Carnival Designer: Keisha Collette Thomas
Before leaving for carnival I got the amazing opportunity to interview Keisha Collette Thomas for L + A. Most recently, Ms.Thomas has launched her Simple Strings bikini line under the Marie Collette brand and has also designed for Jamaica Carnival! Her creations have found their way all the way to Hollywood and she'll be showcasing her work at Hollywood carnival this June.
Since we are miles apart (I'm based in New York, and she's in Trinidad) the best way to interview her was through FaceTime. After a few months of planning and coordinating time we finally got to sit down with each other and talk!
L+A - When did you realize you wanted to be a designer?
KT- I think I realized it a couple years back but 2013 was the first time I really went at it with the whole Monday Wear thing. I have been designing and re-creating stuff for as long as I could remember but I haven't really gotten a platform until 2014.
L+A- What is your design process?
KT- What I really try to do is sit down and play with stuff in my mind I try not to visit the Internet, and I don't really look at my phone because sometimes when you see something you don't really want to take what someone else did and bring those ideas into your work. So I really sit down and play with shapes to create without outside influence.
L+A- Would you say that Carnival helps with your creative process? I do follow you on Instagram (@_mariecollette_) and I noticed that you love carnival you love taking pictures in costume and modeled for previous carnival launches.
KT- It's cool because carnival gives you an even bigger platform to design, not just swimsuits. Always look carnival from the first year my parents allowed me to play mas I never turn back since then. To be doing it now for Carnival, is like a dream come true, what you're thinking to do to a swimsuit imagine being able to times that by ten for a carnival outfit or carnival costume.
L+A- Did you start off modeling and then creating costumes or did you start off creating and then modeling what you created?
KT- Well,I use to model before and as I said before I always was creating so on Carnival Monday or Carnival Tuesday my friend will see me on the road and say, “Where you get that?” and I would let them know that I made it so then people started telling me, well you should design and create stuff for carnival. Honestly I never really took it on, and then this year my boyfriend really pushed me and told me you know we all think you're bad, you make really great stuff you should do it and I actually did it.
L+A-And I agree, in fact I'm wearing your EROS costume to carnival this year! Want to know how long does it take to create a costume like EROS or even the frontline version of that costume?
KT- Costumes for big bands take a lot longer than me creating Monday Wear costumes because when you have a costume it needs to be critiqued by expertise designers, it's a bit more tedious in the process. It’s like a design and then you go back to the drawing board and its a back and forth because they try to get it perfect to their liking.
L+A Do you plan on designing for other carnivals?
KT- I haven't yet but I do plan to and I have done a couple costumes for a casino down here called Carnival City. I have been approached by brands from all of the islands including Epic Mas camp. A band in Miami has approached me but I don't want to give too much of that away yet. Haven't done it just yet but I do feel a lot is in store for this coming year!
L+A- Where can someone purchase your costumes?
KT- I can be contacted definitely through email, if it does require a little more discussion I may send the person my number so we can speak directly. For any purchase inquiries you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
L+A- Are you working alone, or is it a team of people that's helping you as well?
KT- What is great right now, is that I am able to do all the designing and creating myself which makes it very personal I can honestly say I know every single piece I create for every single customer but in terms of operations I do work along with my boyfriend Anton James who is a big big part of helping things run smoothly. He handles all the paperwork and background work, and answering emails while I just sit around and slave away making costumes! (laughs.)
L+A- When can you say is the best time to order costumes for carnival if you want to make sure you get the costume you want?
KT-I tell my friends around August/September they need to have their down payment money ready because as soon as the bands launched the costumes sell out!
L+A- How quickly did the EROS costume sell out?
KT-For me it was a real shock to find out Eros was one of the first costumes that sold out. It was my first time designing for carnival and for Yuma and I was just so happy to hear that.
L+A-I can imagine!! So for those who are attending Carnival, name five places that we should visit while you are in Trinidad and Tobago?
KT-Well, you definitely have to go to Maracas Beach and have some shark and bake. You have to go to Tobago’s Pigeon Point beach and go and do all the water sports there. We also have a beautiful pitch lake down by the south side. Also, a big soca star here Machel, is doing a cool museum around the Savannah, you can definitely go there. You come a few days before carnival you can definitely hit up all the fetes, the biggest fetes is hosted by DJ Private Ryan called Soca Brainwash. Fact is, we barely have Christmas here, partying for carnival starts the day after Christmas, Boxing Day.
L+A- Wow, that sounds like fun. What are your plans for MarieCollette in the upcoming year?
KT- Well, I produce swimwear year-round. So, I will continue making bathing suits throughout the year. The only time it really stops is around carnival because I have to focus on creating costumes but other than that I can be reached by email for swimwear inquiries.
L+A- Thank you for your time! It was truly a pleasure speaking with you. I know you are in the middle of making costumes so i will let you get back to that and i can't wait to see you on de road!!!
From left to right: Jamaica Carnival Monday Wear, Trinidad Carnival Monday Wear and Simple Strings Resort Wear all designed and produced by Marie Collette
For viewing costumes can be seen at: