Dean Williams (1964-2020)
One of Bermuda’s top fashion designers has died suddenly.
Dean Williams was 55.
René Hill, a clothes designer and former reporter at The Royal Gazette who worked with Mr Williams from 2014 to 2016, said she had learnt a lot from him.
She said his death had “rocked me to the core”.
Ms Hill added: “I last saw him about a fortnight ago and we had a brief chat. He had just returned from the US where he was assisting a mutual friend who was experiencing some health issues.”
Ms Hill said: “The Bermuda fashion world has lost one of its brightest stars. Dean had an eye that was second to none, as he would take an ordinary piece of fabric and would transform it into a thing of beauty.
“In all my years, I haven’t come across anyone with his level of talent and skill.
“We collaborated and worked together for several years in studio and on fashion shows. He will be greatly missed.”
Ms Hill said that Mr Williams’s talents would have shone on the international stage.
She added: “He was seriously talented, but limited by geography. In somewhere like New York, Dean could have been the next Givenchy. It’s sad to see him go.”
Mr Williams, a dressmaker and upholsterer, ran the custom clothing and alterations business Definitions by Deane.
He said his store, opened in 2010 in his Devonshire home and later moved to Hamilton, as “a milestone in a 25-year-long love affair with beauty and grace in fashion”.
Mr Williams said he created his first outfit in 1985, after years of experimenting in clothes and tailoring and doing alterations for neighbours.
He wrote on his website that this “part-time hobby would morph into a vocation”.
Mr Williams studied in New York at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Traphagen School of Fashion in New York City after training in fashion design at Bermuda college.
He later worked as an assistant to prominent Manhattan designer Albert Sakhai.
Mr Williams said his style was “a timeless and classic, yet edgy, design aesthetic”, and highlighted designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen as influences.
He traced his interest in fashion to his mother, Velda Darrell, and her sewing machine.
He told The Royal Gazette in 2011: “She taught me how to operate the machine.
“It wasn’t considered normal when I was growing up. There was always a stigma attached to men sewing and designing. People said you had to have a real job to fall back.”
He added: “I see my work as eclectic, creative and unique. I tend to be proud of what I do, but I would say I am probably most proud of my bridal pieces.”
Mr Williams backed shows in Bermuda through the Bermuda Fashion Collective and praised the island’s “unrecognised designers and creative types”.
He also showcased his line of clothing overseas, including the Small Boutique Fashion Week at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York in 2013.
Mark Anderson, a gay rights campaigner and entertainer whose alter ego is Sybil Barrington, Queen of Bermuda, said Mr Williams was “a living legend”.
He added: “Dean was one of Bermuda’s instrumental fashion designers, going back to when fashion shows were held at the Clayhouse Inn.
“He designed my Gombey dress that I wore in 2006, when the Government banned me from the May 24 parade.”
Mr Anderson said Mr Williams was “a humble, spiritual guy” who would “give you the shirt off his back if he had to”.
He added: “He was always professional, whatever job he was hired to do. His wedding dresses were always on point and he would finish a job the week before it was due.
“If you came to Dean with an idea, he was so creative he could make something out of your plans and it would be better than what you had thought of.
“He never copied. Everything he did was original.”
Mr Anderson compared Mr Williams to the late Italian designer Gianni Versace.
He added: “He is our version of him — Dean Williams is that good.”
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Ada Nyabongo (1926-2020)
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