DR RADICA MAHASE
“From my mind, my imagination. I just think about it and I draw it.”
This was Sydney’s explanation of how she comes up with her designs.
Five days before Sydney’s 15th birthday, she launched her line of T-shirt designs at an annual autism tea party and fashion show organised by Support Autism T&T.
In addition to launching her designs, Sydney modelled an outfit she designed herself.
Sydney is from Golconda Settlement, San Fernando. She is an only child and was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at four.
She has not been in school for quite a few years, but is taught at home by her mother and attends a combination of academic and art sessions at Rahul’s Clubhouse. She has challenges learning to identify letters and numbers, but she can write.
She is very family-oriented and really values family time and interacting with her cousins, but she is very shy with others. She has some challenges with speech, but finds ways to communicate.
Sydney’s mom, Venessa Benjamin-Mahabir, says, “As a little girl, Sydney enjoyed drawing, particularly characters from her own imagination and of her favourite cartoon characters. Sydney loves art and she spends hours in the day drawing in her sketchpads and journals.
"Drawing helps to calm Sydney and she uses drawing to express herself and how she's feeling. She is unable to read, so she draws her story in her diary sometimes. Art and drawing are a huge part of Sydney's development and expression.
“She started designing outfits when she was about nine years old. I noticed that she would take off the outfits of the dolls that we bought for her and she would make her own clothes for them. She used paper towels, paint, markers, ribbons and any craft materials she had at the time. Since the paper towels are white, she would paint on the fabric with watercolours or use markers to create patterns. She would then drape and glue or tie the outfit to create a cohesive look.
"Over time, we noticed she enjoyed doing this, so we started buying her fabric, mostly cotton cloth, as well as needles and a thread kit. She learned to use the needle and thread and started sewing the doll outfits by hand.
"Recently, she started using a mini sewing machine to sew: so far she can do straight stitches. Now she draws her designs first and chooses the fabric she wants.”
The theme of the tea party and fashion show was Under the Sea, so Sydney designed and modelled a dress inspired by the ocean, specifically the waves, the corals and seaweed. According to her mom, “Sydney chose the material for the dress herself. The purple represents the corals and their beautiful colours.
"The T-shirts are Sydney's custom characters. She chose four of her drawings that she really loves and took time and patience to complete. They are very fun and vibrant and unique and all carry a positive message.”
Sydney’s Designs is an entrepreneurial initiative which is fully supported by her parents and family. Sydney is also fully supported by all her facilitators from Rahul’s Clubhouse, who were very excited to model her designs at the tea party and fashion show on August 19.
Sydney’s Designs is an opportunity for Sydney to showcase her talent and creativity, with the possibility of one day developing into a sustainable business enterprise which could help to support her educational pursuits. The designs are truly unique, and the time and energy Sydney puts into each design, to get it exactly as she sees it in her mind, show a high level of dedication and perseverance for such a young age.
Regarding her future plans, as her mom notes, “It’s in God's hands, but Sydney is feeling so much happiness and is even more motivated to make new designs and draw new characters.
"She's started drawing up new designs already, after the fashion show. She is really excited to create more.”
Asked how she felt after the fashion show, Sydney said, “I feel good, I feel joy and happy. I was excited. I feel joy. I feel good and I am proud to make my parents proud. I feel so happy.
"I say thank you to the people who buy my T-shirts. I can't wait to see what happens.
"I am going to make some Christmas characters now.”
It is truly wonderful to see Sydney’s excitement and to witness her joy at being able to bring her designs alive, from paper to T-shirts and a dress. It is heart-warming to see her creativity being transformed into an entrepreneurial initiative. I wish Sydney success as she carves a space for herself as a designer.
Anyone who wants to support Sydney’s Designs can contact us at 791-1320.
Good luck, Sydney!
Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T