Behind the Scenes with the Chic and Bold Caribbean Brand: J.Angelique Clothing
When I think of J.Angelique Clothing, I envision poised, stylish, confident, and chic young women who embrace their individuality. It is therefore not surprising that the women at the helm, Barbadian Janelle Angelique Forde, exudes all of these traits. The unique, bold and colorful Caribbean brand was launched in 2011.
Since its launch, Forde has pushed the envelope to create vibrant pieces that exude bold elegance that encourages women to be fearless. Her unique approach to design is reflected in all her collections, be it her Fête and Party Wear; Carnival Costumes; or Business, Beach, and Reception lines. She strikes a beautiful balance between Caribbean cultures and traditions with modern shapes and silhouettes.
Forde pioneered the concept of a Carnival “Monday Wear” Collection and has emerged as the premier Fête Wear designer; her designs dominate the Social Media landscape anytime and anywhere there is a Carnival. In the costume design world, Forde’s accolades are well known. Her 2015 Machel Montano “Flying Stars” design in Barbados, was where she put the Carnival world on notice. Her “Firebird” VIDA design in 2017 is still one of the most talked about costume designs in the Barbadian landscape and the 2019 “Asella” VIDA design for Xodus in Jamaica Carnival is still one of the most highly revered costumes. Forde continues to master her craft and entrepreneurial interests by developing new projects such as Mango Sugar (Interior Design & Home Collection), while being focused on leaving an indelible mark on entrepreneurship, design and innovation in Caribbean fashion
Forde has been fascinated by clothes since a very young age. “My mother sews, my grandmother used to sew, so I always knew technical stuff, I was always interested in construction,” Forde said. She began to sew her own clothes while in University and was pegged as the ‘fashion girl’. And this Fashion Girl has never looked back, instead she continues to elevate her brand and execute her vision. Forde has set the bar for creative fashion.
CE: When did you start getting interested in fashion and develop your own personal style?
JF: I think it started when I was really, really young because my Mom used to tell me that there were days when I would decide that I was not wearing pants only dresses and I am only wearing pink. In addition, my dad is a very avid shopper so I believe it was a combination of both.
In secondary school in Barbados there are many pageants and other events, so early on I was always interested in what I was wearing to the pageant, the party, etc. I was very influenced by magazines seeing who is wearing what.
When I was in University, a friend asked to enter a fashion show which I did and became known as the fashion girl. So I think that it was a natural progression.
CE: At what age did you begin to seriously consider fashion as a career?
JF: I think it was after the fashion show. I took an interest in creating pieces that I would actually wear. I earned a B.Sc. in Sociology and an M.Sc. in Development in Trinidad and Tobago. I felt as though as should try giving fashion a chance so I decided to do a collection which quickly attracted admirers and sold right off the bat. I realized that I had a product that people wanted. So I was in my early twenties about 21, when I began to seriously consider fashion as a career option.
CE: When you decided to pursue fashion and design as a career, were you encouraged or were you going off the beaten and path?
JF: I was definitely going off the beaten path. My family is full of doctors and lawyers, I was supposed to be a lawyer, and my dad is a lawyer, so this did not resonate well. I remember the day I was cut off. My mother was more supportive. My dad is the type of person that if you are doing it and you are serious, he will support you. But just waking up one day and saying yeah, I think I will do this, then you are doing it half way, or it can’t support you, he would not be the most supportive person. I can say that a part of my family was very supportive and the other part was concerned. That made me very tough.
CE: Did you already have the name J.Angelique Clothing for your line?
JF: Yes I did. Actually, a friend just said J Angelique when I was trying to figure out a name, and I went with it.
CE: Did you take a break to establish your business after you created your first collection sold?
JF: I definitely continued. I was living the life as much as I could. So for example, I travelled a lot. I would travel to purchase fabric, travel for inspiration, I did all I could and did all this with the money that I was making. I stretched the dollar so I was living the lifestyle and it was continuous. It did not stop from the first collection. I realized what people were interested in, what my creative process would be. It all fell into place.
I am generally a meticulous person, so in terms of accounting and business, it was already in my mind. I must add that I did not have an unending sum of money from Daddy or Mommy to pump in the business, so it was a lot about product, a lot about business. We definitely developed a routine to ensure the success of the brand.
CE: What are some of the challenges you faced in building you brand and building your name, especially as a woman?
JF: It is really difficult for me to answer this question. I don’t want to say there have not been challenges. But because I know that is the route, I can’t really isolate that this dramatic thing happened so toss everything. Naturally you are trying to sell, you are trying to design beautiful pieces so that people will like it. Dealing with your image, social media, all of those things, so it was natural. I did not face humongous stumbling blocks. Every day was easy because it was a natural progression.
CE: What inspires you when you are creating a collection or are preparing for the next season?
JF: As I alluded to it’s based on the lifestyle. It’s based on what we do as women. The modern working woman. We love to vacation and we have to work still and be filled. These are the women I design for.
My inspiration entails mixing cultures, mixing just anything that you are not accustomed to, I incorporate in my design process. And that really inspires me it could be literally anything, nature, architecture, color.
CE: What are some experiences your career has afforded you or milestones that are memorable?
JF: We do documented travel. I went to Japan for a Soca weekend where I was the featured designer. The people of Japan are open to experience Caribbean culture. As a fashion designer, I have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit. It’s a perk that I enjoy. You work but you also have the chance to vacation. I traveled to South Korea, Spain, the US and of course many Caribbean islands.
CE: How did you begin to dabble in interior design?
JF: I think interior design is a progression or evolution of the brand. I don't just design clothing. I can design anything.
CE: Who are some designers, creators that inspire you or admire?
JF: It’s kind of hard for me to answer that question. Notably Virgil Abloh because he brings his aesthetics and what he likes to his brand so uniquely, it is very inspiring.
CE: What are some essential pieces a woman should have or five pieces you have to have when you travel?
JF: As for me, I specialize in draping. So you must have that Grecian style gown/dress in your wardrobe. You must have a swimsuit/bikini, we spend our time by the pool or beach. We travel a lot for work, you must have that decent corporate look that can go from business meeting to cocktail with the girls. You must have a handbag that makes a statement but lasts forever. And lastly a hat. When you look at my style, I do a lot headwear and that is something I really want to get into. I love head gear because it creates a vibe.
CE: Yes I too love headwear, a turban, headband, and hat. To close, what do you hope women feel when they wear your pieces?
JF: The J.Angelique woman does have a sense of confidence already. She is modern, outgoing, the social butterfly. Let’s just say that it is an assurance that you will be the best dressed when you are wearing a J.Angelique piece.
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