Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Dare to be different


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Hiding her eyes from the glare of the beaming sun as she lounged on a chair on her favourite beach at the Boatyard and smiling broadly, Latoya remarked: “Boy, were those naysayers wrong.”

As she reflected on life growing up as a poor child of mixed parentage, “Pooh” as she is affectionately called, told EASY MAGAZINE it was for this reason that she decided if it was one thing in life she would be known for, it would be her will to succeed. Short of being a prophet, today this 29-year-old has reaped that success and is now the head honcho of her own company, Daresqué.

Daresqué is a swimsuit enterprise that designs swimwear for all body types. And according to Latoya, the only condition was that the women who wore these outfits had to be daring and risqué but with class. Above all, they could never be afraid to be sexy, be it subtle or in-your-face sexiness.

It may appear to some to be somewhat of a fantasy, that this very attractive young woman had a fairy godmother who took out her wand and transformed “Cinderella” into a princess but that would be far from the truth.

She sought transformation through the attainment of her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from the University of the West Indies with the intention of reading for a master’s degree. Then there was further hustle for her, working as a bar maid, model and promotional girl, before her industry truly began to bear fruit last year.

Not going into too much detail, Latoya recalled that 2013 was possibly the most tragic of her life.

“A year ago I never thought I would be able to even smile again for so deep was my depression. A usually positive, resilient character being raised in harsh environments, I never thought anything could break my spirit or my faith. Many people who have gone through the loss of a child can relate to the pain.

“The way you feel, you question life, you question God and question everything that just doesn’t seem to make sense anymore. People have their judgement but do not understand the depth of depression, the loss of control of your thoughts, the lack of energy to wake up on mornings. I can say I am testimony to the fact that all great things are preceded by chaos,” she said.

Latoya’s miscarriage came shortly after the company she was working for relocated to the United States. Added to that, the former Springer Memorial graduate began to feel hopeless as if she had failed. But not one prone to wallowing in self-pity, the petite woman sprang to her feet almost with the knowledge that success was always a stone’s throw away.

Pausing the interview for a few minutes to answer questions from a couple of passing tourists who wanted to know where she bought her bathing suit, Latoya laughed loudly and recounted that while on a plane leaving Barbados to escape her misery, two words suddenly came to mind – “dare” and “risque”. Without hesitation, she wrote them on a napkin. Not knowing then what the portent of this “ah ha” moment was, she said that today those words combined have become her world.

“Everything God takes is replaced – trust in that. And people out there who may read this and are suffering depression, it feels empty at the time saying better days are ahead but there truly are better times ahead. Every day I wake up and smile because it is a blessing. Feeling happy is never taken for granted for I know the feeling when happiness seems so far away, it makes it that more precious. To say my life is now without challenges would be untrue as that is life – the ups and downs. But I embrace every challenge and make sure I count my blessings more than my troubles,” she said.

So immediately upon her return to Barbados, Latoya started her Daresqué, of which she is the sole designer/creative mind.

She added: “Sometimes the perfect plans fall to a different destiny. I never attended fashion school and never had intentions of being a designer. However, I always had a knack for being unique and this is what started my creativity. I would buy a dress from Town but fear to look the same as others I would cut up the dress to make it more unique. Swimsuits were my love but they could be very ‘samey samey’ with the usual two pieces so I just wanted to be different and this is what inspires my ideas for Daresqué.

Because she doesn’t sew, Latoya delegates what she jokingly referred to as her sometimes “annoyingly” complicated ideas and concepts into the trusted hands of Rozana of La Rosa Couture factory in Wildey for the construction process.

“[Rozana] probably wants to run when she sees me coming,” she noted as she laughed aloud.

Being an entrepreneur has brought new challenges in trying to maintain a business. Latoya stressed that every dollar made goes straight back into the business and with the difficult economic times she has strived to keep prices as reasonable as possible.

In just a few months Daresqué has become quite a well known brand, somewhat exceeding all the expectations this young woman envisaged on the flight out of the island. Daresqué has been shipped abroad and the growing brand has already established a loyal following in such places as the United States, the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Guyana.

“Branding goes way beyond a logo. Branding is the entire customer experience: logo, website, social media experiences, customer service. This is what sets you apart from your competition. Even my photo shoots are very professionally done with an international quality and I have an amazing team who I am forever grateful for. I do not even let my models do their own make-up. Some people will look to cut back on these costs but to gain that brand recognition you must make some sacrifices to take you to that other level.

“I won’t pretend there is no difficulty in maintaining the business but I have more strengths than weaknesses. Every time I get an overseas order it blows me away. Every small step taken is one step closer to the big step of Daresqué becoming the brand I know it will be. I always was the type to reach for the stars and my goal is to let the brand Daresqué be known internationally. A customer sent me a picture of her rocking her swimwear at Miami Carnival and it warmed my heart. This goal will be reached; there is no doubt about that.

The biggest challenge at present is the lack of quality fabric and swimsuit accessories in Barbados.

“It is very expensive to have to travel to get simple things such as swimsuit connectors or paddings. The stumbling blocks are there but I am positive, driven, persistent and resilient and these are characteristics that take you very far in business. In less than a year of the business being launched so much has happened and there is so much more in store. Life is beautiful. Without the rain we won’t enjoy the sunshine as much. It’s all about finding that equilibrium and I love every minute of it,” she added. (SDB Media)




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