Oct 25, 2015 News
“What has worked for me and other designers who are successful is that we bring passion to our work workplace and we are focused. Young designers have the luxury of the Internet to do research and get inspiration, so use it to the fullest.”
By Mondale Smith
Many from humble beginnings have unrealized dreams which remain just that. Others are not just in hot pursuit, but have surpassed expectations of grandeur. But few have truly excelled from the local fashion fraternity as has former Princes Street, Wortmanville, Georgetown boy, Roger Gary.
It has been said that Roger’s fashion philosophy encompasses the totality of being a woman on any stage where the clothes and the woman becomes one.
Roger demonstrated signs of his love for art and fashion by his unusual and unpredictable creations. At an early age he attended the E.R. Burrowes School of Art in Guyana under the tutorage of the late Dennis Williams.
He also attended the Jamaica School of Art in Kingston, Jamaica. There, he was encouraged to pursue his true calling – Fashion Design. Moreover, upon his arrival in New York attended Pratt Institute for a year and the Parsons School of Design.
Regarded as a Caribbean fashion icon, he has developed a signature fashion Line of ‘Aqua couture’ that has become a successful international brand. He has honed his skills to produce some of the most elegant eveningwear, daywear and swimwear for his private clientele and fashion-forward customers.
So outstanding are his creations that they have caught the attention of the print media with editorials and feature articles in publications the likes of Woman’s Wear Daily, NY Times, NY Daily News, Caribbean Life, Essence Magazine, Unchin Magazine, British Pride, She Caribbean, The JC Report and others.
He was also the first designer to be featured at the original “Fashion Café in Rockefeller Centre, NYC.
On television, his creations were features on Fashion TV, BCD Instyle, Fox Ch.5, Brooklyn Ch.12, BET’s “Spring Bling”, BET’s “Rip The Runway” and the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards.
To date among the hundreds of fashion events his collections have been showcased during New York Fashion Week, Brooklyn Fashion Week End, Caribbean Fashion Week, Style Week Jamaica, Barbados Fashion Week, St. Kitt’s Fashion Week, Virgin Islands Fashion Week, Summer Sizzle BVI, Guyana Fashion Xpo, The International Designer’s Show, Cayman Island Fashion Week and Kingston Bridal Week.
In recognition of his outstanding talent he was presented with the Caribbean Style and Culture Award in 2011 for his remarkable contribution to the Caribbean Fashion Industry.
Totally in control of the creative process to guarantee the high standard of each garment, Roger believes in offering a quality product that has a touch of fantasy, yet practical and modern.
But this exhilarating son of the soil comes from humble beginnings and fondly recalls that as a child, “I spent a lot of my time at the Public Library, the John F. Kennedy Library (yes, there was such a place) reading books and magazines about art, sports and cultures.”
He went swimming every weekend at Luckhoo Pool where the Marriott Hotel now stands in its place and as a 12-year old, Roger rode thoroughbred horses at D’Urban Park during their morning exercises.
“I wanted to be a jockey, however I couldn’t get an apprentice license without my dad’s signature but he felt it was too dangerous a sport for his “lil skinny boy.” He went ahead riding until a growth spurt ended that hobby.
His artistic side was also being fulfilled as he was often sketching and painting, however it was a family friend, Pamela Bacchus, who first brought out his fashion senses.
Pamela lived a few houses away his at Princess and Hayley Streets. She had an 8-4 job and would come home to find models, pageants girls and fashionistas waiting to get their hair and hairstyles done by her. “I helped out by washing the combs and brushes and handing her the hairpins, etc. and in return I got to tumble through her newspaper clippings and magazines of glamour and “styles”.
Pamela is credited as Roger’s first muse and she took him to his first pageant.
“As a teen, I played badminton and was on the national team for about five years and as fate would have it I was in training for a Caribbean Badminton Championship in Kingston Jamaica when I read about an Art School there,” he fondly recounted.
A light bulb came on and on one of the days off from the tournament, Roger set off with portfolio in hand, for the appointment he secretly set up with the school.
A few weeks later he received a letter of acceptance from the school and before long he was living in Jamaica. He was just19 years old at the time.
“At the school, an American tutor recognized my fashion senses and suggested that I chose fashion as a career and since then I have not looked back with any regret at my career in fashion and design.”
Roger has had many personal standouts moments in his fashion career such as “my first time I showed during New York Fashion Week in 1996, My first magazine lay-out; being featured in “BET”, My first TV fashion appearance; MTV’s Spring Break Beach Show, my first Miss World outfit and my first Miss Universe outfit.”
Roger as a Guyanese is also proud of the hundreds of fashion events that he has participated in at the highest levels regionally and internationally.
While he has made the United States his home, Roger continues to fly the Guyana flag proudly declaring his heritage and Guyanese upbringing and revels in ensuring that he returns to Guyana every chance he gets amidst his busy schedule of outfitting the best and travelling the world.
His advice to budding fashion Designers: “What has worked for me and other designers who are successful is that we bring passion to our work workplace and we are focused. Young designers have the luxury of the Internet to do research and get inspiration, so use it to the fullest.”
According to him too, they have to understand that the fashion industry is not always glamorous. He asserted that the glamour of fashion is a very small part of being a designer adding that the inspiration board, fabric board, research, patterns, samples, etc. takes up a lot of time and that is where being focused comes into play. “One of my personal mottos that has helped me over the years and I remind myself of this during every collection is that I have to be just as deliberate about what I do towards the end of doing a collection as I was in the beginning.”
This in essence means “don’t rush to finish and trade-off on your original ideas just so it can be done.”
Along the way he has not forgotten the less fortunate. One of the charities that Roger is very passionate about is the Calvary’s Mission Food Pantry, an International Christian Hunger and Humanitarian Development Relief Organization. In fact every Saturday morning he joins the group to deliver food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to about 1,000 families and individuals who are in need.
And it is for his passion for fashion and his dedication to helping to improve the lives of others in his own way that Roger Gary is today designated our Special Person.
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