Chadija is acutely aware that she has some very big shoes to follow and eventually fill. After all, her mum is a renowned fashion designer with a long and rich legacy spanning over 25 years in the business.
But the 23-year-old is not daunted by that. Actually, she credits her mum, Celia Gilkes, with nudging her in a direct and firm way to pursue a journey in fashion designing.
It was in 2017 when she was pursuing a degree in Psychology at the University of the West Indies that Chadija decided to withdraw from that course of study. This led to her mother putting the traditional Bajan parent’s ultimatum on the table.
“Here is something funny. I actually had to sign a contract. I was actually doing Psychology at UWI straight out of sixth form, but after a semester I decided to withdraw myself. So my mother said I can’t just stay home and do nothing, that’s when I started working with her. This is where the contract came in. She wanted me to go do the degree at Barbados Community College (BCC). The contract was for me to do the course without dropping out. It paid off in the end,” she told Today’s Fashion.
And that is how the clothing line Sade’s was born. The name of the business is Chadija’s middle name, which she loves. She recalls creating a logo while at school and when it was finished, I just saw this big ‘S’ on clothes so she stuck with it. Sade’s is located in St Joseph with a special focus on children’s wear. Her clientele ranges from babies to 16-year-olds.
“My business first started with children of my mother’s clients but as of last school uniform season, I believe it has grown beautifully and I can’t wait to see the growth that is about to take place.
“The major challenge when I started still is, and will forever be living in my mom’s shadow. How do I live up to the infamous Celia’s work? Honestly, though, I have no regrets. I eat, sleep and breathe making clothes. As a child, I used to eat bobbins. This is in my blood, in my bones and is a part of me.”
Chadija continued: “At first, I tried the usual party clothes and failed miserably. It was only until it was portfolio time at school did I see my true calling and that is children’s wear. This is my sole career, I love it, wouldn’t change it for the world.”
The young designer set herself a goal for 2020, which she has started to accomplish. She made a bold step which took her away from making clothes only when clients required her to. Without any orders being placed, Chadija took a risk and made clothes to sell.
“This year, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, which is basically being under my mom so I made a trip. I brought in this fabric. My mum said I should make these clothes and sell. I honestly felt like it was too last minute but she kept pushing so eventually I did it.
“Two hours later the outfits were finished. I then posted them, and from there, it took off. My mother warned me about the response. I still didn’t expect it. I felt overwhelmed at first but I believe that I am handling it well for my first time really being out there on social media.”
Currently on social media, Sade’s Designs are mainly geared towards this month with the recognition of African Awareness Month. She posted ready-made children’s outfits for purchase.
“During my peak periods, it is all hands are on deck in my house. From my seven-year-old brother to my dad, everybody is involved.”
And while Chadija feels proud of all she has achieved thus far, she still has dreams of attaining much more.
“Currently, I am the manufacturer of St. Joseph primary school’s games uniform. I always want my clients to be satisfied. If I don’t have a size that fits, I make sure I get them a size that fits. I see my business going into a factory, should I say factories, one doing school uniforms and one doing clothes to sell in stores. I have a dream of having my designs in Macy’s one day. My biggest career goal I want to accomplish is opening my own fabric store, as we need more variety here in Barbados. I feel like I know the needs, so what better person to satisfy it?”
The former student of The Lodge School and the Seventh Day Adventist Secondary School recently completed the fashion degree at the BCC. Along with her mum, she credits her entire family for being there for her through the studies and the new business venture.
Chadija told Today’s Fashion that her family matters most and that they are her biggest supporters.
“Anything I have accomplished is along with my mum, my dad Curtis Gilkes and my boyfriend Jeremy Grazette. They are an integral part of my business. When things get too hard to handle or even when she thinks I am doing something wrong, my perfectionist mother helps me out.”
She continued: “Personally, my motivation is my family, both present and future. I believe they are also my motivation professionally as well, which makes me go harder. What matters most to me is God and my family. Everything I am, everything I will be is because of them. Everything I have and everything I do is for them…”
The young entrepreneur wants upcoming designers to believe in themselves and not to be daunted by those with more experience.
“My advice to a young person choosing this field is to stay focused. Do not, and I say that strongly, get distracted by popular Bajan designers on Instagram. I believe that’s what has held me back the most because it is very intimidating and would make you second guess yourself and your work. Not knowing that you might be twice as good as them.”
Chadija said her second career choice would have been to be a Criminologist. She confesses that her love for that comes from the television shows she watches.
“My hobbies – I love, love watching TV – anything first responder related but I love reading just as much and I read the same genres that I watch. I work six days a week. On the seventh day, I go to church and that is my usual date night with my boyfriend, even if I work most of the night.” (IMC)