I recently had the pleasure of meeting the very sweet, very humble, and very chic, Lois Samuels. The Jamaican model-cum-designer launched her minimalist line of classic separates in 2009 and the press has come calling, from Italian Vogue to HBO. It makes perfect sense. After years in the industry and working for some of fashion’s biggest names, Lois would have a learned a thing or two about what the average woman wants and how she likes to look. I had 10 questions for the busybody, recently back from yet another promotional event, this time a visit to one of the Caribbean’s premier fashion experiences, the USVI Summer Sizzle. She let me ask them.1. Had you always wanted to get into designing, or was your segue into the Vessel. by lois a completely new concept for you? And how did you come up with the name?
Design has been a dream since I was 14, and today it is wonderful having it be a part of my reality. The word Vessel has always meant much to me. I see us all as Vessels of love and life.
2. Did you consider or try any other spin-off industries before launching the Vessel. by lois? Like beauty, or acting, or music?
I did do several things in the industry…there is an invisible line that connects it all. I did a bit of photography and went on to publish a book with Mcmillan Caribbean publishers called “Jamaica through My Eyes”. I was also an account manager in the menswear industry as well as a casting director . I am sure there is much more that I will explore!
3. Your designs have been described as Puritan chic, 90s minimalism, and basic classics. Considering your Jamaican heritage, this seems like the opposite of what the fashion industry might expect. How much did your heritage influence your use of colour and embellishment, or lack thereof?
I believe that in many ways, Jamaica is a conservative society (or it was when I was growing up). The structure in my daily life did impact my designs in many ways. From uniforms each day for school to church clothes on Sundays. We were surrounded by so much energy and vibrance in the flora and fauna of the land to the vibe of the people. I tend to use less colors in my work but it’s still early days…. I am not sure how I will evolve.
4. On that note, the spring 2011 collection, though minimalist, was very bright. I know you were inspired by the Migration Series by American artist Jacob Lawrence. Was there anything else behind the final product?
I was very moved by the work of Jacob Lawrence and as an immigrant in the US, I related so much to the story of the Great Migration. The colors signified a New Hope… I was also thrilled to have been able to present the Collection at the Grand Central Terminal, who sponsored my show – the entrance for so many to this big city.
5. I also thought your spring 2011 collection was reminiscent of Prada’s collection from the same season, with the similar uniform motif. Do you think that’s just a coincidence or is there a subconscious desire for a “uniform” happening in fashion right now?
Wow! I always find it amazing when designers have similar ideas. It usually is a coincidence. I believe people are realizing the importance of simplicity. Fads are usually for a season but in an economy as we have these days, people want to invest in pieces for the long run.
6. In addition to providing classic, elegant separates, the “jacket with a twist” seems to be the focal point in your most recent collection, for fall 2011. Was that intentional?
I love a classic look and always try to add something a bit different to the pieces without losing the solid story line for structure and style.
7. You’ve got a lot of great press since launching – L’Officiel Netherlands, Uptown, The Bespoke, the New York Times, actress Renee Neufville wearing your design on the HBO series Treme – what does this do for your motivation and looking toward the future? Is there added pressure? A feeling calm satisfaction? Or something else entirely?
It is wonderful to have the media appreciate this, which means so much to me. It is satisfying.
9. Fill in the blanks: in the next five______, I see the Vessel. by lois ____ …
In the next 5 years, I see the Vessel. by lois as a successful and stable label with a global presence and following.
10. You work with the Mannings Boys Home in Jamaica. How long have you been working with them and what motivated you to choose that charity?
Yes, I met with them from before the collection began. It was important to me that the Vessel gave back in what ever way it could, especially to an organization in my homeland. Manning Boys home houses abandoned and abused boys, in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach them at 1-876-963-133810. When you’re not wearing the Vessel. by lois, which other designers contribute to your personal style?If I am not wearing my pieces, you would see me in jeans and a t-shirt .
For more information on Lois and the.Vessel by lois, visit thevesselbylois.com.
November 29, 2011
[…] my favourite NYC-based Jamaican designer, Lois Samuels. The twelve of you reading this may remember I did an interview with her a while back…well, she is selling off those uniform basics samples like cigarettes in prison, and now she […]