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Perfecting her craft
Fashion and jewelry designer Cheryl Ryan-Mohammed is proudly flying the T&T flag high in the Middle East with the recent establishment a store at the famous Taj Mall in Amman, Jordan, showcasing her C-Designs collection.
“To be in a location with some of the most famous designers in world is really a privilege. Thank God I got the opportunity. I’m into my second collection at Taj Mall which has my entire line including cashmere pieces blended with crystals,” she said.
It was about 12 years ago that Ryan-Mohammed began her journey into the world of jewelry, designing earring, rings, chains, pendants and full sets using silver and gold-plated material as well as precious and semi-precious stones.
A lover of nature, especially the ocean, Mohammed-Ryan draws on that inspiration for much of her work.
“I have been in fashion for a number of years and what inspires me is our beaches, oceans, rivers. I am also inspired by women. I believe every woman is unique and every woman is beautiful and sophisticated.
“We are a cosmopolitan society where there are various races…all that I draw inspiration from,” she said.
Her designs are also influenced by her love of Middle-Eastern culture and some of the pieces are crafted in collaboration with international designers.
“I am deeply involved with the Middle East. That’s where my attraction is in term of how I think because my stuff has a lot of bling and a lot of working on it and that region appreciates that kind of work in terms of design of jewelry,” Ryan-Mohammed explained.
Crafting jewelry isn’t her only talent.
Ryan-Mohammed also designs beach and Islamic wear which are increasingly in demand internationally. Her hijabs and abayas are elegant and intricately woven, yet fashionable.
“Abayas are the main stay of the Middle East. I love modest wear and in my research the women of the Middle East, they hunger for fashion even though they are covered. They are very sophisticated in covering and it speaks to me. I can easily look at someone and capture an image in my mind of what to sketch and what will appeal to them. “
Having linkages in the Middle East made it easier for Ryan-Mohammed to penetrate that market and this is her second successful year there.
“Before going into it I did my research regarding the market aspect of the Middle East. Also, I have friends there, so when I went in I was well received. I shouldn’t say surprisingly so because we of the Caribbean, we are exciting people and we love colour and they in the Middle East want colour and want to embrace it.
“When I went into the market they wanted pieces showing that colour. The women of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are into lots of blacks but they also want colour,” she said.
Ryan-Mohammed has just returned from Jordan where she is collaborating with agents in those territories to design coloured Islamic wear.
“There is a segment of women out there who want some excitement in colour. Of course they must cover and I appreciate that as well but especially the young demographic, they want colour. There’s no movement away from the blacks because that tradition is very strong. It will always remain but there is a movement to include colour depending on the occasion,” she said.
C-Designs is set to expand even further as Ryan-Mohammed has just entered the sporting arena and is producing uniforms for one of the largest football clubs in Amman.
“We have two other clubs waiting for us to do designs. They saw my designs and wanted this translated into sport, a shirt specifically,” she explained.
Ryan-Mohammed said her design style is classic. She does not go for fads.
“If I go with a piece I will want my client to wear the piece ten years from now. It has not aged,” she explained.
“Everywhere I go I look for fabric, trimmings. These are the things that excite me and that is where I also draw my inspiration. If I go to an environment and I’m having tea or coffee by the ocean I will rush to get my pen and paper because something triggered me,” she said.
Her love the ocean inspired one of her clothing lines, It’s Ah Wrap, Beach Concepts.
“C-Designs is inspired by the beaches of T&T. I love to be by the beach or the pool with my lipstick and make-up and my jewelry but I must look classy.
“I could not find anything to buy anywhere. What I saw was too mundane. I decided to do it myself and my friends also loved it. The more I travel, the more I got more ideas and the more my brain expanded,” Ryan-Mohammed said.
Apart from markets in Tobago, parts of the Caribbean and the Middle East, Ryan-Mohammed is also expanding to Ghana where there is an agent marketing her pieces.
Although she faces some challenges, including difficulties in obtaining foreign exchange, Ryan does not allow anything to deter her from building on the success of her business. She said the key is to be creative and stay within one’s means.
“If things happen the way it ought to foreign exchange will be coming into Trinidad but, in the meantime, you simply work with what’s available.
“Think big but start small. Take it step by step. That’s what I have been doing. My thinking is wide but in terms of climbing, it’s incremental because as you go along, try to perfect the craft. Don’t take a big junk that you can’t handle.”
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