From x-rays to the runway

By Shamille Scott Business Reporter

Friday, August 31, 2012    

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You might expect someone with a fancy medical title such as "diagnostic radiographer" to be satisfied with her station in life.

Not Jaye-Ann O'Connor. Every minute she doesn't spend in the "office" checking x-rays for signs of injury or disease is dedicated to a higher calling — fashion.

When she graduated from the School of Medical Radiation at the University Hospital of the West Indies five years ago, O'Connor knew she would need more than she could earn from her day job.

Now she worries less about money and more about time.

People ask her: "How do you manage?" She wonders too.

Careful consideration is given to the time a design will need to be completed, she said. "You cannot mass produce or you'll have 20 people wearing the same outfit."

People won't buy clothes and bags that are common, she added. "It's not food, you can't make too much."

Because style evolves so quickly, it's important to keep up with fabric, print and colour trends from fashion shows and news.

The trick is to incorporate elements of those trends, such as rhinestones and buckles, in her work.

For example, her purple, leopard-print clutches; handbags accentuated with bows; and neon-striped, pencil dresses were all inspired by music, typically electro or rap, O'Connor said.

Ideas also flow from the look and texture of the fabric.

"I have some very funky print-based pieces coming out in time for the Jamaica Observer's celebration of Fashion's Night Out, where she will debut her latest collection, "Victim of the Print".

O'Connor, who also provides make-up and styling services, meets with clients for custom pieces.

And although she's no stranger to sewing machines, she outsources much of the work to seamstresses on a piecework basis.

Early last year, a friend of her mother was pleased with her handbag ideas and gave her an industrial sewing machine. It has been in active use ever since, making not only clothes, but also bags. "I see it as a blessing," she said.

Her bags generally range from $1,800 to $4,000, and her clothes are priced at $2,500 and above.

She does not own a store; instead she pays Alter Ego, a boutique on Haining Road, Kingston a commission to sell her goods. "The owners are dedicated to seeing the local fashion industry in Jamaica succeed."

She has also embraced social marketing on sites such as Twitter and Facebook to enhance word-of-mouth promotion.

She and her friends spread professional photographs of her designs online. "This helps my clients to get styling tips for different looks of my clothes make-up and accessories," she said.



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