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Essence of womanhood

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Essence of womanhood

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When did you first become interested in design?
From as far back as I can remember, I was always interested in fashion. I remember from the age of nine or ten my mother taking me to my seamstress for us to sit and design various outfits for special occasions.
So, from a young age my goal was to be different, and I did this through fashion. I then began modelling at the age of 17 and soon took on the role of stylist at the age of 24, but it wasn’t until completion of my Bachelor’s in business and after styling various clients in Barbados and in the United States that I realized that I was not truly expressing myself as the artist that I know I am.
Such a realization pushed me to follow my dream and pursue a career as a fashion designer.  
How would you say your approach to fashion is different? Or what message do you want your designs to convey?
I would say that with regards to my approach to fashion, I strive for difference and oneness with my pieces. My goal with each ASMI piece is for them to tell a story, causing them to stand out amongst all others.
I therefore embrace vibrant colours, complicated prints and intense fabrics and fuse them together to create a unique and expressive ASMI design.
The message of ASMI is that of strength. My goal as a designer was to create a brand that truly defined a woman; a brand that embodied all the qualities I saw in them: strength, independence, elegance and true beauty.  
Since you live in Miami, have you found it difficult to break onto the fashion scene?
Yes, I must say that at first I found it difficult and even frustrating, but then I realized that it is up to me to make the best of my situation and my environment.
Once I came to that realization and embraced what Miami had to offer with regards to fashion and its opportunities, doors began to open for me. I received requests to be featured on morning show segments such as Miami Now TV, magazine features and requests from boutique owners to view my designs I am now a firm believer that hard work never fails, and only the best will come if one continues to make the best out of his or her situation.  
Why is it important for you to incorporate Barbados into your designs?
My designs are based on my inspirations. No matter where I go or how far I travel, Barbados is my home and I love my country. That simple fact inspires me daily and it is embedded in my designs.
My inspiration also stems from my background. I am Afro-Barbadian with my mother being from Barbados and my father from Tanzania, Africa, and it is not only my love for these countries that inspire me but it is also the strength of the women of these countries
My mother raised me to be strong, independent and ambitious, and those are the qualities I see when I look at the women of Barbados, and as Caribbean women, direct descendants of Africa, such overwhelming beauty motivates and encourages me to create and design something beautiful.  
How receptive has your family been to your career choice?
My family supports me 100 per cent and they are always there when I need them, especially my mother. She is my motivation.
On the days that I feel frustrated and overwhelmed I remember that they are here in Barbados cheering me on and I know I must make them proud. In fact, it was my brother who encouraged me to pursue my Master’s in fine arts with a focus in fashion design.
Without any doubts he saw my intense love for fashion and he knew my potential. He encouraged me to follow my dreams and put my best foot forward.
Creative professions like fashion design allow you to really be expressive. How has fashion design fuelled your creative expression?
Fashion design has allowed me to think outside the box; some days I feel like a scientist in a lab experimenting with various fabrics, trimmings and details to create a unique piece. With all of my designs I try to add an element of difference.
This is usually achieved using either a technique, fabric choice or colour collaboration that would have been least expected. What I enjoy about fashion design is that every day I discover something new and not only do these discoveries fuel my creative expression but they also inspire me to create a one of a kind ASMI design.  
What do you want women to take away from your designs?
I want women to take from my designs all the qualities I see in them. I want them to wear an ASMI original and recognize their strength, independence and elegance and, most of all, I simply want them to see and recognize their true beauty.
Where would you like to see yourself in the future?
I see myself designing ASMI originals for women throughout the Caribbean and I see ASMI collections being sold.