What started out as just a “side-hustle” for Wilma Diana Haynes has turned into close to four decades of a successful journey in fashion designing.
The 55-year-old who was sewing since she was a teenager said while she always had a love for making clothes it was not lucrative enough for her to make a living from it. After all, she had two sons at the time to take care of. Her sons are Darrio 28 and Daquan 16 who she wants to continuously watch grow as they set out to make her proud through their personal accomplishments.
“Needlework was always a side-hustle for me. It was another stream of income outside of my 9 to 5. For one, I had figure out how to build my clientele to ensure I always had a steady stream of work and I had to put a plan in place for managing a greater workload because this was now my bread and butter and my income would now be based on the amount of work I could do,” she told Today’s Fashion.
Wilma recalls that when she first started to use her gifted hands there was much she was taught by trial and error since she had no formal training. The lack of formal training is the one regret she has.
“I wouldn’t say it was something I set out to pursue. You could say it chose me. There was a seamstress by the name of Miss Blackman who lived in my neighbourhood when I was growing up. I would always venture over to her house, sit and just watch her stitch and from watching I started trying my own thing at home, skirts, blouses and even dresses. That is where my journey began. So, it was a lot of trial and error along with a fair share of spoiled material.”
She continued: “I never took any fashion and design courses I just learnt on my own and with practice, I became better. The only regret in hindsight is not having formal training in fashion and design as I would have been a lot more knowledgeable in the field and learning would’ve been easier having a formal teacher on hand to guide me with regards to certain techniques.”
But not being taught in a classroom and lack of certification could not keep her down, today she is the proud owner of Haynesfashion246 located in Hill Road, Bank Hall St Michael. She formally started the business in 2010.
“This is my sole career now as time has gone on. I have become very passionate about what I do. I specialize in mostly female apparel. From graduation dresses to work attire and casual wear. Casual is my favourite type to make. I really do enjoy making for women. I have been approached on occasions by guys about making for them, but I have only done a few pieces. I’m never quick to turn them away. I am always willing to help wherever possible and in doing so I become more knowledgeable and more comfortable with making for men.”
Wilma said she gets total satisfaction when outfitting her customers.
“I’m motivated by my hunger for bringing my customers ideas to life. It’s always a great feeling seeing them come from the fitting room with a huge grin on their faces while admiring themselves in the mirror. It’s overly satisfying seeing your work on social media. Just knowing you were the one who made it and it looks great brings a sense of fulfilment.”
“I rarely focus on designs or concepts, but I do follow a few pages on Instagram that give me ideas from time to time. The customers usually come with a concept or design in mind and then it’s just working with them from there on out to bring it to life. But it’s always making sure that they are satisfied with the work I have produced.”
While her clientele had grown vastly over the years, Wilma is now in a position to give employment to another designer during her busy periods.
“Yes, I have a vast range of customers. In one week, I could be making an outfit for a toddler, a dress for a wedding or even an outfit for a cruise. I have customers from all walks of life and all age ranges. If you need something made, then I’m here to make you look good.
“Within peak periods, it can be challenging as you must manage your time because of deadlines that must be met. There are many sleepless nights. In some instances where it is extremely busy, I would bring on someone who I know is reliable to assist with the added workload. It’s basically managing my time to ensure everyone receives their outfit on the agreed day or time. No one wants to have a disappointed customer.”
The former student of the now-defunct St Leonard’s Girls admitted that having her own business is her major accomplishment to date.
“Having the courage to set out on my own and then to see how the business has continuously grown truly drives me. Looking back on how far I have come, I can only imagine what the future holds. Within the coming years, I would love to see the business continue to flourish and consistently provide a high standard of work and challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone and maybe try my hand at more male apparel.”
The business continues to grow with Wilma seeing new customers monthly. She credits this to her work and people endorsing her as well as an Instagram page she set up.
“I would say a bit of both. Before I created an Instagram page, most of my business came via referrals. It was either someone who was looking for a needleworker or they saw a client wearing something I made and because they were impressed with the quality of work, they wanted to get in on the action. At this point, I wasn’t taking it as seriously as I am now. In 2010 I decided to register the business, later I created an Instagram and take it up full time. Instagram has given me added exposure which I have welcomed with open arms.”
The veteran designer’s advice to the younger generation is simply: “If you have a love or passion, you should go for it. Always remember you creep before you walk.”
Wilma, who was a member of the Barbados Dance Theatre, Dancin African, Pinelands Creative as well as Dance National Afrique, says she lives a very simple life.
“When I’m not sewing, I unwind by having fun with friends while partying or liming. There is nothing like a good laugh. Who knows me knows this holds true!”, she said. (IMC)