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‘Thanks, It’s handmade’ by Latoya Allen

Published:Sunday | July 28, 2019 | 12:00 AMJessica Harrison - Gleaner Writer

Handmade items have a way of making you feel special when you take them home, especially when someone says, “That is gorgeous, where did you get it?”

Here’s 29-year-old designer Latoya Allen, hailing from the parish of St James, consistently bringing proud smiles to any Jamaican who dares to wear her brand since 2015.

“I was raised by my grandmother, and in school I studied business education. I lost my mother in 2012, which was a tough year for me, but then I got closer with God. While studying the scriptures, I came up on a few scriptures, but I won’t forget the scripture that says, ‘He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly’.” The company, ‘Latoya Allen’, operates out of a Montego Bay-based studio and only uses quality materials.

“I was searching for a place in this world and I discovered a passion for bag designs,” Allen said. Since then, she has made hundreds of customised bags and accessories.

“My line of handbags reflects my own personal style and creativity. That, combined with elegance in design and functionality, I decided to name the company after myself, Latoya Allen,” she recounts.

The company provides quality handmade bags for occasions such as weddings, and formal events, and backpacks, along with totes for the beach and everyday wear. They also specialise in hair accessories such as headbands and satin bonnets. Pretty much creating anything and everything the mind can conceive, using all local products.

The Process

From spending hours at a time in fabric stores trying to colour coordinate and make her own patterns, Allen takes pride in her work and gives much credit to her husband.

“I am very flamboyant. I prefer bright colours, and not everyone is like that. He gives excellent colour-pairing suggestions that balance me out, so there is something for everybody,” said Allen, who says that she makes a bag every day, and even if they are not sold, she still keeps her skills sharp.

“I face challenges every day, but the most exhausting one is the competition with the Chinese wholesalers. When people inquire about the price, depending on the person, they might be turned off, because they think they can get it cheaper elsewhere. They don’t understand that handmade items take time and much more dedication than mass-produced items,” she said. Allen also spoke to the fact that some fabrics that she would love to work with, cannot be found here in Jamaica and so she has to order them online. If she was able to just walk into stores and get exactly what she needed, the work sometimes would be much easier.

Motivation and Support

“My spouse and my two-year-old son,” Allen said without hesitation, is all the motivation she needs.

He husband is the one who bought her first sewing machine, he helps with choosing fabric, he picks up where she falls off. She considers him an amazing source of strength and support.

“They are my motivation. They motivate me to create,” she says.

Allen is a well-known dental assistant in Montego Bay, and she has been practising for almost 10 years, but when she became a mother, she started to view the world of entrepreneurship through fresh eyes. She ensures that her photos are high resolution and she’s in the process of getting her website and online shop up and running on the wheels of motivation.

“People will not always congratulate and support you. You should know that you posses the greatness required to succeed with or without validation from others. Keep your goals in sight. Be consistent and chase your dreams.”