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Saint International's Barbra Lee-Grant creates history

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Barbra (centre) is joined by her manager Deiwght Peters and international casting agent Jess Hallett who gave her the big break at McQueen's Fall 2016 runway show.
Saint International's CEO Deiwght Peters, joined his latest protégé backstage for a quick snap at the Alexander McQueen Fall 2016 show in London.
Barbra getting ready backstage before her 'exclusive' appearance for Alexander McQueen.
Barbra's layout for the outfit that she wore in her Alexander McQueen debut.

Central Village native has made a dazzling debut in the fashion world!

Two weeks ago, Outlook did a cover story on Saint International's rising star Barbra-Lee Grant, as she was poised to make her global runway debut at London Fashion Week.

Tipped by Saint International's CEO Deiwght Peters as the next big thing, on Sunday, February 21, at 7:30 p.m. Barbra sashayed down the runway of the world trendsetting brand Alexander McQueen with the enviable status of 'exclusive'. When a model is designated exclusive to a brand, it means the model can only appear for that singular brand in a particular fashion market for that season. It sends the subliminal message of brand endorsement.

Said Peters: "For brands to decide to invest and pay a premium to use a model as an exclusive, thereby rendering the model inaccessible by other designers in that market (and even other markets, as Barbra could not appear on any shows even at New York Fashion Week), is a testament to the phenomenal star power that model exudes. As influential as the stylist, casting director and designer team are, it also defines the model's image as a 'must have' to other designers."

Landing an exclusive runway appearance is rare. For a new model, it's even rarer, and is highly sought after and intensely celebrated. As a new face, it's akin to winning the golden ticket to stardom and fame. Effectively managed, an exclusive first-season runway appearance for a top designer can lead to a booking bonanza in the runway, editorial, and campaign departments.

In the world of high-fashion where luxury is never compromised, it's eternally quality over quantity. And quality was top priority when Sarah Burton, McQueen's design director (who designed the bridal gown worn by Kate Middleton) selected the Jamaican as the girl she would name as exclusive to her runway this season. This sent the fashion world into a frenzy. After all, this was no ordinary McQueen extravaganza. It was symbolic as it was a one-time city switch from its outing in Paris, to London (the home of its late creator/founder Alexander Lee McQueen).

History made

"No Jamaican female model has ever started their international career three weeks into the business and booked an exclusive appearance for a world-class European design brand as their first job," Peters said.

The power team also included styling genius Camilla Nickerson, fashion director at American Vogue and stylist to multiple brands including Calvin Klein. Casting was led by Jess Hallett, who has worked with many Saint models including Kia Newman, Tami Williams, Brad Allen, and others. Hair team was spearheaded by maestro Guido Pilau.

Barbra arrived in London only three weeks ago, and was quickly selected by one of London's leading casting directors as the girl to watch.

On the heels of her exclusive Alexander McQueen appearance, Barbra is now one of the most in-demand models in the business - instantly catapulted to the head of the class. She was jetted to Milan, where several of that fashion capital's influential designers and casting directors have requested to meet with her.

Chat with Barbra

Barbra told Outlook that she cannot believe what has happened. "I am still pinching myself, and sometimes it's like I am in a daze. I was hoping and praying something good would happen. I wanted to make my family and friends back in Central Village proud, but the Alexander McQueen exclusive is so unbelievable for me and to think I am the first Jamaican female model for this to happen to. It's so surreal. I know I have to focus and take it to the top."

Though this is her first exposure to the international market, it's something Barbra has been working on for a while, ignoring the naysayers. "I remember when I told some persons at my workplace (Hydel Schools) I was going overseas to model, one person laughed and said 'go on, mek Mr Peters full up you head with foolishness." Well, I guess I had the last laugh. He has tried so many times to get me signed, but it never worked, and one day he said, 'Barbra I want you to start wearing your big afro out'. I think that's when things started coming together."

Before meeting Peters, modelling was not something she thought about. "I never thought much about it. I was skinny and tall and I met Mr Peters on a search and he said I was amazing. I never won any competitions, but I still went to training every week and I got very good experience walking for Saint shows and I think I am ready." Her advice to prospective models: "Never stop believing in yourself and always dream. I am still very grateful that Mr Peters always believed in me after five years at Saint."