Hope Wade: A woman of excellence


Monday, November 19, 2018

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HOPE Wade was called into her boss' office one day, and was fired from her job. He told her frankly that he felt that she was being groomed for his job, and he was not about to let her replace him.

Shortly after losing her job, Wade's church put on a formal event that she wanted to attend. She had planned to buy a dress that she saw in a storefront window, but was afraid of leaving her apartment to purchase it, as she was behind on her rent, and her landlord lived above her. In desperation, she asked one of her friends to come by and be her mannequin, while she used her mother's sewing machine to stitch herself an outfit, guided by her mom's instructions over the phone.

Fast-forward a few decades and Wade is still stitching up a storm. Only now, she not only sews for herself, but also for some of the most influential figures around the world. She has dressed TV hostesses, entertainers, Miss Jamaica Universe, Miss Jamaica World and Miss Intercontinental Jamaica contestants. Hope Wade Designs (HWD) have been showcased in Fashion Week in the United States, the Caribbean and Europe, have draped supermodels Jaunel McKenzie and Sedena Blake, and have been featured in Vogue magazine.

For her stellar achievements in the fashion industry, as well as her spirit of community, volunteerism and involvement with the institution, Hope Wade is being honoured as Alpha Academy Alumnae's Woman of Excellence for 2018, in a ceremony on November 24.

Wade says that while she was growing up fashion was never on her mind, but she always admired the way her mother dressed.

“She was one person who dressed very elegantly with her black wavy hair combed back,” she told All Woman. “She always wore this white guipure lace overcoat on some fifth Sundays when my father, Superintendent Gussie Blake, who was the band leader for the Police Constabulary Force in Port Royal, led the band in performance. That has always been stuck in my mind and I have designed pieces around that idea.”

After being born in Jamaica as the fourth of her parents' five children and attending Vaz Preparatory School and the Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha), Wade migrated to the United States in 1982. She studied art and advertising design at New York City Technical College, then received a full scholarship to pursue a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design and photography at the Cooper Union College.

Though she was not formally educated in fashion designing, her graphic design skills have come in very handy in the fashion industry.

“I'm a self-taught designer but I'm a formally trained graphic designer, which means that I can sketch anything professionally for my clients,” she said. “But as soon as they leave the panic comes in as to how to translate in a timely manner this that I have just sketched and so that's where the Holy Spirit has to guide me.”

She confessed that she often felt inadequate as a young self-taught designer.

“I had to learn a lot of things through trial and error. For example, it took me a while to understand the concept of a line in design and what it entails, a story or a theme. I was just putting out great-looking pieces that did not correlate.”

She remembers though, the encouragement she received along the way that helped to strengthen her confidence.

“I will always remember the first time I did Caribbean Fashion Week, the hardship it took to do the show,” Wade said.

“Encouragement [came from] Kingsley Cooper and Romae Gordon, the support of my friends Alwyn Scott, Grace Baston, Winsome Jureidini, Clarita Brown and others who helped in tangible ways.”

Now that she is an established figure in the fashion industry, Wade is no longer worried about getting it right, but is now more concerned about doing what feels right. This is reflected in the way she dresses.

“My style is eclectic! I can wear a $200-blouse with a $10-pants. I'll wear a burlap skirt with a silk blouse with bright colours and high heel strappy sandals all the way above my knees and be happy.

“I like to push boundaries. Who said I can't wear white in the middle of winter? I'm wearing HWD! Why not? God gave me a gift and this is how I feel like worshipping him this 'mawnin'!” she laughed.

Wade is very excited to be recognised by her alma mater as this year's Woman of Excellence, an honour that has been bestowed on women such as Grace Baston, principal of Campion College, Pat Lee and Jean Lowrie-Chin.

“I have an outgoing extroverted personality, upbeat, but not a lot of things excite me. I tend to put things in order in my mind and choose the path of humility, but this award has me bumbling excited. To be recognised by my peers from all genres of life, age and experiences is humbling. It means that they appreciate and endorse the hard work and contributions that I have made with my talent,” she said.

She is celebrating 20 years of marriage to Paul, whom she describes as her rock, and has a teenage daughter, Jasper. Wade was ordained as an evangelist earlier this year, and she believes it is the Holy Spirit that is the ultimate designer of her life.

“My husband is a deacon and praise and worship leader at our church. That being said, my spiritual life is my everyday life, I'm as flawed as they come but I believe that without prayers and nuff intercessions you wouldn't see the work that's on the runway!” she said.

Wade enjoys hanging out with her family, throwing parties or inviting friends over for dinner. She also enjoys binge watching People's Court for entertainment.

“I'm passionate about drama, I still act. My last role was as the lead actress in an Off-Broadway show called All My Struggles. I'm also passionate about motherhood. I had the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom for many years that gave me an opportunity to love and observe my daughter. Now that she's 17, our relationship is great and I'm very aware of the stages a girl has to go through. I also believe in mentorship. Giving back is the best way to help others,” she said.

“My designs are just a part of the greatness and grace of God. As I pray for my daughter everyday, 'Lord let her get to know you even more intimately than her dad and I, this is our ultimate gift to her'. If I have a legacy this is what it should be.”

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