When did you realize you wanted to become an accessories designer?
I am actually a fashion designer, I design everything from accessories to women’s wear. I’ve been in love with fashion as a form of expression ever since I was 15. Until then, I was incredibly insecure about being very tall and very skinny. And I definitely dressed the part of the “ugly ducking”. I started loving myself and my body, AFTER I started dressing better due to the advice of friends. Clothes became a conduit to me seeing myself more attractively. That is when I first understood the transformative power of fashion. Since then, I have always intended to have a fashion line. I assumed I would do it later in life, after working what my Caribbean parents consider to be a “conventional job”. However, after a doctorate in Anthropology and Education from Columbia and 7 years in the nonprofit sector, I knew I could no longer put off pursuing my true passion. Convention be damned.
What was the first thing you ever designed?
The first thing I ever designed was a dress I had made by a local seamstress in Ghana, when I lived there for a year in 2002. It was the warm responses to a piece that I had designed for myself that confirmed that I had a sense of style that other women could relate to.
How long does it usually take you to construct a piece?
It takes me anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how distracted I am by other things happening both intern and external to me.
What are some of your accomplishments as a designer?
The most successful thing I have done to date is to quit a cushy non-profit executive job, overlook looming student loans, and embark on a more authentic professional path. After that everything is icing on the cake. This fish collection is my very first collection, and I am proud to have customers in England, France, and Japan. I have pulled off a successful showcase in Miami that was covered by local media and attended by almost 300 people. ALIAKIM has also been worn by famous Jamaican pop star Tami Chynn. Finally, being featured at BebeNoir only a mere 7 months after starting my line is incredibly momentous for me. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Where can readers buy your pieces?
If you are in Jamaica, you can purchase my pieces at BaseKingston. If you are in New York, you can find fish at BebeNoir. Or you can always order pieces from my website: www.aliakim.com
How long have you worked as a designer?
I have been conceptualizing the meaning and message of my line for two and a half years now; all while taking business courses at FIT and the London College of Fashion, and working hodge-podge jobs for a variety of world-class designers like Reem Acra, Pamela Rolland, and Oscar de la Renta. This is my premier line and it has been in existence for 7 months.
What’s your favorite part about conceptualizing a design?
I think everyone’s life has a pattern, and often that pattern informs their passion. The pattern of my life as an anthropologist and a nonprofit worker has been to learn the story of a community and communicate it to others in way that benefits the community. I’m try to do the same with fashion. My favorite part of conceptualizing a design is determining the story that I am trying to tell, and then coming up with the best fashion elements to convey it.
For example, with the fish collection, I was trying to tell the story of reinvention and new beginnings. Fish in almost every culture means innovation and transformation. The poor economy of the last few years has forced many people and communities to regroup. That coupled with the plethora of natural disasters taking place, rebuilding is the current mood of many people’s lives. What better way to stay focused on new beginnings than with a cool accessory that packs a mean visual punch. That is always what I want to do with fashion, make a multilayered statement with a simple design. A commitment to this one ethos informs all of my conceptualizations.
How do you prepare for a fashion shoot or show?
I always start with a theme. I think about the message behind the garment and decide what elements best tell this story. For example, for our launch party at Bebenoir, the theme is beach party because the jewelry is fish inspired and it’s taking place in July. So you’ll find buckets of beer, beach balls and chairs, models in bikinis, and Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince on the speakers. When anyone attends one of my shows or sees one of my spreads, I want their senses to be assaulted from all angles. I want their eyes, their ears,their nose …and ultimately their minds and hearts to completely get the story I am telling, so that they always feel apart of it all.