Style Observer

Lois' Vessel

Sunday, June 11, 2017

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SO has not had a good sit-down with Pulse sensation Lois Samuels since the premiere of her Vessel Collection in Chelsea, NYC in 2009… eight long years ago.

There's lots to catch up with …

Lois Samuels... It's been almost eight years since my last Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW) appearance… I had the wonderful experience to share my dream and made my first fashion presentation on the platform at home before entering the international fashion scene. The collections went on to be featured in magazines from Italian Vogue, Elle, Women's Wear Daily, L'Officiel and Essence… This week I look forward to presenting a small capsule there.

I look forward to… being home and having the Pulse experience again! I haven't been on the runway in ages, so that should be fun and very interesting... I hope the clothing will fit since I am not a size 2 or 4 anymore. It will be wonderful to be with Kingsley [Cooper] and the ladies from my time, as well as meet the new shining stars.

I met Kingsley Cooper… when I was 14 and a student at Hampton. I will never forget coming from piano classes that day and seeing a sports car in the courtyard. I knew it had to be Kingsley's and only hoped he would've seen me twirling back and forth on my way to class. Back then, I dreamed so much of travelling and exploring the world and clearly saw it happening through fashion. And even though there weren't that many girls who looked like me, I felt I could achieve great things in it. Two weeks ago I turned 44; it's been 30 years since that bridge was provided through Pulse, and I am thankful.

Style Observer: And the lessons that you'd like to share with the young lady sitting in St Elizabeth wanting to be the next Lois Samuels?

To that young woman in St Elizabeth wanting to follow in my footsteps… Firstly, appreciate how amazing St Elizabeth is!

I ache now to be there more. Recently I took a short sabbatical, found a wooden thatched roof hut close to the sea that had no electricity or security; it was totally disconnected from the 'grid. It was pure bliss! There is something magical in the Earth's vibration and the energy on the island... it is healing and hypnotic. I would walk from Calabash Bay to Great Bay along the water and would occasionally come across some goats and cows on the way… I walked alone but was not alone; the spirit of the island is so nurturing and strong. The importance of having that connection with the Earth and the divine presence will keep any young lady centred in the industry. And even though the business is much about external beauty, in the end, much of her experience will be about what comes from inside... her essence…

The possibilities are endless. Despite the fact that all depends on someone deciding if she is amazing or not, ...if there is a breakthrough in her career, so many opportunities are available. She should get support, someone to help with finances and give general advice... a mentor, perhaps. So many ladies get taken advantage of.

And whilst she pursues her dreams to succeed, she should also have other plans in mind… just in case...it can be all so very unpredictable. The supermodel era, they say, ended after Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell, so her ideas are important. ... Keeping centred and having morals is crucial; there are drugs, unhealthy lifestyles and predators who lure young women into situations that may cause them to lose their sense of self.

I learned and observed so much along the way and am thankful for the way I was raised by my parents in St Bess. So for this young lady, having a strong foundation above all is vital; one where she loves herself so she won't lose herself. It will all aid along the journey in the way she relates to others and they way others relate to her, it will provide joy with courage despite trials and disappointments, when she is fearful she will exude confidence, and her beauty will shine through for always, and gift/bless her with longevity in fashion or any industry that is offered to her.

The market is changing more now, lots of different areas in modelling, so if she doesn't make it on the catwalk in Paris and Milan, she can be successful doing catalogues in middle America and financially acquire more than the girls she sees each time she opens a fashion magazine. There are agencies that represent plus-size, maternity, commercial, hand, feet, fitness, classics, you name it.

I recently got signed to Iconic Focus, an agency that represents the great icons from back in the day. They represent Jerry Hall, Beverly Johnson, Carmen Dell Orefice, and so many more. Models are over 40, and the busiest girls on the board are silver-haired! So it could be interesting, the possibilities one may have in their prime, too!

Today, I feel celebrities have taken the place supermodels had in the past… It really is about personalities. How many followers one may have on social media, who they are affiliated with, what reality shows they are on. I suppose, compared to yesteryear, privacy isn't respected or expected anymore.

I am seeing more diversity. It's not just one or two other brown girls and then Naomi. I am always so pleased when I see the Jamaican girls doing it from Pulse and Saint. And they are going from season to season on all the major stages. This island has some of the most beautiful women! There is also more diversity with age. Ads aren't filled with the super-young as they were before.

My contemporaries were… Carolyn Murphy, Irina, Stella Tennant, lovely folks; as was Debra Shaw, a close friend to this day, Stacey McKenzie, a fellow Jamaican with whom I had such fun times in Paris, Ling Tan, Valerie Celis, and so many more.

When one got to Paris it was a dream to do the big names… so I was happy to do Lanvin, Givenchy, Gaultier, Galliano, etc.

I had met Alexander McQueen at a club in London. He came over and introduced himself, said he would like me to be in his show… that was fun, he was erupting with ideas. Mugler, back in the day, was a blast; Margiela was always thinking outside the box. Christophe Lemaire was just a lovely man.

Then there were the designers I simply liked and enjoyed being around; some were up-and-coming; you did their shows for support, since they were driven by passion and not wealth.

The items of clothing that I have held on to are… a beautiful double-faced cashmere coat from Ralph Rucci and an Issey Miyake top. I had a Martin Margiela coat and a brooch that Christian Lacroix personally gave me which somehow disappeared along the way.

I had a lovely connection with Ralph… and to this day we keep in touch. He is a true and passionate design genius. Issey Miyake, I admired and had the wonderful opportunity to work with him several times in Paris. I also travelled to Japan for an event where he was being celebrated. The piece I have from him is over 16 years old and still in pristine condition. I treasure those moments with these incredibly talented and warm designers.

Despite being divorced for almost 10 years… I feel very fortunate, as my ex and I have managed to maintain a unit, and parent together. We reside in close proximity to each other, thus giving Malo (our son) freedom to be at either home.

Emotional imbalances will occur after a divorce, but at the end of the day it's really about the child, and maintaining a loving and healthy environment despite it all... and so we occasionally spend special days and moments together. As time progresses you see how love, despite the changes, doesn't die, it only evolves.

Malo is 15, over 6 feet, an honour student… loves playing the electric guitar and making music. He's a totally cool and deep kid. The parenting experience isn't one in the books, so each day I learn how to navigate the process as he now becomes a young man in a big city...and learn how to allow him his independence as he becomes less in need of my doting presence. (Now, that's a little tough sometimes…). It's as though he was just a kid and I wonder where the time went!

Lois the designer ...

I would believe it began when I was a student at Hampton… I was always sketching, getting fabric from a little store called Hurry, Hurry so Ms Winnie would sew them. I designed my graduation dress at Hampton and a few of the pieces when I entered the fashion model competitions. That seed planted in one's deep consciousness from teenage years is amazing. I've experienced so many of these dreams, with the exception of a few, and am still hopeful to live them all!

Going on to work with some of the biggest names in design, LaCroix, McQueen, Gaultier, Galliano, Rucci, was inspirational during my model years and also working for almost two years as account manager for the forward-thinking, award-winning designer Thom Browne. Working with him gave me insight into the business and process behind the business of fashion.

I officially began the Vessel. by Lois… in September 2009, during New York Fashion Week and had a small presentation in a Chelsea Gallery. I will never forget how thrilled I was to see Novia there! St Mary's banana chips was a sponsor. I love those chips! And my old friend Sean John catered Jamaican food. It was so important to share the taste and spirit of Jamaica in some way to launch… From the start, the collection garnered a lot of interest from the media, which unfortunately did not always marry with the business side of it. So despite presenting for several seasons with front-row seats taken by editors from Vogue to the New York Times, Essence and Elle, in locations from art spaces to the grandiose Vanderbilt Hall, and accepting invitations to present in Africa and the Americas, three years ago I decided to put the anchor in the waters. It was necessary to have some stillness on the vessel, as it wasn't very lucrative and in harmony with my expectations. It was not in my nature to create the facade of all being ' fabulous' as is most expected in business. I felt there was much more to learn, so the pause is necessary.

The industry has seen several changes; many solid designers, from Yoghi Yamamoto to Ralph Lauren have felt the shift in the economy and the effect it has had on retail. Each year there are hundreds and hundreds of new designers striving to break in. Thankfully, there are now more incubators and supporting foundations mentoring and guiding these ideas, as well as crowd-funding platforms to help maintain them. At the end of the day, it is about creating a niche in the industry; it takes time and patience with passion.

I chose to step out of the cycle, focusing on core pieces from the Vessel. Collection… and continue working with loyal and new clients. I am developing capsules and a home line, thus not seeing the necessity of the fashion weeks and schedules that is expected by the system provided.

As stated by wwd “... serene with a puritan blend” “...Lois Samuels is banking on basic, comfortable, classic pieces - with simple silhouettes such as overalls and shift dresses which smack of nineties minimalism...” …. My aesthetic consists of tailored garments that embody timeless minimalism. So while I continue to realise these creative ideas, I also work with a German interior design company based out of New York, continuing to learn about and enjoy so much of what interests me.

LINEN by lois shown at CFW is about minimalism. simplicity is luxury... the L I N E N by lois capsule presents versatile silhouettes in natural + pre-washed linen that embodies comfort with timeless style.

I am also developing the HOME brand and working on a few projects. I am hopeful on our next exchange there will be more to share on the development.

My final thoughts are on… Life… as I evolve physically and spiritually… it permeates my thoughts: the mystery, magic and meaning of it all!

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