18-year-old Kittitian designers shake up the fashion industry one statement piece at a time

 Models pose in designs from Iridescent Fashion's Nubian Goddess collection. (Courtesy of Shavaniece Lake and Keanna Ible)

Models pose in designs from Iridescent Fashion's Nubian Goddess collection. (Courtesy of Shavaniece Lake and Keanna Ible)

Ambition never goes out of style — just ask Keeanna and Shavaniece (“Shavi”), 18-year-old emerging fashion designers from St. Kitts and Nevis. The two friends have been passionate about clothing and design since they were young. In 2016, they turned their shared hobby into a full-fledged business by starting their own custom clothing company, Iridescent Fashion. And they have been making their mark on the fashion world ever since.

At Iridescent Fashion, Keeanna and Shavaniece collaborate to create unique designs for clients. They also launched several collections — including BLOOM, a flowery line of dresses and separates in shades of blue, and Nubian Goddess, “a modern-day twist on African fashion” that mixes playful and vibrant prints.

 Keanna and Shavi pose in front of their design at The Fashion Exchange, an event at Buckingham Palace that showcased designers from Commonwealth nations. (Courtesy of Shavaniece Lake and Keanna Ible)

Keanna and Shavi pose in front of their design at The Fashion Exchange, an event at Buckingham Palace that showcased designers from Commonwealth nations. (Courtesy of Shavaniece Lake and Keanna Ible)

With a distinct sense of style inspired by their Caribbean roots, Keeanna and Shavaniece have found success in St. Kitts and beyond. Petula Skeete, an Emmy-winning hairstylist from Nevis, wore one of their gowns to the 2018 Academy Awards. Their glamorous creations also landed them a trip to Buckingham Palace to participate in the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, an event showcasing the work of designers from 53 Commonwealth nations.

Iridescent Fashion worked with Neisha La Touche, a designer from nearby Granada, to create a magnificent Carnival-inspired canary yellow gown called “Sugar and Spice.” The Fashion Exchange website describes the piece as “an explosion of colour — pink, red, orange and yellow, with gold highlights, represented by bold bursts of Swarovski upcycled crystals across the bodice and finished with a plume of feathers.”

The couture dress debuted alongside creations from major names and labels like Burberry, Stella McCartney, Bibi Russell and Karen Walker. The reception brought Keanna and Shavi face-to-face with the industry’s biggest tastemakers, including Anna Wintour, Hamish Bowles and Kate Middleton.

If their early accomplishments are any indication, Keeanna and Shavaniece are well on their way to achieving their dream of running “the first popular black-owned fashion business in the world.” They want Iridescent Fashion to be as recognisable as brands like “Gucci, Prada or Dolce & Gabbana.”

But before they start planning their fashion week collections, the two will continue to hone their design skills at university. Shavaniece will attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles and Keeanna will study at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City.

After graduation, the creative pair hopes to return home and continue to expand their business. They also want to start a scholarship and mentoring programme to encourage other Kittitian students to enter creative fields.  

Being from St. Kitts and Nevis — a tiny pair of islands in the Caribbean with a population just shy of 55,000 — Keeanna and Shavaniece feel they must make the most of every opportunity because their country’s small size can limit their career options. They lament the fact that there are few resources available for students who want to pursue artistic fields: “Within the Caribbean, we tend to only support sports, law, accounting and science. What about our creative geniuses?”

Keeanna and Shavaniece want to change that mindset in St. Kitts and Nevis — and the world. They want to prove that “the Caribbean can produce the next Alexander McQueen.”


 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hannah W. Orenstein is digital manager at Malala Fund. Her favourite ice cream flavour is pistachio.