Who would have thunk it? Burlap fashioned into exquisite statement pieces? Well, for Irie Threads principal Sandra Wellington, it was a final-year project at the University of Technology (UTech) that piqued the interest and would later become a burgeoning business. “I fell in love with burlap after using it in the creation of a clothing line for my course at UTech. I loved the rustic history behind it, the texture, the weave and the earthy feel of the natural fibres. I thought of it as a 'diamond in the rough' and looked forward to the challenge of transforming it into beautiful pieces,” she told All Woman Fashion (AWF) .
Indeed, the lowly fabric made from jute and used historically as bags to store rice and sugar and fashioned by plantation workers into uncomfortable-though-serviceable garments have become in the designer's hands a trendy and modern accessory.
Hailing from the cool hills of Mandeville, the designer said she has always been enamoured by fashion. “My passion for art and fashion ignited during childhood [while] watching my mom cut and sew clothing for my sister and me. I would pay keen attention as she worked,” she shared.
Thanks to years of experience, Wellington understood that the field she would be working in is a highly competitive one and hence it was paramount that she set herself apart. After a degree in fashion designing and production attained at the University of Technology, in addition to several courses from the HEART Trust/NTA, the designer felt the need to move away from making clothing, window treatments, and endless alterations; as a result in 2010 Irie Threads was born.
Offering modish bags designed by stitching together burlap fabrics in a range of colours and patterns such as houndstooth, Wellington also gives consideration to current trends, a patron's sense of patriotism, and functionality.
Although she occasionally dabbles with materials such as leather, cotton and canvas, burlap is nevertheless her signature fabric.
In such a saturated and competitive field as fashion, Wellington's advice to aspiring designers is to ensure that they have a solid support group and a genuine passion for what they do, noting that “business is like a baby that needs constant attention, especially in the early stages, and it isn't always easy realising your dream but being passionate about what you bring to the industry makes the journey easier”.