me, losing my hair felt like I was losing my femininity.” Recalling the shame, she felt while losing her hair, she said, “I tied my head just trying to stay out of people’s way in terms of questions. Around 2011 was when I was able to accept what was going on.
“One day in 2011, I couldn’t find a head tie when I was supposed to go somewhere. I decided to just go bald.”
Choosing not to be defined the condition, her message is simple – women are more than their hair or perceived physical beauty. This message is echoed in Bald Beauty, a group she founded in 2018 with a focus on empowerment, awareness, advocacy and support for those with the condition.
The journey to creating the group started on the day she accepted her bald beauty in 2011. The power in self-acceptance became clearer when a friend’s teenage daughter with Alopecia saw her posting bald headed pictures on social media and felt empowered. She noted the effect of something that simple which inspired her to create an avenue to help other people with Alopecia overcome self-doubt.
The group provides information about the condition and is a safe space to discuss any issues. The group’s logo- a lotus flower- represents coming out of the mud and blossoming into something beautiful.
Examples like her success in fashion and recent marriage are used to show others with the condition that losing one’s hair is nothing else but another obstacle to overcome.
Asked about being a newlywed and the journey of finding love with the condition, she was elated to share her story. This she says is yet another example to show that beauty has no boundaries, and everyone is beautiful in their own unique way.
“If you are looking for someone and they are making it (the alopecia) an issue then that is obviously not the right person for you.
“At the end of the day it is just hair and not you. It is a part of you yes, but it doesn’t define
Her journey to marriage is a testament to the statement. Her husband would have attended the same secondary school and particularly took notice when she grew dreads.
While he would have witnessed her transition from dreadlocks to hair loss, he was unphased.
“We met 17 years ago just before this entire thing (with Alopecia) started.
“He was always around. We were friends before anything else, lost touch in between but he was always there.”
And while she settles into happily wedded bliss, one can look forward to Earle expanding her fashion vision for TT by hosting more workshops and outdoor events under the Fashion Arch brand. There also plants to work on a West Indian fashion/textile expo and establish a virtual showroom.