TT-based Guyanese designer Kerby Young said the pandemic has been a period of struggle for him and others in the fashion industry. But Young would not let covid constrict his creativity and has released his new clothing capsule Island Boy.
But who is Kerby Young?
He began in the fashion industry in Guyana in 2005 and his first show was called Colours of the Caribbean. He has described his aesthetic as “colourful, Caribbean, easy-breezy type of garments”.
He migrated to TT in 2008 and started developing his skills in makeup, photography and jewellery-making. His designs were featured in several events, including San Fernando Fashion Week.
He explained that as a designer he has been "trying to survive like everyone else.
"I have been perfecting my craft. And trying to remain relevant, keep up with trends, and collaborate with young creatives. We all can learn from each other. You might be a singer and I'm a designer but we can collaborate on a project. It all comes under the umbrella of creativity."
In 2016 he produced The Art Gallery: Where Art Comes Alive a show that combined visual art, fashion and music. For the show, he collaborated with Princess Charles, better known as Avianne, Shakellah Mungo and Omar Jarra.
In 2017 he launched KYD (Kerby Young Designs) Magazine, which he described as another hub for creatives and an avenue for exposure.
"The reason I did that is that when I was younger I was not fortunate enough to get those opportunities in Guyana and even in the early days in TT. Now that I had the resources I had the ability to offer assistance and help both young creatives and those around for some time."
The magazine began monthly but then started being released bi-monthly. Young said owing to the pandemic the issues are released irregularly at present.
And speaking of the pandemic, Young said in the beginning business was nonexistent.
"For the first three weeks, I was frustrated. Being outside and interacting with people fuels my creativity and I get inspiration from being outdoors."
He then began the video series KYD Magazine Fashion Essentials, which featured creatives and promoted their work. He explained the purpose was to promote the narrative that creative people were also essential workers.
"During covid, only essential workers were paid attention. Because they took away the creative space, creatives started to feel suicidal and depressed. How do they normally get those suicidal thoughts out of their head? By drawing, painting, going out."
He said the video series was meant to motivate the creative sector and motivation was something many people need during the pandemic. He found the series therapeutic for himself as well.
"It gave me something to do and work on. Everybody likes to be paid, but for me, I just like to see people happy and doing what they love and feel good about themselves. (The series) cost money to make, but that can't be compared to seeing someone smile."
He said creative people "felt it the most" during the pandemic and were "still feeling it."
All about Island Boy
Young said a year and a half on from the start of the pandemic in TT, business has got better for him.
"Covid made me go back to the drawing board and reassess my business. Covid will be here for a while and it is about how you pivot and work around this. How do I still survive?
He began looking at having his business online as opposed to a physical location.
"(Business) is not as grand or as good as I would like it to be, but it is way better than when covid started."
He said online sales have been working well, though there is the challenge of access to US currency to buy and sell.
"That is the only draining part."
Young's newest venture is his clothing capsule Island Boy. On the inspiration, he said that on the video platform Tik Tok he often heard people talking about "hot girl summer,"
"What happen to 'hot boy summer'? I realised that was not a thing. So I thought, let me see if I could do something for the guys."
Young said most of his designs are for the ladies, and they were more into fashion. He titled his collection for the guys "Island Boy." Unfortunately when he came up with the idea in May this year, the country was under lockdown and fabric stores were closed.
"I went into the little fabric store in my sewing room to see what I have to sew and fuse together to create a collection. It took a lot of brain matter. Should I use this or that?"
He chose the colour palette, which was his usually very colourful designs, and started to put the collection together.
"Everything I do is colourful. When you think 'island boy,' you think Caribbean. You think of culture. Our culture is not boring or bland but it is always bright colours. Even when we use earth tones there is always something to bring an element of excitement and joy. Colour speaks to a mood and a vibe."
Sea blues, green, red and yellow, gave each piece a name which is Caribbean-based, such as Savannah love,
He began with shirts and pants but felt it needed something else. So he added cross-body bags and reversible bucket hats. When completed the collection comprised 12 pieces (elastic-waist shorts, zipped shortts, floral shirts, tank top, reversible bucket hats, and cross-body bags) and includes names like Sunset, Caribbean Floral, Golden Trumpet, Aqua Palm, Ebony and Ivory, Caribbean Sea and Savannah Sky.
He launched the collection on July 24 with a YouTube video featuring him explaining the collection and video of models wearing the pieces at the Savannah, Waterfront and Federation Park – at the latter they were chased off by security guards.
The video was set to the music of pannist Tevin Shockness and featured music by Kerry John. He explained that he likes to continue collaborating with artists and providing them with exposure.
"Whenever I do anything with someone, I want them to be better at the end of it and they must achieve something from it."
Young said the collection has been doing well since its launch, with the bucket hats and the shirts being the most popular items.
"I used floral fabric as opposed to boring things which people think might be (more suitable) for a guy. But we could wear floral."
He said the customers like the fit and the quality of the products.
"I am constantly trying to improve on quality and presentation in everything I do."
He said this was as simple as clothing tags and a branded KYD bag as opposed to receiving the product in a regular plastic bag.
"That cheapens your product."
People were surprised he was able to do something during the time of covid.
"It is kind of motivation to my fellow designers."
He reported some of his fellow designers sent him messages about the collection and said they found it good and they liked the production.
"The business aspect doing well and I can afford a super deal at KFC once in a while," he joked.
One of his shirts was featured on soca artiste Turner's music video Summertime. Young has also worked with artistes Xone and Crazy.
Thanks to the positive response to the collection he will be adding hoodies and track pants as well as more Island Boy merchandising.
"You have to be strategic when doing these things."
He said some of his female models and clients have asked about an "Island Girl" collection. This new collection will be called something more creative and he hopes to release it for Christmas, "providing we don't lock down again."
He also repeated his mantra to creative people never to give up on their dreams and to believe in themselves.
To find Island Boy clothing you can check out the website kerbyyoung.com or, on social media, kerbyyoungdesigns on Instagram and Facebook.