I have a B.A. in Fashion Design and Merchandising so I’ve always been passionate about design. When I graduated from university in Atlanta GA, I didn’t have the opportunity to work in the fashion field which was my original intent. Instead, I came back to Bermuda and started a lifestyle magazine which featured various fashion photo shoots. Twelve years later, I set out to get back into the fashion industry and earned a degree in Product Design for Accessories from the London College of Fashion. It was there that I fell in love with working with leather as a material and I gained an appreciation for constructing unique leather products.
Tell us a little bit about the ethos of the brand and what makes it unique.
Bermuda Born is Bermuda’s only luxury handbag brand and is heavily influenced by today’s modern traveler. At the heart of what Bermuda Born stands for is quality and timeless appeal. We want our customers to cherish our products and to pass them from one generation to another.
Bermuda Born, by Patrice Morgan
You’re very inspired by Bermuda and your experience here. What particular aspects of the island inspire you most and why?
The Bermuda Born brand is designed with the Bermudian culture in mind. My island inspires me, the two cultures of America and the U.K. cross our paths here and everything about this little place influences my thought process as I begin to design. It’s hard to describe how but it could be the many vibrant colors that surround me on a daily basis (the ocean, the colors of our houses, the landscapes, etc). I also like to people watch, observing the way Bermudians dress which is very unique with their western, Caribbean and European flavors.
What does your creative and design process look like?
It starts off with choosing a theme for the line, choosing colors that work well together, creating mood boards, looking at materials, sourcing materials, looking at costs, communicating with various factories, costing out each design, adding designs and cutting those that are over budget. There are many processes. Basically, there are days of organized design chaos on my floors, desks and in my head. It’s a very mental and visual process.
The pace of the fashion industry is something that has come under scrutiny and criticism in the past, and your handbags have a timeless focus and quality to them. How do you continue to create a relevant product, whilst also working at a pace that suits an independent brand?
I don’t get caught up in the fast fashion movement and as a designer, I have to stick to my core design values. From that, I examine what I want my customer to look like and I design with them in mind. I design for customers who have similar values to mine. It’s important to stay authentic and those who appreciate what I do will be supportive and be there for the long haul.
What are some of the opportunities and challenges to creating an accessories line here locally?
Access to resources! Working with leather, metal components, factories, this is something that is difficult to do so I have to do most of my sourcing via the internet and have many samples shipped here which takes time and money. I would say that shipping is a major issue because it can get quite expensive importing and exporting on a regular basis. Another challenge is the access to support. Bermuda does not have a ‘fashion industry’ so things like intellectual capital is limited, access to funding/incubators do not exist and the ability to collaborate or work together in a collective environment is not available. If you want to work in design in Bermuda you basically bootstrap and self-fund unless you have private means or the support of family. I can go on and on about challenges but I’d rather think about what does work rather than what does not.
What are some of the ways you have found successful in the marketing of your product?
Social media, particularly Instagram! Spending time learning about it and using it as often as possible. I would also think that getting exposure via magazines, newspapers and on radio has been helpful. I will continue to host events so that potential customers can see and test the products.
What one piece of advice would you offer other Bermudian entrepreneurs keen to start a fashion brand?
If possible, work in the fashion industry outside of Bermuda, there’s nothing better then to work and learn the ins and outs on another brand’s dime. If you can’t do that, I would say to just start here… there’s nothing like first hand experience, you can work for a seamstress, or someone who is already involved but experience is key. I also believe in continuing education; one short course can help to move a brand one notch higher in the competitive fashion world. Knowledge is really key. In my spare time, I listen to podcasts which helps to me to stay in tune with what’s happening globally.
What are your plans for Bermuda Born in the future?
International exposure, I would love for influencers and bloggers to post about my brand online and also to see the brand being sold in department stores and indie boutiques outside of Bermuda.
Where will we be seeing Bermuda Born in 2019?
Hopefully, in more magazines and media outlets. We will still be growing our line inside of Duty Free Shopping at the Bermuda International Airport. We also plan to host more events in Bermuda and outside of Bermuda, so I would encourage people to visit our website and sign up to our mailing list so they can keep up with what’s happening.