Fashion designer tells young Bermudians to keep at it
Lyn Winford grew up in Devonshire in a creative family.
Her late father, carriage driver Howard “Hubby” Charles, would sketch saddles, and carriage rigging. Her mother, Catherine Charles, would help him bring his ideas to life.
“We were always making things, like wicker fenders, or taking an old wheel from a broken carriage and turning it into something else,” said Ms Winford, 47.
As a little girl, she loved sketching and making clothing for her dolls. Although her parents supported her creativity, she felt girls her age were pushed towards law, medicine or teaching.
She had no idea you could even go to school to study fashion, until she entered a biology programme at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama.
“I called my mother and said I wanted to switch to fashion design,” she said. “She said when I finished my science degree I could apply to fashion school. If I got in, I could go.”
Ms Winford was admitted to the prestigious Polimoda fashion school in Firenze, Italy, listed by Forbes magazine as one of the best in the world. She finished her fashion degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
Since then she has worked for the Department of Tourism, been creative director for the America’s Cup and Sail GP, designed her own fashion line Billow & Luft, and run art studio, Pixie Grotto, with her husband, Ken Winford.
Next month she will teach a four-week course in fashion illustration for the Bermuda National Gallery.
She said it was part of the BNG’s push to add more creative educational programming.
It will cover the basics.
“They do entire degrees in this type of thing and we only have a short time,” Ms Winford said. “We will look at how to start tailoring and we will look at photos of models in magazines to find inspiration.”
Participants will learn how to draw a professional nine-head croquis (fashion figure) from multiple angles, while observing the movement of the body. They will also touch on everything from developing a style to keeping a fashion diary.
“If you see an interesting leaf, or a piece of lace, or something on television like a dress Beyoncé is wearing, collect that into your journal,” she said. “You have to pay attention to what is speaking to you.”
Her advice to young people who want to get into fashion design is keep at it.
“Go to school for it,” she said. “Learn as much as you can. Pursue it. It will open your mind.”
While she was in university doing her bachelor’s degree, she often sketched on an ironing board in her bathroom, her only free space.
At the end of her time at FIT, she interned at the New York headquarters of famous fashion designer Ralph Lauren.
“It was magical,” she said. “I was there for the spring collection in 2006. If I could have afforded to stay there as a non-paying intern, I would have. They were so different compared to other places I worked at.”
She loved how the firm showed kindness and respect for everyone from the top down.
One day a lady in charge of accessories asked her if she wanted coffee.
“I thought they wanted me to go get it,” she said. “I was the intern. Instead, she said no, I’m asking if you want any.”
Ralph Lauren would set up special rooms to fit the theme of the moment. If the team was creating riding gear, for example, there would be a tack room. If they were designing with 1930s glamour in mind, everything would be silk and ostrich feathers.
“Ralph Lauren himself was always approachable,” Ms Winford said. “He was always in and out.”
They never used any of her ideas or designs but she was OK with that; she was happy to be learning.
“I met Suzanne Levine who was a renowned podiatrist in New York,” Ms Winford said. “I was a patient of hers. She invited me to her house for Passover.”
One of Ms Winford’s fellow guests was Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley.
“I could not believe I was sitting in this posh Park Avenue apartment with these people,” Ms Winford said.
Afterwards, Mr Talley drove her home and thanked her for not pestering him for a job.
“He appreciated that I let him enjoy his dinner,” she said.
Mr Talley suggested she design new lab coats for Dr Levine who was a personality in New York City and about to appear in Vogue magazine.
“She ran what was like a medi-spa before its time,” Ms Winford said.
Ms Winford made the gowns in a powder blue.
“That was my first paid gig,” she said.
She returned to Bermuda to work for the Department of Tourism but always did fashion design in her spare time.
“I was still trying to do my own thing,” she said. “I was fortunate to get an opportunity to work on the America’s Cup on the international side. I experienced significant growth there.”
Her boss, Antonio Bertone, was head of marketing at athletic-wear brand Puma for 20 years.
“He was an amazing guy, who taught me to think big,” Ms Winford said. “He would say ‘the sky is the limit. Don’t worry about the budget. We will bring your ideas back into budget later’.”
More recently, through her line Billow & Luft, she designed a series of white blouses for retail store Tabs in Bermuda but stopped doing that when they did not sell well.
“If I was in New York, they would have sold like that,” she said snapping her fingers. “There was not enough of a market here to move the product. You have to sell and be profitable.”
The BNG fashion illustration workshop will run from September 6 to 27 on Wednesdays from 5.30pm to 7.30pm. The cost is $150 for BNG members and $200 for non-members. This class is open to ages 15 and over.
Participants must supply their own materials; a suggested material list will be provided. BNG members receive a 10 per cent discount at the Stationery Store.
For more information.