Passion for hats

designer says she began making hats in 2010 and has not stopped since

by Latoya Burnham

BMEX got an encouraging word of endorsement yesterday from Jamaican designer Denise Dennis of Shev Kalekshan, who has adopted Barbados as her second home and is making it known that fascinators, hair accessories and bridal wear can be had here in perhaps even better quality than abroad.

Dennis, who set up a booth at the four-day Barbados Manufacturers Expo from Thursday to Sunday, explained that she was a student here in 2009 and began making hats in late 2010 when she was at the time also designing outfits.

Somehow the hats took over and she has not stopped since.

“I decided to make a hat to wear somewhere and I loved it, so I decided this was something I wanted to specialise in. So I’m doing hats, hair accessories, bridal dresses mostly right now and hats because I grew up in a Pentecostal church where you had to wear hats to church and I loved it. My mom used to make these little fabric pillow boxes ones for us to wear to church. I think that hats add this kind of class and elegance to women that I find is sometimes lacking now and is something I want to bring back. I think it is the perfect accessory to finish any attire that you want to wear and it is something I want to see more women embracing and I hope to see that in the near future.”

She said too that she also found more brides opting for the fascinators or bird cage rather than the traditional veils, which opened even more possibilities for her young business.

She noted that she had found BMEX to be the perfect platform to not only showcase her work, but get much appreciated feedback and new clients.

“BMEX is the best place, I find, to introduce people to your work. You have so many people coming in, a wide cross-section of the market and it is a perfect opportunity for you to interact one on one and get acquainted with people and get feedback on your product, so I think it is a good start.

“I launched my line with a fashion show in March this year and I was supposed to go to Style with Jamaica in May, but because of a family emergency I didn’t get to go in the end, but that is definitely something I want to do to showcase my work regionally and internationally as well,” said the young designer.

While she noted that sometimes it was a challenge finding quality materials here with which to create her products, Dennis said she tried wherever possible to support local suppliers of her products.

“It’s difficult to find quality hat fabrics here. I’ve had to innovate and use what is available but really most of the things that you use in terms of the in-fabric, we have to bring in from overseas, but I still try to support locally as much as possible…

“I want people to know what is available here in Barbados and you don’t have to bring everything in from the UK or America that you can shop locally and even get better quality here, something more unique and that is yours that you can help contribute to the process.

“It’s just about getting people to realise that it’s available and that what we have here is just as good as anywhere else and I think that process is starting. People are recognising the quality of what we have here in the Caribbean and it is just about continuing to spread the word and encourage people to support locally.”

A lover of colours and sunsets, Dennis’ designs combine elements of what she sees around her and draws colours from the sunset in her pieces which can take anywhere from two hours and up to complete because of the process of preparing the materials, drying, moulding, and preparing trims and flowers to compliment the pieces.

Dennis’ eventual dream is to create an organisation that combines fashion and women’s empowerment.

“I’m hoping to expand and take this to incorporate other women, especially women who are at home and not working to make it into a kind of a women’s enterprise thing. That’s a dream of mine,” she said.

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