Many persons have no clue about what they want to do with their lives when they enter that first class, on that first day of University.
As a matter of fact, most persons would agree that the field that they spent 3-6 years preparing for isn’t the one that they ended up in. Menswear designer, Peta Odini, admits that designing and making clothing has always been a part of her make up. A self-professed socaholic, Odini loves the cut, fit and construction of menswear and has a knack for throwing together pieces that are fun, quirky and stylish on men, while looking tom boyishly sexy on women. I had the opportunity to sit down with the designer to talk about her journey into a field that was far from typical for a person growing up on a small island. She reveals the many twists and turns that she had to take before finally answering the call that resonated in her blood. Hailing from the small island state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines while being influenced by the fashion metropolitans in London and Toronto before making her way back to Trinidad and Tobago, meet Odini Sutherland who fully embodies that sentiment that not all who wander are lost.
16 THINGS WE LEARNED ABOUT VINCENTIAN DESIGNER, ODINI SUTHERLAND
Jeneille Lewis: Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your educational background? What are your general professional and non-professional interests? How long have you worked as a designer?
Odini Sutherland: I was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Started out as a Science student and always loved art & design but didn’t think that it was a sensible sort of pursuit. I attended University the first time to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering and I hated it. Returned to St. Vincent in 2006 and got into the marketing field. That was when I realized that I wanted to do fashion. In 2008, I moved to London and did that, realized no one paid fashion students so moved to Toronto in 2012 to pursue a Postgraduate Certificate in Brand Management until finally moving to Trinidad and Tobago in 2013 to work in advertising. I realized I missed designing and making clothes so it’s been like a loop-d-loop sorta thing.
Professional interests, definitely in clothing construction and the business of fashion. It’s a fickle industry and very time and resource intensive, so I’m like a walking case study for myself. Non-professional, sleeping as it’s about all I have time to do outside of my day job and my business. I love travelling and seeing new places and things. Finding myself somewhere unfamiliar is scary but a good sort of scary.
Jeneille Lewis: What does fashion mean to you?
Odini Sutherland: Fashion is about self-expression. It’s like the ultimate show of your personality. It’s meant to be fun, like playing mas but doing it every day.
Jeneille Lewis: How would you define your city’s fashion as opposed to the country that you now reside in?
Odini Sutherland: This is a tough one. I haven’t spent a lot of time in St. Vincent within the last 6 years. From what I see, it’s just a lot of copying what’s happening in the media, which is also pretty much the same here in Trinidad. However, there is a larger community of persons who invest in clothing made by local designers here in Trinidad which I think is pretty brilliant .So you have lots of pop up shops and markets which are developed specifically for local artisans/designers.
Jeneille Lewis: You’re a young fashion designer with a passion for designing men’s clothing. When did you realize that this was what you wanted to do as a career?
Odini Sutherland: [laughs] Not that young! But I’ll take it. Before I started university, I was very much convinced. Then I lost it. Then surprisingly within the last 6 months or so it hit me again, really hard. So that’s now the mission. It’s funny because when I graduated from fashion school, sewing machines and mannequins and patterns were like curse words to me.
Jeneille Lewis: What was the first article of clothing you ever designed? What are your favorite pieces to design?
Odini Sutherland: Wow… this is a tough one. The first thing I ever designed was probably some random dress using a fashion design kit my friend Melissa had. We would spend hours just designing endless things. My favorite thing to work on is definitely trousers.
Jeneille Lewis: How does designing men’s clothing differ from designing women’s clothes?
Odini Sutherland: I find it much easier. I don’t know why. I prefer to dress men than women. I’m not very big on form fitting things, but I do like things well tailored and I just really enjoy dressing men. I actually hate making women’s clothes. Well maybe not hate, but I don’t enjoy the creating process at all.
Jeneille Lewis: Describe the general process you go through to design and realize a piece of clothing. How long does it usually take you to construct a piece?
Odini Sutherland: I rarely sketch which is awful, so I need to work on that. I have an idea and I will probably just jot something down on an errant piece of paper so I don’t forget and then I get right into pattern cutting. Once that’s done, I create a sample piece out of some manner of cheap fabric, do fittings make adjustments to the pattern if necessary. I remake another sample if needed. Once it’s perfect and I’ve found some fabric that pleases me, I cut and sew. Construction varies. A simple pair of shorts, from the cutting of the fabric to the final sewing if I worked nonstop may take me four hours.
Jeneille Lewis: What are some of your accomplishments as a designer?
Odini Sutherland: Graduating from fashion school was a big deal; there are many moments where I was convinced I was going to fail. My point of view as compared to my tutors often differed greatly. As grades in fashion are based a great deal on opinion it was pretty touch and go sometimes.
Second major accomplishment was completing my last collection, Sans Peur. When I finished the collection I was in disbelief that I had done it because I was sometimes working 12 hour days at my day job then would come home to sew. It was non-stop and I was dead tired. I don’t know if I’ve recovered since. But it was good to see the work on the runway. It was pretty damn good.
Jeneille Lewis: Who are some of your favorite designers?
Odini Sutherland: Christopher Bailey at Burberry and Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy. They do brilliant menswear.
Jeneille Lewis: How long have you worked as a designer?
Odini Sutherland: Officially for just about three months. And by official I mean, creating clothing under my brand. But I have been designing clothing since I have been at fashion school so about two years, maybe three.
Jeneille Lewis: How do you select your models?
Odini Sutherland: Usually pick the tallest guys I can find but so far it’s usually who can fit the clothes. I’m pretty easy going and ever so often you see someone and you feel like yes! I want them in my clothes! So their personal vibe and style can also influence my decision.
Jeneille Lewis: What’s your favorite part about conceptualizing a design?
Odini Sutherland: I think it’s creating the reality from the concept. In my head it’s just like an unfulfilled wish and then when it’s completed, the wish has come true. I enjoy seeing it develop because I don’t sketch, my ideas take shape and evolve when I begin to construct. I see how the fabric falls, the way the cut rests against the body and that’s when the idea development really kicks into over drive.
Jeneille Lewis: Do you prefer sketching designs or actually constructing them?
Odini Sutherland: Construction for sure.
Jeneille Lewis: What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers?
Odini Sutherland: My mother always tells me this one thing and so far it’s proving to be true. “Hard work never killed anyone” … so just be prepared to work hard. It’s easy to get caught up in the fashion hype but it’s good to have the work to back you up because the hype fades and what then?
Jeneille Lewis: What do you like best about designing male clothing?
Odini Sutherland: When someone gets their piece and it fits perfectly! Or they have some kind of excited freak out because of the clothes they’ve just received. That bit is pretty cool.
Jeneille Lewis: Where can readers buy your clothing?
Odini Sutherland: Right now I am taking orders via my website petaodini.com or via email at email@example.com. If you’re in Trinidad, I am hoping to be at the next Racked Event in the next few weeks as well.
Jeneille Lewis: We define a COCO Woman as a woman who embraces who she is and who isn’t afraid to show the world who she is. Are you a COCO woman?
Odini Sutherland: Sounds like I am!