Samuel Gittens perfecting a look for his brand Opastijar. (Picture by Christoff Griffith.)
Leather bags made from Blackbelly sheep? Ever heard of it? If not, you really are sleeping on Samuel Gittens and his brand Opastijar.
Samuel said he created the bags out of a need to create something unique and special for ladies who constantly requested bags.
“The bags have really mushroomed into something special. I used to make outfits for a lady all the time and she always wanted a bag to go with it, so that’s where it started. So I decided to make it into a business rather that something I was just doing for one person. The bags are a special niche market. We use the Blackbelly sheep leather,” he explained.
The designer said since Barbados had so much original material, he decided to start making use of them.
“We have to start using our own indigenous things. We have burlap, bamboo and the Blackbelly sheep. The bags can rival all those luxury brands. The bags complement the outfits. And we don’t just do the bags or clutches, we also do luggage . . . . Every need for carrying items is met once you come to us,” he added.
And Samuel believes the bags and his brand are ready for the international market.
“We believe that our brand is export ready and can compete with any international brand. We are hoping to get funding from outside or, if not, to self-fund to ensure that our product has the international reach and appeal that we believe and know it has,” he said while showing off his very attractive bags.
However, the designer made an impassioned plea for the fashion sector in Barbados to be properly developed, saying Barbados had a lot to offer the world.
“Fashion design in Barbados is only at the associate degree level and you can’t be a professional at anything and only have an associate’s degree. I try to take people who have finished the associate degree and train them and then make them market – and industry ready. I advocate for higher qualification for sure,” he said.
In giving an example, Samuel, who has been a designer for over 35 years, said it was even hard to source material to complete some of his designs from time to time.
“It’s hard to get the material to complete designs in Barbados. This business of garment construction started out as a way to save money. People would just put together clothing to save money. There’s no single organisation now that is bringing in the finishes or fillings, so until that happens we have to source from the outside,” he said, while explaining that such a venture would be too expensive for any one person to take on.
As for his brand, which focuses on all types of fashion, including headwear, jewellery, footwear, underwear, dresses, bags, Samuel said he would continue to focus on growing it bigger and better.
“We believe that if you come to a fashion house you can get anything you want. You should be able to say this is a one-stop shop where you can source anything you want.
“We also do a lot of education. We train a lot of individuals in clothing and textiles, jewellery making, nail artistry, and more. So we will be focusing a lot more on that aspect of the business as well,” he added. (DB)