Designer has a fashionable future
Mikaela Eshe Musson-Shaheed was the only senior in her class to wear a dress of her own design.
The theme for the Bermuda Institute banquet was the 1920s — an era marked by flapper girls with long cigarette holders and short skirts. But style isn't about following trends.
“What you wear is a real reflection of who you are,” Ms Musson Shaheed told Lifestyle.
“It might look good on someone else, but it might not be something you're comfortable in. When you wear clothes, you find out new things about yourself. Like, oh, I never knew I could wear this, I look nice in it or, I don't really like the way I look in this. It's not a direction I want to go in.”
She based her long, black dress with fishtail skirt and lace cap sleeves on styles researched online. “I'm the only one who made my own dress,” she said.
“There are a lot of different styles. A lot of different trends, but you're bound to find something that's going to work for you and a lot of stuff that's not going to work for you also.”
The 19-year-old will graduate from Bermuda College next year with an associate's degree in art and design.
Of the various disciplines — painting, graphic design and sculpture — fashion design remains her favourite form of expression.
“It was just something that spoke to me,” she said.
“It's something that I love to do — drawing, sewing.
“I've started making patterns for myself and it's been fun.”
She inherited her love of fashion from both sides of the family — designers Michelle Fray and Rene Hill are cousins.
After class, she works at Ms Hill's tailoring studio; she got her start at age 12 at Ms Fray's summer design camp.
“The first thing I ever made was a shirt from a curtain material,” she said.
“It was hideous.”
Regardless, it made her “happy”.
“I stitched a little heart on it. It was so cute at the time.
It's something I'm proud of because it kind of set me in motion, but it was hideous,” she laughed.
A position with Court Street tailor Beris Brown followed soon after.
Ms Musson-Shaheed said she prefers making clothes for other people and believes fashion should be accessible to all.
“I love the process and helping somebody feel better about themselves through clothes,” she said.
“It's very intimate, fashion design.
“Making clothes for other people, you have to understand how people are going to feel in it.
“You want to make someone feel good.
“Even with alterations, fixing someone's clothes can change a woman's view of herself because she just feels better, whether it's tapered in or let out and if you look sexy, you feel sexy.
“It just changes your perception on the way you are. It's fun and brings me joy.” She showed her collection, Mikaela Eshe, at the Bermuda Society of Arts Fashion Collective this month.
One of her four looks that evening — a crop top and maxi skirt in matching lace worn by model Tessa Dill — was sold.
“That was the one I was most proud of. It looked so good on her,” she said.
“She liked it. She liked the way she felt in it. She looked good.
“That's what I do it for.” She described the collection as “girlie chic” and used materials bought at Qui-ja Fabrics and local upholsterers Anslie's Interior.
“They're good for sourcing suede, leather and that heavy lace,” she said. “I used pink lace and burgundy chiffon and played around with different shapes.
“I also did two off-the-shoulder pieces, a dress and a shirt with big sleeves.” The budding designer seeks femininity and admires the same in other established designers.
She said: “I really like Christian Siriano.
He's playful and fun and colourful. And Diane von Furstenberg.
“She's a woman with power and someone I aspire to be like.”
After graduation, Ms Musson-Shaheed hopes to study fashion design in London. It will put her closer to her mother, who lives near Manchester.
“My mother used to sew a little when I was younger and I watched and helped out a little bit and my aunt also,” she remembered.
“I never thought I could do it until I went to summer camp and saw it was an option for me. It's something I really love.”