Local Fashion Designer Heading To American TV

Published on June 1, 2015 by Joy-Ann Gill

Fashion designer Marvo White-Jessamy (right) at the Plitz New York (NY) City Fashion Week in February. (GP)

Marvo White-Jessamy, a second year student of the Garment Technology department of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP), looks set to create history, yet again.

Following her showing last February at the Plitz New York (NY) City Fashion Week, Mrs. White-Jessamy has been chosen as a participant in an international fashion reality TV show. This means she will be on a flight back out to New York on June 10, for another great stint. 

“The experience has been of great benefit to me,” said Marvo, of the Fashion Week, which she considers a learning curve towards understanding the requirements of top fashion designers.

“It felt good to walk down the runway as a fashion designer and I learned the process from creation of a concept to the appearance of garments in a boutique,” said the 46-year-old, who has been sewing since the age of 19 but who only entered the SJPP in 2013. 

Now basking in the fact that she has met “some of the movers and shakers in the New York fashion industry”, Marvo admits to being inspired, as a budding designer, to keep working hard towards her goal of being ranked “tops” among the best garment designers in the world.

Marvo’s road to the international reality show began when, as part of the SJPP team, she along with colleagues exhibited a high quality of work at BMEX 2014, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. As a result, her work was chosen by the Curvey Revolution Modeling agency, a local agency, for further showcasing at their August 2014 show, at Barbados Beach Club, Maxwell Coast Road, Christ Church. 

Her outstanding designs saw her being selected to participate in another show at the Frank Collymore Hall, in August 2014. When a representative for NY Fashion Week attended that event, invited by Fashion Designer, Rykii De Jude, with a view of choosing one designer and one model to participate in their 2015 International show, Marvo was singled out. 

Based on her superb collection, she was chosen to attend New York City Fashion Week, which ran from February 16 to 19. Marvo was accompanied to Hotel Pennsylvania, Manhattan, where the fashion show was held, by a small support delegation including her instructor Joy Prime. 

Reliving the experience of Plitz New York City Fashion Week, Ms. Prime said: “The event has enabled a Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic student to promote Barbados as an island that can produce highly-skilled workers in the apparel design and manufacturing industry. The show experience enabled Marvo to develop contingency skills.

“Marvo worked with an SJPP Apparel Manufacturing Partner to produce the majority of the garments and as such, would have learned a lot about the internal operations within a factory and about the challenges in marrying the expectations of a designer with that of production workers. There were important lessons learned that will guide all concerned as we develop this and future relationships.

“She has achieved a lot in a short space of time with little money. As a student and as a professional designer, we expect Marvo to grow from strength to strength. She has opened a door that will allow access for other students of the polytechnic.”

Emphasising that it was equally beneficial to her, as an instructor, Ms. Prime said she and volunteer, Caren Joseph, were able to take a student through the process of design, development, production, planning, marketing, costing, selling and many other aspects of the business of fashion. 

“It was very fulfilling to watch a student go through this process and emerge with a successful conclusion. And yet there is more to come from the other students in the garment technology class,” she maintained. 

Expressing gratitude to all who assisted the team, she singled out Ms. Joseph, a fashion marketing and public relations expert, for “very kindly” agreeing to offer professional services to Marvo on a pro-bono basis. 

“She was able to work very closely with Marvo to plan her look-book, portfolio and Photo-shoot. Caren also spent many hours with Marvo preparing her for presenting herself and her product to the international market,” said Ms. Prime.

The instructor in garment making also acknowledged the assistance given by Barbados’ Consul General, Dr. Donna Hunte-Cox, who facilitated transfers to the hotel and arranged for the team to be taken on several buying trips, and for transfers back to the airport for homeward journey.

The reality TV show tests the skills of designers through a series of competitive tasks. Each task will end with a judging and elimination process. The winner receives a package that helps to propel their career as a fashion designer. Marvo was recommended as a competitor by the organisers of the Plitz New York City Fashion show based on their impression of her excellent collection.

According to Ms. Prime, this was an ultimate achievement for Marvo, as it allowed her to demonstrate all the skills and knowledge that she had gained during her two years at the Polytechnic and the weeks leading up to her trip to New York. Over a period of one week, Marvo was one of 100 designers chosen who were required to participate in a number of challenges leading to eliminations.

The challenges ranged from identifying fabric, and bias-cutting them without a ruler, to designing and making elaborate evening wear. It demanded that she use skills in design development, textile surface decoration, specification sheets and advanced garment construction. 

“Throughout the process, she was complimented for her innovative thinking and technical skills, most of which were acquired at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic,” said the very proud SJPP instructor.