Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Designer stitches closer bond with mother

Published:Tuesday | January 26, 2016 | 1:00 AMDavina Henry
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Designs by Keliah Taffe, who owns JO-KEL Apparel with her mother, Arlene Clarke, and also runs the Ragz & Rebelz line.
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Although she has had no formal training, 26 year-old Keliah Taffe has made a name for herself as a clothing designer. After winning THE STAR Fashion Designer Competition in 2015, Taffe told The Gleaner that the journey has been rough, but rewarding.

"I began sewing from a very young age. My Mom, Arlene Clarke, was a dressmaker, so that's where I really got my inspiration from. I started making clothes for my dolls, so from that age I knew that I always wanted to venture into this field," she said.

But it was not as clear-cut as it would seem. For one, Taffe's mother was not always supportive of her daughter following in her footsteps. "My mother wanted me to go to college, get my degree and become a lawyer, but sewing was always in my blood, I couldn't help it, I had to follow my dreams," Taffe said.

Fast-

forward to now, when Taffe and her mother have formed their own company - JO-KEL Apparel.

"We started this company in 2015 and it has been going well. JO-KEL is conservative, more on the corporate side. I also have my own company, a subsidiary of JO-KEL Apparel, titled Ragz & Rebelz. This is less conservative, much more free-spirited," Taffe told The Gleaner.

DIDN'T FIT IN

She added that though she is now reaping the success of hard work, it has come at a price.

"I was at the University of the West Indies (UWI)

pursuing a bachelor's degree in history and I dropped out because I wanted to focus on fashion designing. I also got a job at a company that supplied uniforms to corporate company and they told me that I didn't fit in. I was a

little devastated, but that pushed me to work harder and do more," she said.

For Taffe, winning THE STAR competition cemented her place as a force to be

reckoned with.

"It felt good. I felt validated. Since wining THE STAR competition I have got new orders from clients. My business is growing so much, I even got a wedding order. Right now, I would love the opportunity to dress artistes such as Denyque, Ishawna and comedienne Belle Blair. I think they would add so much to the brand, because of their charisma and personalities," she said.

Looking ahead, Taffe said, "In five years, I just want to see my brand getting bigger and better. I'm hoping to enter the Caribbean Fashion Week this year with my own designs. We'll see what happens. For now, I'm just putting my all in my work."