You are now one of the top wedding designers in Barbados. How did you know that creating these dresses was your calling?
“Honestly, it wasn’t really my calling,” Jaye says with a chuckle. The 33-year-old was working as a civil engineer when she felt the longing to explore other creative avenues. “I studied engineering, worked in that field for over a while and then I just realised that engineering wasn’t for me,” Jaye shares as she reflects on those days.
In 2016, Jaye dabbled in fashion and was making flower headbands and jewellery, just as a hobby. Promoters for a local fashion show caught wind of these accessories and invited her to be a part of the upcoming show. In preparing her accessories for the fashion show, Jaye realised that bridal dresses would perfectly accentuate her pieces. Before this time, Jaye had never sewn any garments, not even for herself. But, that day on the runway, many people heard the name Jaye Applewhite for the first time and they loved what they saw. “People were so amazed by what I had presented. It was not traditional.” From there Jaye planned her break away from engineering and her entry into the world of high fashion.
“Getting into creative entrepreneurship is something I’d never considered [or] even entertained before and it just opened up my eyes and my mind and my excitement to a whole new world.
Despite her background in engineering, Jaye knew she could handle the design world. “I have this. It’s all math. I got this. My mind was like, ‘Yeah, you can do this. You can build buildings and bridges.’ You can do this!”
Are your designs influenced by your Barbadian roots?
Though Barbadian by birth, Jaye is the daughter of a St. Lucian mother and Bahamian father. This rich blend of cultural heritage flows through her designs, worn by women from all over the world. In thinking of the Caribbean aesthetic, Jaye creates dresses that are usually light and airy- infused with a very “light island style”. “The lightness, freshness and movement of the dresses are inspired by the beautiful beaches across Barbados and stunning wedding venues,” she notes.
“My dresses reflect the relaxed but luxurious and feminine feel I want to see in a destination wedding,” Jaye reveals.
“I am inspired by the natural beauty of barbados and the effortlessness of it all. I love to create designs that fall beautifully and softly on the body – whether it’s a fitted dress that fits like a second skin or an airy ball gown with layers of soft delicate tulle that move gracefully. I also love to give the illusion of skin peeking through from behind the layers of the dress.”
What is your favourite part of the creation process?
“Great care is taken in the making of each custom dress, each piece of lace applique is meticulously applied by hand, very close attention is paid to all the details and the fit of the dress.
I enjoy working with lace. It is like a puzzle...each piece has its own place. Sometimes it has to look organic, sometimes it needs to look perfectly symmetrical. That’s my favourite.” Maybe it is the creation of an illusion that leads Jaye in her love of lace. “I like playing with translucency and sheerness.. A blend between lingerie and bridal...very romantic.”
The dresses are clearly of very high quality. Where do you source the fabrics and materials?
“I get my fabrics from all over the world, even as far as India, because I want each dress to be unique,” the designer discloses.
In 2017 Jaye showcased her designs at the New York Bridal Fashion Week. Not only was her collection well received, but it also gave her the opportunity to connect with suppliers and vendors from many different countries. These industry connections have helped her to boost her repertoire and offer a wider variety of superior materials.
Are there any icons in the industry whom you admire?
Without a second thought, Jaye says, “Vera Wang!” She continues, “I would like to create a business and legacy like that. I like how she has built an empire around different elements. I believe it is good to diversify a bit and have fun and be able to explore your different options within the industry.”
Despite having no close mentors, Jaye has found ways of slowly building her empire. “We don’t have any Vera Wangs in Barbados so I had nobody to follow. That was actually good because I set off on my own path, determined to build a unique brand with my own signature style.”
Your work so far in Barbados has been impressive. What is your vision for the future of the Jaye Applewaite brand?
“I see myself as an ambitious entrepreneur on the journey to creating a successful Wedding and Lifestyle Empire, and doing the work that I love!
Jaye reveals that despite her success across digital markets, she is looking forward to eventually opening a store. “It would be just nice to have a stunning bridal boutique here and that would encourage visitors as well.”
The talented designer is also considering producing a line of less risque wedding dresses in celebration of the more traditional designs. “Another thing I’ve been talking about is switching to another aesthetic. I know everybody appreciates classic traditional mermaid, ball gown kind of styles,” she says. When I look at my brides, and when I look at my work, it’s almost two separate looks going on. There’s the light airy, sheer, ethereal kind of look. And then there are the brides who go for the more traditional mermaid kind of dresses, and to me, I can almost see the brand begin to separate in terms of aesthetic.”
“The future is wide open!”
Bajan Favourites Q & A with Jaye
Q- If you were to be away from Barbados for a long time, what would you eat?
A- A ham cutter (Bread with a thick slice of ham between.)
Q- What are your top 2 beaches in Barbados?
A- Accra (South Coast) and Heywoods (North Coast) because they are near to bars.
Q- What’s your favourite soca song
A- ‘Roll it’ by Alison Hinds
Q-What’s your favourite staycation spot?
A- Little Good Harbour (without the kids!)
Q- What is your favourite water sport?
A- Definitely snorkelling.
Q- What is your favourite festival?
A- Holetown Festival
Q-What are the top 3 things that you would suggest visitors try in Barbados?
A- Hiking, horseback riding and pudding and souse!
Wedding Dress Transformation
Courtesy: White Linen
A Brief Look at Jaye Applewaite’s designs
Editorial (Sea Island Dreams)