Who: Sonia Noel
Sonia Noel is one of Guyana’s leading designers and over the last 16 years, has become one of the most recognizable names in the Caribbean fashion industry. Prior to this, Noel operated a boutique, which imported clothing for purchase. Even though this boutique housed some of the finest international clothing brands, Noel opted for a personal style that was more reflective of her Afro-Amerindian heritage, much to the delight of her customers. This prompted the fashionista to create the label Mariska’s Designs. Inspired by her older daughter, this brand depicts the many waters, forests and animals of the region. Thereby creating a unique hybrid of Guyanese artistry, Caribbean creativity and an all-pervasive universal style.
Noel’s designs have graced runways at numerous Caribbean Fashion-Week presentations and trade expositions from Jamaica in the north, to Guyana in the south, including the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Antigua, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Vincent and Trinidad. All of the intricate designs, unusual warm and glowing colors, fine fabrics and textures are sagaciously chosen by Noel herself. These pieces can be worn from the beach to the ballroom, and from housewives to first ladies.
Sonia Noel has participated in a number of Caribbean Gift and Craft Shows (re-branded to Design Caribbean) and fashion-week productions with support from Caribbean Export. However, her most recent assistance came during the staging of the London Engage initiative during Summer 2012. The award-winning designer closed out the Caribbean Essence Fashion Showcase with captivating pieces from her line.
The Fashion Showcase served as the opening of Caribbean Export’s Grosvenor House presence and the Agency’s involvement in the African and Caribbean Business Expo in London. Noel shared the stage with five other regional designers at the invitation-only event attended by a mix of industry professionals including manufacturers, stylists and fashion consultants.
Participation in the Fashion Showcase and the subsequent Business Forum led to the establishment of two significant contacts in the United Kingdom: David Roberts, Founder of Carib Direct, a multicultural blog that features a variety of news, lifestyle and entertainment pieces from across the Caribbean and its Diaspora; and Sherry-Ann Dixon, a Marketing and Public Relations Consultant.
Both of these connections have led to the establishment of future initiatives including the launch of Makin’ Styles, a Caribbean Lifestyle magazine, in April 2013 in Guyana and scheduled for June 2013 in New York, London and Toronto; as well as Noel’s participation in the French-Guiana Fashion Week.
The fashion designer extraordinaire will also be launching her new collection from Sonia Noel Designs called First Resort, which is an assortment of breezy ready-to-wear casuals, that can easily transform into trendy classic wear.
There has also been an increase in clientele for the brand Mariska’s Designs following the London Engage event, the majority of which is from the diaspora in the UK.
“Caribbean Export must be lauded for their commitment to entrepreneurs in the region, especially those within the fashion industry,” commented Sonia Noel.
The veteran designer also acknowledged the networking possibilities, media exposure and global visibility that have been afforded to participants in Caribbean Export-supported activities.
Sonia Noel believes that the global attraction and universal appeal of the Caribbean brand places the region in a unique position to maximize on opportunities for growth and export. However, Noel notes “lack of investment is one of the biggest challenges faced by regional entrepreneurs and enterprises”.
“For those within the creative industries, this is compounded by nominal appreciation for the sector. However, Caribbean Export and similar entities recognize not only the cultural, but also the economic potential of the industry and have created a platform to take what the region has to offer to world. There is a great sense of appreciation for what the Agency has done to maximize the reach of the Mariska’s Design brand and for that I am especially thankful”, concluded Noel.