Simone Michelle Neilson is an uber talented designer hailing from the island of Jamaica. She is a swimwear designer but it was her women’s wear and swimwear covers that captured my attention. They are what I would described as Caribbean chic. The colors and the silhouettes were breathtaking, exactly what I want to wear and think of when I picture Caribbean fashion.
I got into contact with Simone and we exchanged emails about this feature interview. Then, a few weeks later while I was on the elliptical machine my phone chimed with an email and I got quite the surprise that she was coming to Tampa and wanted to have a real sit down with me! I was bouncing off the walls. We had lunch at a little cafe in Ybor City called Tre Amici at the Bunker and talked about everything under the blue skies – from our travelling experiences, to relationships, me writing this blog, and her designs and brand. When my friend asked me how my lunch date went I had to tell him it was like catching up with an old friend even though this was the first time we were meeting.
Without further ado, here is my virtual sitdown with the very gifted, extremely friendly, and beautiful designer behind the MisimBeachBabe brand.
What sparked your interest in fashion design?
It was a need/purpose that propelled the passion. Translation? I needed a pencil case and I happened to have painted something abstract on a piece of duck canvas and made it into a pencil case. So it wasn’t even fashion at the time. As I got better with my skills, that’s when I started to experiment with clothing, and when I realized I could do simple techniques, it intrigued me to challenge myself and see what I could really do.
Where do you gather your inspiration for your designs?
Generally from what’s around me. What’s necessary/practical. Not trends per say, but if it’s summer time, I pretty much imagine what I want for myself and tweak it according to how I think various types of women dress or would like to dress. Same for more dressy/formal occasions, I’m definitely a practical designer, so for me, I have to see the need and try to amplify that simple/basic need into something that applies to my environment, or happenings/events at the time.
How would you describe the type of lady that you design for and the pieces that you design?
Right now I’m focusing on swimwear, so pretty much the fun loving, beach going, waterfall climbing girl. She’s also the beach chic party goer and the resort or cruise vacationer :). For my more elegant line, SimoneMichelle, the lady is sophisticated but simple. I love minimalism. So simple lines and classic styles but with new, modern takes, much like the modern woman of today.
How has being from Jamaica and the Caribbean influenced your designs?
Colors and movement. I love bold color and significant movement. Even if the garment doesn’t blow in the wind, the lack there of is movement because of how the wearer moves with it. Jamaican and The Caribbean definitely influences me in my practical sense. Fashion design is not only my passion but it’s my paycheck. So considering it’s hot 99% of the time lol, I have to be practical in what I offer to my target audience. Our fashion seasons are based on events, so it helps me to plan accordingly for upcoming “seasons” within the region.
How would you describe the Caribbean aesthetic?
It is SO diverse. But from a womenswear stand point, and as a Caribbean girl myself, I’d have to say simple, elegant, and bold. We Caribbean girls seems to love making a statement lol
How was your experience of showing at London’s Fashion Week?
Ooh you did your homework ! Haha. Ok so we (group of Jamaican designers) were invited to participate in the International Fashion Showcase for Emerging Designers By British Fashion a Council which runs along side LFW. So with all that said, it was rather exhilarating. Our showcase was Hardly comparable to the other countries on showcase but because of that it was SUCH a great learning experience. Not only was I able to travel and represent my brand in LONDON *still surreal* but we got to participate in ground breaking workshops and Create connections and memories to last a lifetime. It certainly made my gears grind! I was ready to take my brand to the next level.
Where do you see your brand headed?
Well in an ideal world, I really want miSimBeachBabe to take off. I’d love it to be household name in the bikini world. I love the beach and all things sun, sand and sea and to be known for that regionally and eventually globally would be my greatest accomplishment. I’m not sure if I want to have my own store yet, still on the fence. But in 5 years the ultimate goal is to have miSimBeachBabe is in all Sandals Resorts Boutiques (and other luxury hotels globally). I also want to do a kids label in swim and resort wear. Being worn by a few celebrities would be added bonus too lol
You are a co-founder of Design Jamaica, tell us more about this initiative.
Welllllll, Design Jamaica is no longer in existence sadly, but it was a platform for emerging Jamaican designers put on by myself and another emerging designer to provide opportunity to showcase talent and skill at a more affordable scale. Most fashion shows charge designers an arm and a leg to showcase and honestly, buyers aren’t even there to reimburse the talent. It’s hard to be “emerging” in a culture that loves to exploit talent for the sake of exposure so we wanted to create a platform which didn’t cost too much to be a part of and we got a lot of support for it. Media coverage writes up upon write ups. So it was a great initiative which fulfilled its purpose. Down the line, I may take up this initiative on my own, but it’s a hell of a project to take on solo.
What would you tell a tourist are the must see places, must do things, and must eat foods in Jamaica?
PORTLAND ! omygosh lol. Portland is sooooo under the radar. It has some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to, like Boston Bay Beach. It’s so authentic of a parish. Untouched, hardly developed, it’s a great representation of what vacationing on the island should be. Food, sticking to Portland, just up the road from Boston Bay beach is Boston Jerk, you HAVE to have the conch stew with road breadfruit. And if you can’t get all the way to Portland, by Harbor View Roundabout on the way to the airport there’s a spot with all types of great food, pan chicken, conch soup, oysters, escovietch fish. Everything. Making me want to go get some now lol. I would also suggest Prospect Park for a great thrill. they have an ATV tour on a historical plantation, it’s fun, educational and extremely messy lol.
Here is Simone modeling her very own design.
The Jasmine gown from facebook.com
Three looks from the Maracuya collection that graced the collection MoDa runway from facebook.com
This maxi dress is my favorite color and it is a deep halter! The details on the neckline are broken DVDs! Isn’t that just fascinating? from livestush.com
I’m going to be honest, if I were to be a fashion designer my aesthetic would resemble Simone’s so much! Her colors, her silhouettes, her vibe, the movement of the pieces she creates – I wasn’t kidding about all the heart eyes I have for her designs. I can’t wait to see what her future holds.
Unless where mentioned all photos provided by Simone Michelle Neilson.