WHEN Tabitha St Bernard is not designing for Century21.com, showing collections at New York Fashion Week and selling her collections in stores in the US, this Trinidad-born, New York-based fashion designer and co-founder of Tabii Just is dressing celebrities for the red carpet. The latest celebrity to don the Tabii Just label is style icon and actress of the hit series Orange Is The New Black, Danielle Brooks.
Brooks' stylist reached out to St Bernard to work with her on a custom design for an event she was to attend in New york City (NYC).
“Danielle is a style icon that represents beauty and confidence regardless of size. She owns her curves and knows what flatters her best. She also loves bold colours and making a strong statement on the red carpet,” St Bernard tells Woman.
The first time they met, the two discussed what designs she liked, they worked on a sketch and St Bernard pulled some fabrics she thought Brooks would like. St Bernard had two weeks to pull off the look. Although she usually works with a factory to manufacture her clothing line, St Bernard did the look entirely by hand. She was ecstatic with the end result and more so after it was featured in People Magazine's Style Watch edition.
“I love how bright colours look against her skin tone. We knew we wanted something young, fun and a little sexy...she really owned the look for the event and looked amazing,” she says.
It seemed like just yesterday when Woman first caught up with St Bernard - a graduate of the New York Fashion Institute of Technology - when she had launched Tabii Just in 2012. It was the first time we had heard anything about sustainable fashion. Tabii Just is a womenswear label like no other and that's because it promotes conscious consumerism. For instance, every article of clothing is made not in a sweatshop in some corner of Asia but in a factory in NYC using local labour. Tabii Just also has a zero waste policy, no scrap of fabric goes to waste, once appropriate even the minimal scraps are used and transformed into other items. Tabii Just was named one of ten eco-friendly designers to know by Brooklyn Magazine.
Tabii Just was St Bernard's first baby, so when her son came along, things were very different for the first few months. St Bernard found that balancing her career and motherhood was one of the hardest things she's ever done.
“At one point, I was up at three in the morning doing feedings and instead of sleeping when he slept, I would go right to work on my sewing machine and try to get things done. It was insane and I had to stop myself and just allow myself to focus solely on motherhood for a while. When I stopped fighting it, I started to really enjoy just being with the baby and watching him grow,” she says.
St Bernard feels fortunate to have a career that allows her to bring her son to work with her but she also has a strong support system at home. Her husband also takes their son to his office so that St Bernard can focus on her work.
“I think it's impossible to find a perfect balance and the sooner moms stop putting pressure on themselves to do that is the sooner they will be happy. Watching him grow is the most rewarding, beautiful experience of my life but that doesn't take away from the joy and fulfillment I get from my career,” she says.
Tabii Just is doing really well, says St Bernard, and she's about to take the clothing line to another level in a “stunningly visual way”.
“Tabii Just turns three this year and the progress has been steady. I was also really excited to bring a collection back home to Tobago Fashion Weekend and I finally visited the fashion school at UTT. I was completely bowled over by the talent and skill level of the teachers and students. Right now, I'm prepping for Spring 2016, which will be launching this Fall,” she says.
We at Woman could not pass up the opportunity to ask St Bernard for a few fashion designer tips. Here they are, five tips for dressing an actress for the red carpet.
1. It's Not About You
Most seasoned actresses know what works best on them. They know their way around a red carpet and have seen the pictures that come from these events. They know what looks most flattering. As a designer, don't get caught up in designing for yourself. This is more their moment to shine than it is yours. If you don't make them look their best and feel confident, the result will not be great and the collaboration won't be worth it in the end. If she looks good, you look good.
2. Accentuate SOMETHING
I love comfortable, loose-fitting clothing but it drowns on the red carpet. The camera does really put on 10 pounds. It's always best to define something, be it the waist or the shoulders or the legs. Rihanna wore a massive coat-like dress for the Met Gala but her shoulders were peeking out. There has to be some indication that there's a body under there.
3. Make A Statement
It's always fun for me to work with actresses who love fashion and the red carpet. It's the perfect place to make a strong statement because all the lights and attention are on the outfit. When you're dressing someone for the red carpet, think about what would be memorable and what would leave a lasting impression. Think about colour, silhouette and fit and design to wow!
4. The Outfit Must Be Comfortable
I hate to see women on the red carpet who are too busy keeping their dress from slipping down or struggling with straps to have any fun with the camera. If the actress is not comfortable, she won't be able to have fun. I always focus on comfort. Even if it's tiny snaps to keep the top attached to the bottom or double-sided tape, it's a must for her to not worry about her outfit falling apart on the carpet or something unwanted popping out....unless she wants it to.
5. Deadlines are literally set in stone
If you're a designer and you're not good with deadlines, you need to fix that pronto. Red carpets happen whether your outfit is ready or not. If you're working with an actress on a look for an event, deadlines are set in stone. You need to move mountains to ensure that they are kept. Why? If your outfit is not ready for her fittings and the final event, you better believe her stylist can make a few calls and get her another look in no time. It's inconvenient for them and they will definitely never work with you again but they will do it in a heartbeat. If you decide you want to design for the red carpet, be prepared for crazy deadlines and be prepared to keep all of them.