The ultimate carnival queen
Kassie Bather started designing because she couldn't find a carnival costume she liked.
Nervous, she kept it a secret from everyone except family and close friends until last year when her Code Red BDA costumes got people talking.
She's hoping the response to this year's designs will be even better.
“I want to be international. My goal is to launch my designs in Barbados, in Cayman, in Bahamas, in Miami ... I love designing for Bermuda, but I want my name out there. My ultimate goal is Trinidad, but I have to make the steps and let my work speak for itself.”
It all started in 2010 when a friend invited her to Trinidad & Tobago for the annual celebrations.
“I like soca music and so thought, ‘Why not?' I fell in love with it. The colours, the feathers, the sparkle, the culture, the atmosphere — the whole vibe was just amazing to me. I'd never seen anything like that before.”
Like everyone else, she chose a costume from whatever was offered. Unhappy with the selection in 2017, she decided to make her own and reached out to Trinidad bandleader Paul Singh. He met her in New York and showed her the ropes.
“He showed me all the trimming places, the fabric stores and how to construct a carnival costume,” she said. “Obviously, I had seen the finished product, but I had no idea what went into making it.”
Back in Bermuda she shared her creation, got some critical feedback and “tweaked it some more”.
She was thrilled when the design was picked up by Code Red ,but at the January launch “didn't want anyone to know I did it”.
“I was so nervous that I would be judged and I was going up against all these people who had been designing for years,” said Ms Bather, who does it all under the name Designs by KassieJade.
More relaxed about it the next year when she led Code Red's Blue Section, she widened the circle of people in the know.
“People were coming up to me saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I can't believe it. A Bermudian did that?' That year Party People and I had the same colour and I was overwhelmed by that and overwhelmed by the feedback I got.”
Inspiration comes from “literally, whatever's around me”; she's been working on this year's design for Code Red since the idea struck last April.
“I put everything in a bubble, I draw it out and I don't stop until the full section is done: front line, back line, plus-size and male.
“I set something down, place the gems and walk away. I come back and fiddle with it and then walk away. Then I take pictures, walk away, look at it and come back.”
She does it all despite not being able to sew and having had no training in design.
“I have a lot of help from Mr [Beris] Brown of J&B Complete Fashions,” said Ms Bather, a section leader for Code Red. “I could not do this without him. I just like clothes, I like fashion and I love carnival. I was like, ‘You know what? Why not marry the two things that I like so much?'
“Last year was the biggest year for me costume-wise. It was the year I [felt confident enough to say], ‘Yes I design. This is me. Look at what I can do.' June 2019 was a sea of red. I couldn't see it at the time because I was overwhelmed, just trying to get through the day. But when I see the pictures and when I heard what people were saying ... I'm hoping this year I can top that.”
A further vote of confidence came from Code Red, which increased her responsibilities for the 2020 carnival.
“Previously I would design the section, build the prototype and give it to Code Red to mass produce. This year I had to design and build and it's my responsibility to mass produce. I have to source the gems and the feathers and everything else. I have to contact manufacturers to get the wire bras done, the body pieces completed.”
Co-ordinating it all has kept her up until 4am for the past few months, having completed a full day at Butterfield Bank where she works as a retail specialist.
“My celebration time is on the actual road,” she said. “That's when I celebrate [although] I feel this year, if it comes off successfully, I may take a trip just to relax.”
• Kassie Bather's designs will be unveiled at Code Red's virtual launch and the following mas camps. For more information, see @designsbykassiejade on Instagram; firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on Code Red, visit coderedbda.com. Bermuda Carnival takes place over Bermuda Heroes Weekend, from June 12 to 15