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Paulette Cleghorn presents: Yumi Katsura’s Modern Love

Jamaican born Paulette Cleghorn always had an eye for fashion. While growing up in Canada she found herself modeling at an early age. After several years in marketing and public relations for The Body Shop

Jamaican born Paulette Cleghorn always had an eye for fashion. While growing up in Canada she found herself modeling at an early age. After several years in marketing and public relations for The Body Shop she left the company. Her love for fashion never left her though. After marriage and having a child, she still wanted new challenges. This desire led her to become involved in the bridal industry. Currently, Paulette is the executive director and designer for Japan based bridal house Yumi Katsura, It is one of the oldest bridal houses in the industry, and Paulette has been with the company for over 15 years. This season’s edition of New York’s Bridal Fashion Week was in full swing when we spoke to Paulette about her collection. Titled; MODERN LOVE, the collection incorporates elements of sustainability to express traditional aesthetics of the wedding dress.

POSH: When did your interest in fashion begin?

PC: I was born in Jamaica, and I grew up in Toronto. If you talk to my family and friends, they will tell you that in high school I had a very distinct sense of style. I used to wear tablecloths wrapped like saris. I used to cut pillowcases in half and make a tank top and a skirt. I would wear my pillowcases to school. It’s funny to hear these stories from people; “remember how Paulette used to wear a tablecloth to school?”

POSH: Did your interest in fashion lean towards designing or modeling at the time?

PC: I was in fashion from an early age; I started modeling when I was about 12, I was 5’9 when I was 12. At the time I didn’t realize that being a designer, and being in the industry was a job. It was more like a fabulous place where I went on calls, made a lot of money, sat around, and didn’t do much. I modeled for years for a fur company called Black Glama. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer or a diplomat. That’s what I studied in school; political science and religion because I’m a bit of a nerd as well.

POSH: How did your work in fashion influence your personal style back then?

PC: I wore Indian saris, and I would wear men’s suits. I was big into vintage clothes because I loved the quality and construction of it. I didn’t find that the clothes on the rack were made as beautifully. I always had a good eye, and I think that’s from being in a higher end show room at a young age. When all my friends were shopping at the popular stores I wanted to go to a vintage store because I wanted to get a tailored suit.

photographed by: R. Anthony Morrison

 

Photographed by: R. Anthony Morrison

 

POSH: What was your career path like after you finished school?

PC: I had a long and beautiful career with a British company called The Body Shop. I was head of public relations, and marketing for almost a decade, then I sort of retired. When fashion is in your DNA it just never goes away. I found so many ways to be part of the fashion community when I was in the cosmetics industry. I even had a big fashion show during Fashion Week with cosmetics. Also, when I was at the body shop, I was blessed to do a series of guest lectures at FIT. Even though I was in the cosmetics industry fashion was a big part of what I was doing.

POSH: Did you leave the company because you wanted to return to fashion?

PC: I left the company because I wanted to have a life of my own. I wanted to have a child and get married, all that good stuff. So, I did, and then I got a little bored. There was an Ethiopian designer at the time who said she needed some help. I secretly was bored at home, because I was not meant to be a housewife. So, I went in and helped her, then I said, I’ll come in one day a week. Then it was two days a week, then three days a week.  All of a sudden, I’m in the bridal industry. I already knew most of everything that happened in the background. That was because of my marketing and fashion background. I knew exactly what was happening, so I just stepped right in. I was there every single day.

POSH: What is your role at Yumi Katsura, and what motivates you as a designer for the brand?

PC: I’ve been working with Madame Katsura for over 15 years. I started as a consultant with her and eventually got promoted to being the creative director, in addition to being a designer. My position now is being creative director of the brand, and I love it. You feel like a fairy godmother. You can do a dress for red carpet and that’s special. But to do a dress for someone to wear that everybody who knows them and loves them will see them in that one time while they’re alive that’s huge.

POSH: What factors were most important in advancing your career in the bridal industry?

PC: I was good at my job, that’s what it is you know. If you’re good at your job, people see that, and if you’re getting the results then that’s what happens. I’m actually the only person in the company that’s from our heritage. They even allowed me to have a translator one point so that says a lot.

Photographed by R. Anthony Morrison

 

Photographed by: R. Anthony Morrison

 

POSH: What does the bridal market in America look like in 2024?

PC: Right now, I feel like we’re super saturated. The world has gotten so much smaller, there are so many more designers. In the past we would have mostly American designers at the American shows. Now, I’d say half of the designers that are showing during the markets are from Australia Ukraine, Israel, and various parts of Europe. Before we could literally count the amount of designers that were from overseas. You would see them at the overseas shows; now they’re about half of what’s showing so the competition has gotten really stiff.

POSH: As one of the oldest bridal houses, how do you create a balance between tradition and the trends of a younger generation?

We’re traditional with a twist because sometimes traditional can be boring. I think sometimes we overthink things. We make these amazing dresses that aren’t really wearable. Nowadays this generation is looking for more simplicity. They want to look grand, but they don’t want the dress to be heavy. So, we used natural fabrics in this collection. We used silks and cottons, so the dresses are light and airy. We used sustainable laces because this generation is more interested in the environmental issues. They want to make sure that the next generation has a planet that they can live on.  We have lace that’s 30% paper. We’re also incorporating more cotton fabrics into our collection as well. We hadn’t done that before.

POSH: So, this wasn’t the first time you’ve worked with sustainable materials?

PC: We actually made a dress before that was from recycled glass bottles. In Japan pearls are a big part of the culture so we use simulated pearls. Right now, a big trend in bridal is 3D flowers. We’ve always done that because the cherry blossom is almost revered in Japan. A lot of our laces and fabrications have elements of that Sakura (cherry blossom) in it

POSH: So are the younger generation of brides still interested in wedding dresses?

PC: Yes, and we’re finding that they’re wearing more dresses in the past, especially in the Caribbean; I remember they used to wear a wedding dress for the ceremony and then a reception dress. That went away for a while because I guess dress prices were so cost prohibitive. But this new generation is now going back to having it. they want a wedding dress, they want a reception dress, and even a honeymoon dress.  We live in this new ‘instagramable’ world so everything is for the gram.

POSH: Now that we have a few years out of lock down, are you seeing more marriages of less that previous years?

PC: Post pandemic lock down there has been an increase in marriages because people are getting married for different reasons. People aren’t just getting married just for love.  They’re getting married to have insurance, so that they can have a great house, for economics. People are getting married for more practical reasons now than in the past.

POSH: How often do you get to meet brides from the Caribbean?

PC:  I love when I have a Caribbean bride, I don’t always get to meet the brides. We participate in shows like, and Summer Sizzle, and Cayman Fashion week. When we do, we end up having brides from the islands come to one of our stores. It’s so exciting; it’s like one of my sisters is wearing one of my dresses. That’s such an honor, it’s why I do those shows because I just love connecting with my people.

R. Anthony Morrison

R. Anthony Morrison is a New York based photographer and journalist.

photosoulnyc@yahoo.com

R. Anthony Morrison is a New York based photographer and journalist.

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