Basic is boring for local designer Jones
Christine Jones is a fashionista. She loves wearing clothes and she loves buying them.
Accessories are a particular passion for her.
“Right now I am into eye glasses,” she said. “I have about seven pairs at home.”
She buys her frames online inexpensively.
But she finds the shopping experience in Bermuda "horrible“.
She struggles to find clothing she likes in the plus size range.
“I wish I could say something better,” Ms Jones said. “Especially with the bigger stores downsizing, or completely wiping out their plus size departments.”
A lot of what is available in Bermuda, just does not seem fun to her.
"I like clothes that don’t cling,“ she said. ”I like things that are current. I like trendy. I don’t understand why plus size is not a bigger industry in Bermuda. There is a large demographic of plus size women.”
Rather than complain, she is doing something about the problem by designing clothes for the “plus-sized, curvy market” under her own label Thirty86.
“The bonus of having my own label is that I can design the kind of clothes I like to wear,” she said. “I am a self-proclaimed glitter queen. Everything I do has a bit of sparkle to it. My ‘Basic is Boring’ sweat tops have sequins, glitter, colour and sometimes even tulle.”
As a child, she always loved drawing and sketching clothing.
When she was eight years old, she was assigned a class project on Queen Elizabeth II. While the other children dutifully studied the Queen’s life, she researched her wardrobe.
“I remember the teacher commenting that I had drawn all her outfits,” Ms Jones laughed.
As an adult her love of clothing only deepened.
“But instead of fashion, she went into graphic design.
“I saw myself as doing art, but I never thought of fashion design,” she said.
It was not until 2015 that her old passion reasserted itself.
“I started out designing T-shirts for Cup Match,” she said.
From there it seemed natural to sketch up other types of clothing such as dresses and tops.
“My parents weren’t surprised,” she said. “They were more surprised I didn’t go into it sooner.”
In 2018, she entered her sketches into the Bermuda Fashion Festival. When they were accepted, there was just one problem; she did not know how to sew.
“I could hand sew, and put a couple of buttons on and a hem,” Ms Jones said. “But the actual sewing part, I had no idea. I can’t tell you why I never learnt to sew.”
She had bought herself a sewing machine for Christmas the year before.
“I decided the day I put my submission in to pull my sewing machine out of the box that I had never opened,” she said.
She got some help from her older brother Lincoln Raynor-Saldana, who is also a fashion designer.
“When I ask him for help he says, oh, I thought you knew everything,” she laughed. “In the future we might do a show together.”
She also learnt a lot from watching sewing tutorials on YouTube and Google.
Her first Bermuda Fashion Festival was an amazing, but terrifying experience.
“Due to me learning everything on the spot, it was a scary process and I even had a bit of impostor syndrome, because I was showcasing among other talented designers,” she said. “Once the show was happening and I watched my inspiration, concepts and hard work come down the runway, my heart was so full and I was overwhelmed with such self pride!
“I didn't receive any prizes, but the experience was a life award within itself. The finale look for my Island Days collection was my most revered, as it was a mural of Bermuda illustrated in fashion.”
She founded Thirty86 a few months after the festival.
“My boyfriend, Bervin Lee, said why don’t you go into doing T-shirts first, until you have a better grasp on what collections you want to put out first, and what season you want to put out first,“ she said. ”He said at the very least, you will get your name in people’s mouths. So that is what I have started to do. I have a few different things I have brought out already.“
The coronavirus health crisis has forced her to develop her brand further.
Before the pandemic she was working full-time in retail in Hamilton. When schools moved into remote learning she had to take time off to supervise her four year old daughter.
“Then when school started she caught a cold,” Ms Jones said. “If your child has a runny nose you can’t send them to school. Then I caught the flu from her. I couldn’t leave her with my mother, as I would have before the pandemic, because my mother is also a caregiver.”
She used up all her vacation and sick days. Her options were take unpaid leave to care for her daughter when she was unable to attend school, or take a reverse furlough.
“I would have owed my company days,” she said.
In the end, she quit her job.
“It was definitely a relief, but it was also overwhelming, because I have to cover this section of income,” she said.
She and her boyfriend also run fragrance store, The Oil Shop.
“I am the managing partner,” she said. “That has been around for about 13 years.”
The store was located in Southampton, but they had to close the physical shop when the pandemic hit.
“It was a monthly expense we just couldn’t afford,” she said.
But they are now online and doing well.
In September, she joined the latest Ignite cohort to help build up Thirty86.
“My first batch has been good,” she said. “I did two T-shirts and two sweat shirt designs.”
She wanted to launch her designs in October or November, but because Covid-19 has slowed down global shipping, she did not get her products to sell until two weeks before Christmas.
“I took pre-orders,” she said. “I had quite few orders.”
Later this month she plans to put out T-shirts she designed with a tree frog and longtail design.
With the next shipment, she is giving herself more time to take into account shipping delays.
“I do have a collection in the works, but I don’t think it will be out until before summer,” she said.
Ms Jones is also working on building a website.
For more information see her on Facebook under @Thirty86 and on Instagram @Thirty86bda or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.