by Esther Lussan
What part of Barbados are you from?
I’m from St. Philip, affectionally referred to in Barbados as “St. FARlip” as our parish is a bit out of the way from the hustle and bustle of the South and West coasts.
How did you come up with the concept for your brand “island bags”?
I wanted to create a simple clutch bag that could be multi-functional (an elegant handbag, a functional makeup bag and an iPad case all in one) and I worked closely with a local factory on the bag design. I wanted the bags to also be super fun and stylish and had the idea of using some of my photographs of Barbados as the prints.
How long have you been doing island bags?
A handful of years…around four or five. I’ve almost always seen Island Bags as my beloved little side project to my shell art and other work, but it’s definitely one of the central features of some business plans I have coming a bit later in 2017.
What inspires you?
What doesn’t? Travel, books, art, all of my super stylish friends and the Caribbean, especially my island home of Barbados. I absolutely adore where I’m from.
How would you define your brand and what do you think sets it apart from anything else?
I always ensure that each Island Bag print and design I produce, captures the true essence of “Caribbean Chic”. I love and wear each and every style of bag I produce, so I can also say that each one is a part of me and my definition of style.
How would you describe the fashion industry in Barbados?
Barbados is absolutely filled with truly talented designers, but I see many designers struggling to compete in the global market due to issues such as us not having enough local factories, or access to regional/global ones, we sometimes have issues with shipping products and even the simple task of setting up local bank accounts to accept online payments is challenging. Some designers also struggle to find funding and other resources to tap into to create viable and sustainable companies. I feel very strongly that more should be done to encourage and foster fashion start-ups in Barbados and the wider Caribbean.
What words of advice would you give to someone looking to get into the Caribbean Fashion Industry?
Start by perfecting your designs. You must really understand what sets you apart and who your product will sell to. Once you’ve nailed that first bit, look for a great factory to start working with (and hopefully grow with). Your designs should be brought to life at the highest quality, for the most competitive price. Think globally and when you have established yourself to a certain degree, partner up with one of the many new initiatives starting up in the Caribbean that will give a global market, access to your designs.
Photo 1: Cluster Shot
Photo 2: Styled Shot
Photo 2: Tiyesha Martin – Barbadian Fashion Blogger – wearing Island Bags
Photo 3: Esther Lussan of Lilian Russell and Island Bags