Browsing Grenadian fashion designer Raquel Leid’s Mt. Sealey Garden collection is like taking a Caribbean vacation. The sunshine yellows, turquoise blues, and emerald greens of her fruit- and flower-motif fabrics reflect the hues of the islands. And the styles, which float away from the body and flow in the breeze, are perfect for Caribbean climes. Striking A-line dresses, dramatic palazzo pants, and cute cropped tops look like the work of an expert and experienced designer. And they are. But they’re also the creation of a designer who’s self-taught, makes each piece herself, and unashamedly admits that she learned almost everything she knows from YouTube sewing tutorials!
We caught up with the teacher-turned-designer behind the Always Leid brand for her take on island style.
Stitching It Together
I grew up in the parish of St. Andrew, Grenada, and was always obsessed with fashion. I started sketching when I was six and dabbled in DIY projects in my teens. In 2013, I was accepted into fashion school, but couldn’t go because of financial restrictions. But I didn’t let that deter me. I bought a sewing machine and began watching tutorials on YouTube. At the end of 2013, I did my first fashion showcase, featuring pieces made from unconventional materials such as woven nylon from bags used to package chicken feed. And I haven’t looked back since!
I was a teacher for more than six years and although I liked it, I was torn because I wasn’t giving my brand, Always Leid, everything I could. Juggling the two just became too demanding, and in 2017 I chose Always Leid. But teaching taught me organizational skills and to be patient and resilient — skills I use everyday in my work as a designer.
I love vibrant colors and bold prints; vintage fabrics and silhouettes; and pop culture. I try to combine these influences with my experiences growing up West Indian to create something that’s unique and aesthetically pleasing. Because I’m self-taught my production range is limited, so I do a lot of prototypes on muslin to ensure that I get the effect that fits in with my vision (I’m a bit of a perfectionist). My current collection, Mt. Sealey Garden, is inspired by my beloved late grandfather’s garden.
Clothes As Art
The Always Leid Girl/Woman is quirky, bold, and stylish. She believes that fashion is an art form and treats her clothes like wearable art. Her clothes speak….
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By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
Photo: Always Leid