STYLE FASHION

DESIGNER FOCUS INTERVIEW: PETA ODINI

Anthony Best Lifestyle Editor

Soca artiste Skinny Fabulous by Antony Scully in Peta Odini

Skinny Fabulous|Photo: Antony Scully|@scullman

PETA ODINI SUTHERLAND is an island girl with a beckoning reputation for style. She’s the force behind the emerging menswear line, Peta Odini and artistic director for the soca music titan Skinny Fabulous.  In a relatively short career, Odini has excelled at doing what some established names have struggled to achieve: a signature aesthetic with her Peta Odini label. Odini challenges the Caribbean style palette with an unapologetic originality. Her story begins in the picture-perfect and desirable backdrop of the island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines SVG) and is rooted in a world of bold prints and daring colours.

BEHIND THE TALENT

Odini Sutherland, designer by Peta Odini, Photo: Errol Sutherland Photograher

Odini Sutherland|Photo: Errol John Photography

Peta Odini Sutherland is your typical island girl next door with a melodic accent, cascading dreadlocks, cool friends and a love for carnival. She is disarmingly friendly with a sass that is unmistakably “island”. These rudimental characteristics manifest themselves in her points of view, which are fresh with edginess and echo a definitive staying power.

“I used to be a model, which is still funny to me, because I now own no heels and no make up”. Funnier too, because Odini won that contest, in the early 2000s, vying to be the face of a regional lifestyle magazine. We loved her even then and wanted to see her excel. Little did we know that it was not to be in the way we had imagined.

Where did your passion for design come from?

“I am not sure. My mom is an accountant, she used to sew when she was younger, but back then I think many persons did, as there was limited access to fashion. She would quickly sew up something to wear to an event. So maybe a little bit from her indirectly. I always drew things, but I can’t even remember the exact moment when I felt like this was something I really, really wanted to do seriously”, She responds with her usual spontaneity.”

Where in SVG can we find the desires of your heart?

“Besides atop the hill where my mother’s house is, I would definitely have to say in Bequia, a small island off the main Vincentian island. It is what I imagine heaven would be… (or should be, complete with Mac’s Pizza)… When I was a young girl, I think life was pretty good. We had a strong sense of community, which sometimes could be annoying when your mom still finds out all the shenanigans you’ve been up to (Odini laughs).”

It’s not long before she also let’s out that she… loves…to party! Especially, at carnival, known as “Vincy Mas”.

“Skinny once said that Vincentians don’t party normal and I will always love Vincy Mas for that. Our music, especially our power soca, is something special. And I always tell people, you haven’t partied until you have partied in Vincy”.

MISS INDEPENDENT

It’s resoundingly clear that Odini is a free thinker who really follows her heart.

“I was working as a Marketing Executive at Cable & Wireless (now trading as LIME) and then I realized I really wanted to go and do a degree in fashion. I had a friend who kept saying, well go do it, then finally I plucked up the courage to apply to schools and then it was off to London.”

Soca artiste Skinny Fabulous by Antony Scully in Peta Odini

Skinny Fabulous|Photo: Antony Scully|@scullman

Though many may argue she stands a greater chance at success if she worked in London, she never lets you forget where her heart is truly.  “When I am overseas I feel like I’m adrift and then I get home and things make sense again. Especially when I go up the hill behind our house and I feel like I’m all alone in the entire world, that’s a pretty amazing feeling.”

But no matter where she is based, her voice is being heard through her designs.

“Someone once messaged me after buying a pair of my shorts and said that they made them feel really happy. I think that was one of my best moments. I mean how cool is that?”
“I’m always worried I’m not doing enough. I can’t do everything that needs to be done by myself. And that needs to be rectified.” – her statement sounds like a pep talk you give yourself before doing something big – “… I don’t think I’ve found that yet. It’s all very one-sided right now” – a realization that right now, Odini is so committed to fashion.

The scenario begs the question: Does a Caribbean designer and a label like Peta Odini need a global audience to be successful?

“I don’t think it is a necessity, but I think it would help. The region is fairly small, and if you’re developing a niche product, which is where I believe I find myself this makes your target market even smaller. So I think a wider net has to be cast for long term success”.

A small market is not the only obstacle to a designer in the Caribbean, Odini adds, commenting on the mindset of most persons in the region.

Soca artiste Skinny Fabulous by Antony Scully in Peta Odini

Skinny Fabulous|Photo: Antony Scully|@scullman

We have been completely seduced by mass-market goods and more so, super fast and super cheap fashion. It is hard for the average Caribbean citizen to see the value of spending say EC$300 (US$110) on a well constructed locally/regionally made pair of trousers as opposed to a EC$50 (US$19) pair that will begin to deteriorate after the 3rd or 4th wash. Changing this mindset is a long and laborious task and it’s up to us designers to make sure that when we are charging these prices, that our products can withstand the test of time.

Odini makes it her business to know the business of fashion and her markets. Afterall, she has modelled, worked in public relations and is now a designer.

Odini Sutherland, designer by Peta Odini, Photo: Errol Sutherland Photograher

Odini Sutherland|Photo: Errol John Photography

“I knew [Caribbean] designers. I had worked with them in my capacity as model and PR person at Image Modelling Agency. But, I couldn’t say where you could purchase their clothing. I don’t know what their production process was. People came to fashion shows, but back then I think it was purely to watch, not many people even came with the notion to buy something.”

“Today, however, I think the industry is being rebuilt and there is a fresh drive to keep our Caribbean designers relevant. I think that a lot more business training is needed, I know I could use a lot more guidance in that aspect, as well as in efficient production practices. But I think we are in a place of steady growth now and the only way is up!”

I was really mesmerised by this young entrepreneur in control of her business. This Caribbean girl is destined to be an international brand before long. And in response to any concerns over her love of carnivals and partying too hard when not working, Odini quickly sets the record straight.

“If I’m in Trinidad, I will probably be watching a movie, whether at the cinema or on Netflix. When I’m home, I could be anywhere: the beach, a street corner, a beach bar or in my bed sleeping (more laughter)”. After all Odini Sutherland is just a regular woman with a truly unique perspective and desires.

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