Designers reveal their Fashion Week collections

Cayman Islands Fashion Week 2015 celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, and will stage a fashion show titled “Fashion Rocks” on Saturday, April 25, at the Lions Centre, featuring various Caymanian and Caribbean designers.  

It will be hosted by Grace Gealey, Caymanian actress from the FOX series “Empire,” and Nigel Barker, best known for his role as a judge on “America’s Next Top Model.” The event will also be covered by the new TV program “Beyond the Red Carpet,” hosted by Pearlina McGaw-Lumsden. 

Weekender talked to some of the featured designers about how they first started designing, their CIFW collections and their inspiration. 

Akeel O’Connor  

“I have always had a love for fashion,” said Akeel O’Connor.  

”When I was a little girl, I would draw gowns and would store my drawings in a folder called ‘Akeel’s Amazing collection.’  

I’m intrigued by fashion. There’s always something new to discover and to design, the possibilities are limitless and the result is a beautiful work of art every time. I always dreamed of having my designs worn at a gala.” 

O’Connor doesn’t have any formal training in fashion design, and actually studied medical laboratory science. Her love of fashion led her to enrol in the Sewing For Success school owned by Norma Ebanks of Creative Fashion and Design.  

“Through meeting Mrs. Ebanks, I was motivated to enter Cayman Fashion,” said O’Connor. “Mrs. Norma has been such an excellent mentor to me. Through her mentorship, I am able to convert my creative ideas and design the high–end, excellently constructed garments that will be hitting the runway on April 25th.”  

O’Connor’s collection is called “Crown.” 

“The concept is that queens are both beautiful and powerful,” said O’Connor. “I loved the idea of beauty and strength, and I drew from that concept to produce my modern day interpretation. I believe in celebrating the strength of the woman, and that the confidence and strength felt on the inside should be translated into the way you dress. This is what both the collection ‘Crown’ and my brand ‘Akeel O’Connor’ will do for its customers,” O’Connor added. 

Kenzie Rose  

“Growing up, I was always picking up my mom’s fabric, wrapping it around myself or my sister and safety pinning it into ‘dresses,’” said Kenzie Rose.  

“By age 12 or so, I was either sketching designs of my own or devising ways to alter my store-bought clothes. My dad was constantly driving me to the fabric store for my weekly ideas.” 

Rose gained her fashion training from her mother. She watched her, copied her and took apart garments to see how they were constructed. At school, a teacher tried to fail her in a sewing class for making her own pattern.  

Her first label was EmeryRose Design with designer Meagan Plentie. They created unique leggings and dresses with hand painting and appliqués for clients all over Canada and the U.S. Working with Davi Cotterell from YNC Cayman on their limited edition cut-and-sew prototypes inspired Rose to express her unique ideas and K.Rose was born. 

At Cayman Islands Fashion Week, she will show her Fall 2015 collection. It is designed, patterned and sewn solely by Rose and titled “Leaving Society.” 

“I feel like I’ve always been a little bit different in the way I dress and carry myself, and perhaps it’s a little bit of a departure from the ‘norm,’” said Rose. “‘Leaving Society’ represents all the different ideas I have had trapped in my head for the last year.  

“I focused a lot on textures and shapes, as the main color in the palette is black. Think Wednesday Addams [from the Addams Family] meets high society. I have a huge admiration for Alexander McQueen, Kanye West and Jeremy Scott, and I feel like that is reflected in this collection.” 

Anthony Franco  

Anthony Franco was taught fashion design as a young boy by his grandmother. “I styled for years and a lot of my technique, when it comes to fit, stems from that,” said Franco.  

“In regards to the fabrics I use, it all came from a time I worked at a fabric store in Los Angeles.” 

While working as a stylist, Franco styled the Cotton Campaign commercials and was finding it difficult to find high-end cotton garments.  

“I proposed a men’s and women’s high-end clothing line and the Cotton Campaign agreed to sponsor it,” said Franco. “That was in 2011 and now, four years later, it has taken off.”  

At Fashion Week, he is showing a combination of his Spring/Summer 2015 collection and his capsule red carpet collection especially designed for awards season. “I am known for my menswear,” said Franco, “so I decided to incorporate women’s tuxedos into the collection.” 

Athaliah Samuel of Afrodesiack   

Trinidad designer Athaliah Samuel, who is returning to Cayman Islands Fashion Week for a second year with her label Afrodesiack, has been designing since she was very young.  

“I took the time to draw and create patterns that I wished I saw on women,” said Samuel.  

Her first designs incorporated elements of different dresses that she saw at Miss World and Miss Universe, combined into a unique gown.  

Family and friends asked Samuel to design pieces for them and pushed her to design her own line. “I took the initiative last year and told myself ‘get up and get,’” said Samuel.  

“That’s when it all started on the regional market for me and my brand Afrodesiack.”  

Samuel is also self-taught. “I always learn something new along the way about what creates the perfect flow and what would hug the figure,” said Samuel. Her aim is to go into the European market within the next five years. 

The theme for Samuel’s collection is “La Coral.”  

“It’s not just about the color coral,” Samuel said, “but also about one of our tourist sights in Tobago called the Coral Reef.”  

Roger Gary of Aqua Couture 

“I designed my first garment when I was about 5 years old,” said Gary. ”I would get on my mom’s sewing machine and do my thing (for some reason she felt it was safe me using it).  

A family friend who was a hairstylist fed me the info I needed during those early days to really inspire me. So I knew at a very early age that I wanted to be a designer.” 

After high school in Guyana (his birthplace), Gary attended the E R Burrowes School of Art in Guyana. As a teen, he was a member of the Guyana National Badminton Team, and on his day off at the Caribbean Championships in Jamaica, he visited and applied to the Jamaica School of Art (now Edna Manley School) and was accepted.  

“A teacher at the school noticed my passion for fashion and encouraged me to take my next step,” said Gary. “So I was off to New York. I was accepted to Pratt Institute and, after my first year there, I completed my college at Parsons School of Design.” 

Gary was also a jockey when young and his inspiration for this collection is a tribute to the jockeys of horse racing and all his track memories.  

“I really looked forward to race day when the jockeys hit the track in their ‘silks.’” said Gary. “The ‘silks’ are the shirts that the jockeys wear in a race to identify the horses.  

“The race track is a very fashionable place.” 

Tickets for “Fashion Rocks” are available at NKY Collections, Partial to Blue, Sand Angels, Arabus Boutique and Funky Monkey. For more info contact [email protected]

Designs by Roger Gary of Aqua Couture


Anthony Franco design


Anthony Franco


Kenzie Rose design


Akeel O’Connor in her studio


Kenzie Rose