Tesi Johnson, Flair Writer
Left: Dwayne Dacres pairs a blazer designed by Dwayne Cunningham, with a striped button-down shirt, and another DC Designs piece - a pair of fitted black pants, accented by a horizontally-striped waistband. - photos by Tesi Johnson
Right: Dwayne Dacres wears a pin-striped vest with matching fitted pants, paired with a grey button-down shirt and a silver-grey tie. A black and white polka-dot handkerchief is worn in the left breast pocket. Another innovative DC Design.
What does nursing and fashion design have in common? Nothing readily comes to mind, but fashion designer/psychiatric nursing aid Dwayne Cunningham is intent on building a lucrative career in both fields.
Cunningham actually began his designing career long before nursing was ever a consideration. He has been designing and sewing professionally for approximately 15 years, and made his first piece at age 14 after watching his older brother at work with his sewing machine.
"One day when my brother got up from the machine I simply sat down and sewed a pair of shorts. The waistband gave me a little trouble, so my brother helped me with it," he told Flair. And that was the first thing he ever made, a pair of elastic-waist denim shorts.
With a bit of formal training from Garmex HEART Academy, and more experience, Cunningham's designs have grown much more sophisticated. His creations run the gamut of women's and men's wear, though he expresses a preference in sewing for women.
"It's a talent to catch all a woman's curves and really make an outfit 'set pon her,'" he says. Women's clothing provide the biggest challenge for him, and he admits that they are more troublesome to design and sew, "but I like the challenge."
Otherwise, Cunningham's creations can be seen on the backs of regular clients like Syndicate Event's Dwayne Dacres, who will only have his suits tailored by Cunningham, and credits him with his consistent GQ look.
Dacres is one client who will approach Cunningham with a concept, but for those needing a DC Design from scratch, Cunningham says, "it comes to me like magic."
"I don't sew from patterns. There's not even one pattern in my place," Cunningham explains. "When people see me at work they are amazed," he continues.
Rather than using the conventional methods, "I just start sewing and things just come to me, and I do what my mind tells me to do. Sometimes my mind tells me to do many things at once, so I have to put it to paper to make sure that the design is not too crowded," he says with a smile.
Cunningham actually cites drawing as his first love, but that talent was then converted to fashion design. But how did nursing ever come into the picture?
"I have this talent but I didn't have the financial base to take it to a higher level," he explains. His mother was a nurse, so he chose to enter that field in order to earn more to develop his business in fashion design.
He now works as a psychiatric nursing aid and has come to enjoy this job, and thus intends to stick with both of them indefinitely.
Still, designing is his first love, and he's working hard at his craft to achieve success.
"I'd love to see my name out there, because I know I have the talent. I want to be known, not just in Jamaica, but internationally," he says.
Meanwhile, if you see a male nurse whose scrubs are more snazzy than the average, you might have just been hit with a DC Design.
Earth tones rather than loud colours, are the colours of choice for designer Ike Francis.
Left: Ike Francis at work - not serving drinks - but putting the final touches on a 'Poetic' shirt.
Dwayne Cunningham (left) designed and stitched the suit worn by Gersham Greene