Culture, quality, experience and promise have been the main attributes of the subjects of our ID (Intl. Digest) features. Theodore Sealy of the Theodore Elyett design label is only the second talent to be featured, in front of New York trailblazer Mateo Bijoux. Theodore is the 2013 winner of the Jamaican Reality design competition; Mission Catwalk, beating out fellow Bahamian David Rolle and Jamaican up comer Renardo Lloyd. His tenure on the rock have racked up a number of well profiled companions in MCW judge Novia McDonald Whyte, Gleaner’s ‘It-Boy’ Garfene Grandison and Boutique Maven Kerry-Ann Clarke. Preceding the filming of Mission Catwalk Theodore returned to the Rock on three separate occasions to as he says “experience more of the island’s culture” as a promise to himself.
Our interest was sparked in Theodore Elyett mid-season of MCW when –after hours of researching who to favor- we stumbled upon his well established label back in Bahamas. Big hair, arched backs and visibly high quality fabrics and design work is what made us -very early on- name him as our winner. Now we ‘sit down’ with the twenty-nine year old designer of 16 years to talk about his MCW win, designing for Queens, his Jamaican adventures and then some.
The early years of my fashion career were spent as a costume and evening gown designer for the Miss Universe Bahamas and Miss World Bahamas pageants. Within the past three years I have managed to rebrand the eponymous label, with a geared focus on producing ready-to-wear collections. Over the past seven years I served as the President, Executive Producer and National Director for Theodore Elyett’s Miss Teen Bahamas Beauty Pageant.. The event attracted Hollywood personalities such as Lisa Raye McCoy, Miss Universe finalist Priscilla Perales of Mexico, Americas Next Top Model reality TV superstar Bianca Golden and more. I also had a stint as Operations Manager of the - award winning, Islands of The World Fashion Week where I worked with international brands B Michael America, Project Runway’s Nick Verreos, Kenneth Cole and others.
When you first landed in Jamaica for Mission Catwalk, what was your opinion and expectation as it regards to the show’s production, talent and opportunities?
I became a fan of Mission Catwalk during its second season, so I was quite familiar with what I would expect once I was casted for the reality competition. Long before landing in Jamaica I knew that MCW would have been an exciting but extremely challenging undertaking. When you consider that 15 of the Caribbean’s best emerging fashion designers converged for a fashion battle, it was a pretty awesome experience. The opportunities that were presented for the winner served as an adequate goal post to keep me focused. MCW definitely provides a lucrative platform for young designers who are serious about pursuing a career in fashion.
Was this your first time on the Island? If no; briefly take me back to that trip or one of those trips if more than one?
MCW provided me with my first experience of Jamaica. The filming process during the show was very rigorous, but I promised myself that once the season was complete I would travel back to experience more of the island’s culture and tourist attractions. I’ve had three visits to Jamiaca outside of my MCW experience. I’ve had the chance to experience it’s nightlife, Rastafarian culture at Bulls Bay, exceptional Jamaican cuisine and landscapes at Boon Hall, Fern Gully on the way to Ochi, a pit stop at Faith’s Pen in the mountains, Dunn’s River Falls, Summerest Falls, zip lining and bob sledding at Mystic Mountain, Dolphin Cove, the world’s 4th best ice cream at Devon House…the list is unending.
Take me back to the final show experience at Trident Castle.
I was content. I had poured my heart and soul into completing my MCW final collection, so when it was all over…when the lights had dimmed, when the crowd had gone, when backstage became a ghost town…when it was all over…I was beyond proud of myself for completing the race. Even if I had not walked away as the winner for the judges on that night, I would have walked away content in knowing that I showcased the best of Theodore Elyett for the crowd at Trident, the Caribbean viewing audience via television and the world by extension via the Internet. That is what mattered to me, making sure that I left such an impression that the label could not and would not be ignored.
My experience in Jamaica during and after MCW has been a journey I won’t so forget. I’ve learnt so much. In every experience there will be ups and downs, there will be roads you wished you didn’t travel, but in the end you appreciate having traveled them for the sake of valuable lessons learnt. MCW is not a fast forward button to success and stardom as many seem to think. MCW is simply a platform for young talent to be exposed and to receive training. Winning the competition without a clear insight on what you want out of a career in fashion, who your client is, what you would like your label to be typecast as…without a 5, 10, 20 year plan in place; winning Mission Catwalk is pointless. Opportunity plus preparation equals success. MCW can be a life altering opportunity that needs to be met with personal preparation; the combination of the two is what can bring success. Keyword being ‘can.’
The Theodore Elyett Brand
Explain for me your brand aesthetic?
Theodore Elyett speaks to the woman with refined taste and worldly sensibilities. Inspired by colour, texture and pattern Theodore Elyett marries fine fabrications with expert tailoring and sophisticated details; designed specifically for the stylish world traveler.
What mosts influences your design process?
Long hours of research, many visits to the fabric store and world culture. I am always particularly intrigued and influenced by world culture.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a designer? (Take me through that revelation).
I was born into a family of fashion aficionados. Not only did they have a love for fashion but they understood textiles and garment construction. My grandmother was a seamstress and my mother once owned a garment manufacturing plant in The Bahamas. As a child, I spent every afternoon after school in my mother’s factory. The cutting tables, fabric storage rooms, the printing machines and industrial sewing machines were all apart of my high-tech playground. So, if I had to pinpoint exactly when my love for the industry took root, I’d have to say it was during that time period.
Outside of work as a designer, what do you enjoy doing in your past time?
When I am not immersed in fashion research or creating a collection, my favorite past time is alone-time! I spend my alone-time studying articles or watching documentaries on my favorite fashion designers: Diane Von Furstenberg, Valentino, Tom Ford, Prabal Gurung, Oscar de la Renta, Jason Wu, Phillip Lim…and a new found subject Wes Gordon.
What is your favorite restaurant in Jamaica and Bahamas?
While I thoroughly enjoy Jamaican and Bahamian cuisines, is it odd that my favorite restaurants in both countries are Asian spots? I thoroughly enjoy dining at Majestic Sushi & Grill in Jamaica and Sushi Rokkan in The Bahamas.
Share with me your best travel story.
I would have to say traveling to the 1997 Miss Universe Pageant in Miami Beach would have to be among one of my favorite travel experiences; not so much for the country, but more so for the experience had.
At age 13 I got to rub shoulders with some of the most beautiful women in the world as I supported my sister, Miss Bahamas 1996-97 Nestaea Sealy in her quest for the Miss Universe title. I pegged this travel experience as one of my best travel stories because it introduced me to the beautiful marriage of pageantry and fashion at an early age. A few months later I began my career as an award winning costume designer for the Miss Bahamas Organization.
During the course of the week leading up to the grand finale of Miss Universe 1997, I managed to create a pretty cool friendship with Miss USA, Brook Lee - who eventually went on to win Miss Universe. Luckily for me, that friendship got me behind the velvet ropes at the coronation party after her crowning where I was able to snap a few pictures with her. Believe it or not, that interaction in 1997 proved fruitful some nine years later when I spearheaded the first Theodore Elyett’s Miss Teen Bahamas pageant and booked Brook as our host for the inaugural event.
What are your pet peeves?
Being asked the same question more than once after I’ve already given an answer.
Strangers who call me ‘Theo.’
Exiting the drive-thru line at Wendy’s only to find that they didn’t put salt on my fries!!
Long telephone calls and unnecessary meetings….email or text me…
Loafers / brogues - Loafers
Pants / Jeans - Pants
Longs sleeve button up / short - Long sleeve button up
Color / B&W - both!
First thing that comes to mind when you hear the word/phrase or name:
Caribbean - culturally rich
Jamaica - I want some festival!!
Success - …is not happiness; it’s a reward of happiness.
Fashionable - for the basics, Lol can I say that?
Winner - requires consistency…or luck
Novia Mcdonald White - Jamaica’s Anna Wintour