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Design by accident

Risée Chaderton

Design by accident

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While most 22-year-olds are busy planning their outfits for endless rounds of weekend parties, Alexis Campbell is staring at her overlocking machine contemplating the finish of an outfit from the dozens of unfinished pieces that line every surface of her workspace.
The tiny workspace she shares with her father is, thankfully, cool and breezy but sweat beads on her brow as she concentrates on the details. She is hard at work, perpetually at work. It is Tuesday and that is just how it is day and night around Alexis.
The former student of The St Michael School and graduate of Harrison College was once on a course to become either an architect or an interior designer and says that she fell into the world of fashion design by accident.
 “I studied A’Level geometric and mechanical engineering, maths and art at Harrison College but by the end of my time there I was still undecided as to which direction to take.”
It was that indecision that led Alexis to sign up for a course offered at the Barbados Community College (BCC)?in fashion design.
 “I was just killing time, really,” she admitted. “And it took me a very long time to realise that fashion design was actually something that I was good at.”
Recalling her life before fashion, Alexis said: “Just like any little girl, I used to make clothes for my dolls when I was bored and, as I got older, I decided that I hated paying lots of money for the cheaply made clothes found in Bridgetown.”
With a distaste for overpriced garments spurring her on, Alexis decided to make her own clothes. Her first attempts were less than stellar and she recalled with amusement the black and white polka dot pants that were “shooting” and suffered from a badly cut inseam that impaired her movement.
 “My dad saw me in those pants and took me home later and showed my how to cut a pants pattern. I was 11.”
She laughed as she recalled the “horrifying” effort but admitted that it was the constant support from her father Richard that kept her trying her hand at designing over and over again.
The epiphany came for Alexis near the end of her second year at Community College.
 “During that year, coming down to my last  semester, I finally realised that I could make a business of fashion. I didn’t see it like a job, I could sew and still be an artist and still make money.”
In 2009 she showed her first collection for BMEX. Up to this day, she is still amused and stunned by the response.
“It was men’s wear and people were surprised that a little girl like me could do stuff like that. Many people didn’t really believe that I had done all the work myself.”
But she had done all the work herself, having perfected her tailoring skills under the tutelage of her father. Richard Campbell is a tailor with more than 30 years’ experience and Alexis spent many years paying close attention to his pattern-making skills.
 “BCC taught me how to cut patterns and my father showed me how to perfect them. I watched him during my school years and as soon as I was old enough, I started helping in the workroom. I owe a lot of my success to my father.”
Of her future plans, the young designer is enthusiastic.
“I would love to do Caribbean Fashion Week and Islands Of The World fashion show in The Bahamas because I want to show people what Barbados has to offer.”
She also spoke about the door that has been opened by Anya Ayoung-Chee, the Trinidadian designer who wowed the fashion world with her Caribbean charm and design skills on Project Runway.
“I would love to do Project Runway! I think that I could compete with the designers there. I know I could be great and I know I’d do Barbados proud if I ever got the opportunity.”