At age 18, Dara Sandy was “blessed” with a sewing machine and as the saying goes: the rest is history.
The young designer spoke to Today’s Fashion about how she married her creative mind, love of fashion and determination to produce a successful business.
“I always had a creative mind which showed from as early as primary school when I worked hard for my artist badge in brownies to art classes in secondary school.
“The more I saw creativity being expressed through fashion, whether it be on social media, television or just seeing amazingly expressed fashion senses when I was out and about, my need to do so drastically increased. I would say though, what jump-started me was receiving my very first sewing machine after I think my parents grew tired of hearing me say I wanted one.
She explained: “The blessing that is my sewing machine came when I was 18 years old and ready to get started. I am completely self-taught. As the years went on, I have been learning from my mistakes when it comes to sewing and design.
“Taking ideas and making a business out of them is not an easy task. However, one message I would love to get across to others is not to hold yourself back. Learning is a part of the process. Sometimes things go wrong before they go right, which I’m sure a lot of designers out there can agree with.
The 23-year-old is the owner of Sandy Isle Designs, which started in 2016.
Dara wanted to have a business name that had something to do with her or where she came from. Sandy Isle was chosen to represent the creator “Sandy”, and the type of place the creations were from – “Isle”. Sandy Isle is based online and available on Instagram and Facebook.
Dara, who is currently a student of the University of the West Indies studying Computer Science and Management, said trying to build a business while at university is a huge challenge.
“Building a business while [studying] and working is even more of a challenge. Sometimes I want to do it all and I have to remind myself to settle down and recollect. Although I took part-time jobs while on breaks from school, I didn’t want it to get in the way of bettering myself. Even if it is necessary to invest time in other things, you should always find time to invest in yourself.”
Sandy Isle’s main service is custom-designed clothing and swimwear. However, services such as clothing repair, alterations and transformations are offered. Dara is also beginning to offer products such as home décor pieces, items for pets and helping creative minds, such as cosplayers, bring life to their pieces.
“I try to keep the designs I make reflective of who I am as a person as well as what I know people will love. There have been plenty of times when I’ve made something for myself and people wanted me to make it just for them. My designs usually follow 2 C’s – classy and comfortable.”
She added: “Some are dressy while others are casual. The services of alterations and transformations help persons to save money, especially as times are how they are now. Instead of throwing pieces in the closet away, I show you what those amazing pieces can be turned into. Something old into something new.”
Sandy Isle has grown through both social media and with word of mouth. Dara now boasts a healthy clientele ranging from children to young adults.
“A vast amount of my clients are persons who know or are familiar with me and that goes to show how supportive persons can be. Social media has helped me a lot in getting the word out there. I have made clothing for children, young adults, middle-aged persons and even seniors. The majority of them, however, are young adults like myself.”
The business owner said customer satisfaction is key above all else. “My number one goal is to always have the client leave with a smile. When making custom clothing, there are many things that can go wrong and sometimes clients have more detailed needs or want for their pieces. Customer satisfaction is everything to me. Making sure the client is comfortable and actually listening to what they have to say can go a long way. One of the best feelings in my work is seeing my clients’ faces when they see their pieces and watching them leave with a smile.”
The fashion designer told Today’s Fashion what keeps her going. “My personal motivation comes from my loved ones and knowing what I want for myself. Through everything I’ve done, my family, friends and significant other have been behind me, no matter how crazy the idea may seem. They are my backbone, they remind me of my strength and push me to get things done.
“My professional motivation comes from the inspiring stories of others. Persons who go against the odds and don’t let negative thoughts or energy get in the way of their betterment is very encouraging. I love to see people achieve their goals and chase their dreams and it pushes me to do the same,” the former student of Christ Church Foundation said.
Dara tells others who are pursuing their dream career to: “Invest in yourself. Everything doesn’t always go according to plan. Some things take longer than others and some get worse before they can get better. Sometimes you only know if the idea is bad or good if you try it. Don’t let self-doubt take control and tarnish your creativity.
“Don’t ever compare yourself to others or their work. Do what suits you, what represents you and your brand and what you are passionate about. Finally, don’t rush the process,” she advised.
Dara, who admitted that she wanted to be a veterinarian at one time, said sewing is one of her main ways to unwind.
“I just love to do it that much. Along with that, I like to learn new things. I’m currently trying to give myself a refresher in French, learning to make certain types of accessories and learning how to make animations. Oh, and you’ll most likely find me in the kitchen making some sort of pastry. I get that from my mom and my grandmum.”
Her business journey, academic pursuits and life, in general, have taught her a few things.
“As I’ve grown, I have definitely learned many things, whether it be the easy or hard way. One thing you should never take for granted is your happiness. Many find themselves putting the happiness of others before their own and it eats away at you, makes you lose a part of yourself, if not all of yourself.
“You will never have a fulfilling life if you don’t look out for your own happiness. It may sound cliché, but it’s the truth. Make yourself happy and spread it with as many people as you can,” Dara said. (IMC)