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Giving back in YaYa fashion

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Omejae Goater, centre, with models wearing his swimwear line (Photograph by Taiva Paynter)

Omejae Goater’s designs are all on display at YaYa Apparel, the Hamilton boutique he operates out of Old Cellar Lane.

On June 11 his clothes will be part of a tea, hat and fashion show fundraiser for the Berkeley Educational Society.

Mr Goater is one of five graduates of The Berkeley Institute who will share their designs as part of the Dress Code Runway Show.

“Because I came from Berkeley, Ms [Maxine] Esdaille reached out to me to see if I wanted to be a part, being that I was into fashion and I have my own line and because I just recently started [holding] my own shows,” he said.

“I had a fashion show about a week ago at Coco Reef, a local designers’ showcase and she reached out to me to see if I could help out or be a part of [the fundraiser] being that I’m a Berkeleyite.”

Channing Dill, Rochelle Minors, Kennette Burgess and Desiree Riley will also show off their respective lines. Hats have been donated by Jazzy’s Boutique as well as private collections.

The fundraiser is one of several celebrations planned for the year in celebration of the senior school’s 125th anniversary.

“The idea behind this event is to recognise and celebrate Berkeley’s contribution, through its students and alumni, to Bermuda’s fashion culture through the ages,” said Ms Esdaille, the chair of the society’s planning committee.

A trained graphic designer, Mr Goater was working at the clothing store Mambo when his boss asked him to design T-shirts for people working at the parties she threw.

“After I saw the person printing T-shirts for the party I was like well, I might as well try it and do my own designs for my own stuff. And then it just kind of went from there,” he said.

“The first T-shirt that I designed as my own, I just gave it to one of my friends to wear.”

It sparked interest and the requests poured in, which convinced Mr Goater he was headed in the right direction.

Surprisingly, he “didn’t really follow fashion” when he was growing up.

“Not like that. I mean, I liked sneakers. I still do like sneakers. I was always one of the people who had stuff like that but I wouldn't say I was a fashion guru. I just used to keep up with the styles.”

A model wears clothing designed by Omejae Goater (Photograph by Taiva Paynter)

By 2012 he was convinced he had the talent to start “an urban” clothing brand.

“It’s a casual line. I do a lot of tracksuits, T-shirts and jackets, just casual wear. And then summertime it’s swimsuits and, for the ladies, bathing suits and cover ups; guys, shorts and T-shirts, pants, socks.

“I was already into fashion and I worked at a clothing store so I just started to expand. Rather than just doing [custom] T-shirts for people, I said let me do my line.”

He initially focused on clothing for females, because “ladies shop more, especially around summertime with swimwear”.

Models wearing swimsuits designed by Omejae Goater (Photograph by Taiva Paynter)

The response was “pretty good”.

“But I still did, and still do, custom shirts – for funerals and birthdays, all that type of stuff.

Although interest in his T-shirts happened fairly quickly, it took a little longer for people to take notice of his clothing line.

“I didn't really have an actual name at the time. I was just doing designs and stuff until I actually started to try to actually brand it. But people started to gravitate to it.”

Through it all, he donated his time to other designers looking for advice in creating their own lines.

A fashion fundraiser is to be held in support of The Berkeley Educational Society on June 11 (Photograph supplied)

In 2017 he decided to leave the clothing store he was working for and open his own. He named it after his now 11-year-old daughter Yhari, whose nickname is YaYa.

“In the beginning it wasn't too scary because I had the clients. I had a lot of work but I was still at my day job. My main thing was if I left my job I wasn’t going to have insurance. But people were pushing me to just go ahead and do it.

A swimsuit by local designer Omejae Goater (Photograph by Taiva Paynter)

“I had work, whether it be custom work or whatever it was, I had stuff to do.”

What eventually sold him was his reality: “Basically I was at work at my job, and then I had to knock off and go home to do printing,” Mr Goater said.

He decided life would be easier if he just focused on his passion.

The 2003 graduate is looking forward to giving back to his alma mater.

The plan is for each of the five designers to supply “at least five looks” for the runway.

Model selection and fittings are now under way.

The Dress Code Runway Show takes place on June 11 from 3.30pm until 6.30pm at The Berkeley Institute cafetorium. Tickets, $45, are available at ptix.bm, the school office and 27th Century Boutique. For more information: 504-7749; gmesdaille@gmail.com. Follow YaYa Apparel on Instagram

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Published June 01, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated June 01, 2023 at 7:09 am)

Giving back in YaYa fashion

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