Fashion frolic with ... Courtney
It might have all begun with a simple dream or hobby that evolved into a passion, then a career, and before they know it, they are creating waves in the fashion industry. You may know their designs, but how much do you really know about the style of the individuals behind the designs. Starting today, Flair takes you behind the drawing boards of your favourite and celebrated designers, in our new feature, Fashion Frolic. Today, we chat with cutting-edge designer Courtney Washington.
Courtney Washington Joiles, who goes by his first and middle names, was only nine years old when he started stitching scraps together, from fabric left behind by his mother. He would often sew for his sisters and cousins, but then his passion for cooking took precedence, though short-lived, as soon after he had a light-bulb moment that led him to his true calling - fashion.
His dream of becoming a designer began when he discovered fashion apprenticing with June Escoffery. At age 18, he said, he realised that the mature-women wardrobe was lacking and so he ventured to remedy the problem. In 1994, he left Jamaica to seek formal training in New York, first at Pratt College of Art and Design and then at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
He originally began designing custom-tailored garments for full-figured women who were frustrated with the inferior quality and lack of fashion that was available at the time. "My designs look good and fit beautifully on women of all sizes," said Joiles.
One of his successful moments in the industry, he recalled, was when he was selected to create a collection for a division, Nordstrom Department Store in New York in 2002-3 with his own Courtney Washington brand.
Joiles still enjoys cooking and his speciality is stew peas. He is also well known for his special hand with soup and has made his own concoction - The Designer's pot of soup.
Heart to heart
1. How would you describe your sense of style?
Very Euro grunge with a bit of sexiness to it. Also, you find (it is) slouchy but tailored.
2. How would you describe your sense of design style?
My design style tends to be, at times, very graphic ... always with a chic line with a funky twist.
3. What is your most important rule of fashion?
4. What is your favourite design or collection to date and why?
It is hard to say which is my favourite because collection after collection is always so rewarding, so every collection always has a unique appeal so my best collection is always my next.
5. What advice would you give to young passionate designer who might be faced with challenges?
You're going to have to develop a lot of patience the key to success is tenacity. Hold fast and stay true to your craft.
6. What is your mantra?
The will to survive.