Budding designer influenced by Kenya trips
For a long time Aura Jones kept her fashion designs behind closed doors.
She's a little shy, and making clothing was a hobby.
“My own family didn't know I designed clothes,” said Ms Jones, originally from Lisbon, Portugal. “Then, three months ago, I decided it was time to come out of my shell.
“A friend started encouraging me to introduce my fashions in Bermuda. I thought it was a good place to start. Bermuda is the smallest place I've ever lived, but it is full of young, talented designers.”
Her work made its runway debut at the Fashion Art Music Expo at Chewstick last July. “When my designs came out, the excitement was huge,” said Ms Jones. “It was huge because I never thought I could get into the fashion world. The audience whistled, applauded and cheered. I even got a few orders and sold a few things.”
Between 50 and 100 people attended the event also showing the work of designers Rene Hill, Deane Williams, Desiree Riley and Edith Rookes.
“We didn't have the crowd we wanted,” said Ms Jones. “I don't think we publicised it well. But people liked the designs we had to offer and the variety.”
In fact, things went so well she was invited to take part in the Fashion Collective Show in November at the BSoA.
Her designs are a mixture of African, Asian and western styles. She has been heavily influenced by frequent trips to Kenya.
“I spend weeks at a time there,” she said. “It's like my second home.”
She does most of her designing and sewing in Kenya.
Her parents were from Cape Verde, a group of Portuguese- speaking islands 600 miles west of Senegal.
“When I grew up in Portugal, everything inside was African, from what we ate to the music we listened to,” she said. “We spoke Creole. When we stepped outside the house, then we were in Europe.”
She calls her line Leluka Designs, a nod to her Portuguese background.
“I thought for a long time about what I wanted to call it,” she said. “Leluka felt the most right. It was my childhood nickname. It meant ‘naughty child'.”
Ms Jones feels intimately connected to her work.
“I have to admit that a lot of my design is a piece of me and my life,” she said. “And I have had a very colourful life.”
She first came to Bermuda 12 years ago to work at Freddie's Pub on the square in St George's.
“I came for one year to work as a waitress,” she said. “I had been living in Sweden and had just ended a relationship. I wanted to get out of Europe.
“I'd been working in hospitality for ten years. I sent my CV to lots of countries and the United States and Bermuda responded. I had never heard of Bermuda before, so that was exciting.”
She said Freddie's could be a little rough sometimes, but it kept St George's humming.
“It was packed every night of the week,” she said. “I think St George's is really quiet in the evening now without it.”
She later married here and had two children.
Ms Jones now works part time as an upholsterer and interior designer at Rene Hill Originals Design and Tailoring Studio on Reid Street.
“My boss, Rene Hill, has helped me a lot,” she said. “She has really encouraged me.”
She said when she first came to Bermuda she was a little surprised at the poor range of ethnic clothing on offer.
“Bermuda has colour, but it is not so big on ethnic designs,” she said, “not just African, but also Asian designs.”
Through Leluka Designs, she hopes to bridge that gap.
She has more than 50 pieces she's designed, most of it summerwear.
“Now I'm going to start on a winter collection,” she said.
Ms Jones said the first time she came to Bermuda, she came with only summer attire.
“I didn't know it got cold here,” she laughed.
“I had to go out and buy a whole winter wardrobe in order to cope.”
See her on Facebook under Leluka Leluka or contact her through Rene Hill Originals at 535-0154.