At secondary school Cathy-Ann Baird was not allowed to choose the two subjects she had a deep love and passion for as courses of study.
She was disappointed when she was told she could not do art or needlework. Instead, she ended up doing Home Economics.
Added to that, when it was time to select career choices at school for her it was either fashion/designer or air hostess, which was a disappointment to her family members, who chose teacher against her will.
But a determined Cathy-Ann did not allow any of those obstacles to stop her from pursuing her dream of a career in fashion designing. Today, she not only designs clothes, but she makes accessories such as bags and jewellery as well.
The 47-year-old owner of B’ You Designs told Today’s Fashion that she learned to sew at an early age and has been doing it since then.
“I grew up with a grandmother who was a seamstress so I was intrigued from then. I came to find out later that my maternal grandmother was also a seamstress so maybe it was in my DNA.
“I started sewing at a young age, can’t remember exactly, but I sewed dolls clothing, then evolved to picking apart existing clothing to see how they were made so I could make my own. I then started sewing for family and friends and then workmates as I got more comfortable.”
She continued: “I started making jewellery from buttons, bamboo and anything that could be used to make earrings, I would take them to work and sell them. I went on to do formal training in pattern making and garment making. I did a few workshops in jewellery making but most of it was self-taught.”
After leaving school Cathy-Ann went to the Barbados Vocational Training Board and did knitting then subsequently lingerie. She applied to the Barbados Community College (BCC) in 2000 and did the one-year part-time certificate course. She was a full-time employee at that time and could not do the Associate’s Degree. In 2016, I got the opportunity to do Textile Design NVQ Level 3 at the then Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP). She also did Marketing at Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity (BIMAP) and Business Training with Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES).
The designer of over 20 plus years’ experience credits her BCC tutor, mentor and friend Tessa Daniel, who she also had the privilege of working for before stepping out on my own, for imparting valuable knowledge in pattern and garment making.
Cathy-Ann registered the business name 2008 and started full time in 2009.
The name B’ You Designs came to her during a period of transformation.
“I had been doing some deep soul searching after staring into the mirror and not recognising the person looking back. I went on the path of rediscovering and reconnecting to myself at a core level, when during the process of brainstorming business names that one came to me, like divine intervention, and has become the mantra to myself and my clients, to just be themselves and own their personal style,” she said.
Over the years Cathy-Ann has done designs for weddings, graduations, corporate wear and a few fashion shows such as Barbados Manufacturers Exhibition (BMEX) and Caribbean Fine Arts Fair (CAFA) to name a few. She says she strives to deliver “an extraordinary experience, great service and quality work”.
“I offer custom wear, from casual, business to formal. I also do accessories such as bags and jewellery. I also do alterations and restyling/upcycling of clothing which I have come to love actually. A perfect finish on a garment always intrigues me and altering clothing allows me to learn more techniques and enhance my craft. Since seeing the True Cost movie my whole outlook on fashion has changed and I aim to do what I do more eco-consciously.
“For custom wear it is collaborative decision with the final result. I have more free reign with my accessories, where I repurpose material like plastic bottles, paper, card, fabric and whatever can be repurposed to make beautiful jewellery. I also let my imagination take over with my bags.
Cathy-Ann has benefitted from her academic pursuits as well as from other quarters. She has also given back as well.
“I have had assistance from the BIDC as one of their clients, where I would have had the opportunity to receive training from UK based fashion Consultant Avis Charles and also facilitated workshops with plus sized designer Monif C. They would have also been responsible for my training in Textile Design at SJPP.
I have also been a part of their Incubatee Programme with the Small Business Centre on Fontabelle.
“Last year I got the opportunity to teach a Beginners Sewing class at the Bayville Community Centre to some very enthusiastic ladies which for me was heart-warming since I was able to impart what i had learned, so it was like giving back.”
Cathy-Ann intends to continue to propel her brand. The former student of Springer Memorial sees her business as being a household name and she would like to have her own clothing label one day.
But when the working day is done, Cathy-Ann turns her attention to what matters most in her world.
“Love matters most. I believe it is the one thing that connects us all. I am motivated by nature, what is happening in the environment and I am inspired by the life I wish to graft for myself and my son, Kyle Baird.
“As a single parent the desire to be a present mother, a job I refuse to fail at, I took that leap of faith so I would be able to attend meetings, games, any extra-curricular activities and just be there for him, and being employed full time wasn’t going to allow me to do that. He was my WHY.
“Also there is my dear friend Andrew Moseley who always believing in my potential and my sister Carmelia who is always cheering me on.”
Her advice you younger designers: “Do your research diligently based on the area they wish to get into thoroughly before launching. Know your WHY.” (IMC)
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