CREATIVE SPACE #25 of 2021 (uploaded November 10th 2021)
CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published exclusively in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and syndicated as of 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It has its first print run in the paper every other Wednesday, with the online extended edition running here on the blog. It continues to expand across other media platforms (e.g. AntiguanWriter on YouTube). CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared in the Daily Observer newspaper on November 10th 2021:
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with EXTRAS.
CREATIVE SPACE #25 OF 2021 – LOCAL DESIGN HOUSE DELIVERS ITS FIRST FRAGRANCE
Henré Design’s release of the fragrance Shem is a first for the local fashion house and a bold step, in line with founder and designer Daniel Shem Henry’s modelling of his brand after the international French design houses.
Henry has always wanted to be more than just another clothing line, selling not clothes but a lifestyle. There are accessories – skin care, bath and body, make-up, and fragrance lines, for instance – that come with that. “I decided that perfumes were going to be the easiest route since it’s a situation where you either like to smell it or you don’t like to smell it,” he said. No wrangling with skin care and potential allergies. “If you are allergic to perfume, you stay away from it.”
The development process took about seven months. He interviewed about seven potential chemists to develop the fragrance before deciding on Joanne Bird – readers of CREATIVE SPACE may remember I interviewed her when I spotlighted Wadadli Roots and her line of Divine Creations. “I didn’t know what I was doing; she was walking me through step by step and I had a team and we were sampling and going through,” Henry said. The fragrance went through about five phases before they decided on the one.
“Once we selected the fragrance, we had to test it,” Henry said. There were two fragrances to be tested, one male and one female. “What I basically was looking for was an Antiguan product,” he said. “I really wanted to create a scent that was an image of a very luxurious Antiguan product.”
He gave out samples to his test group, without telling them it was a fragrance he was developing. The feedback came in fast and furious, “too chrang (strong), too musty, too sweet” from the men, and they were able to tinker with it some more – more musk, for instance – until they got a favourable rating. One lesson learned, meanwhile, while testing with the female fragrance was how with parfum, which is more concentrated, “a little drop goes a long way” – it lasts hours longer than standard perfume which is diluted with alcohol.
They were eventually satisfied with the “subtle, sweet, and airy” scent after three months of testing. The fragrance has been out, selling out and receiving orders from local perfumeries, since the start of November.
“I wake up every morning and ask myself, ‘Shem, what did you do?’” Henry said. “Because the story behind this cologne and perfume, it stemmed from me wanting to tell a story of who I am and what I represent.”
The 30-year-old multi-award winning designer and former model noted that while he can, himself, be quite timid and insecure, through 10 years, officially, as a fashion entrepreneur he has found confidence, and what he wants for his clients when they put on his clothes, and now his scent, is “a pep in their step”, that feeling-yourself feeling you get from knowing you look and smell fresh. He wants every clients’ encounter with Henré Designs to be a one of a kind feeling, which is one reason he doesn’t sell off the rack and has no plans to factory-produce the perfume. He produced only 40 units each of the big and mini-bottles to start.
It’s brand consistent. Henry’s studio in Belmont offers a private shopping experience, inclusive of a small boutique, lounge, upstairs atelier, make-up and hair station, sauna, photo area, all of which combine to make the client feel special. Like any major fashion house, he designs for every season –one reason he didn’t take a hit during the pandemic, selling out all 19 pieces from his first 2020 collection in 19 hours, the 53 piece collection that followed also selling well, not to mention consulting with up to seven brides in a month.
Now comes his fragrance, which he believe is just the mood lifter Antigua and Barbuda needs. Shem parfum and cologne will be part of gift boxes Henry is planning as his project for the upcoming Christmas season.
Neither Henry nor I could say for sure that this fragrance is a first for an Antiguan and Barbudan fashion house or designer but we think it might be. Of brand accessories of this type, Henry said, “I don’t see much of it happening here in Antigua…(and) in the Caribbean, we don’t have these little avenues connected to our brand.”
He is proud of the fact that everything, including the sourcing of material and oil extracts was done in Antigua (Antiguans being the most loyal of his growing client base). And fragrances familiar to Antigua like fever grass was in the mix at first.
Henry is a celebrity designer – meaning that you can find celebrities like Jamaican dancehall artiste Shenseea in his clothes.
The article refers to Henry as award winning; here’s the breakdown:
2014 – Independence Fashion Show (winner)
2015 – Independence Fashion Show (winner), Ms. Antigua State College (Best Dress), Miss Jennings Secondary School (Best Dress), Dominica’s Next Super Model 3rd Fashion Extravaganza (Highlighted Designer)
2016 – Independence Fashion Show (winner), Christ the King High School Queen of the Forms (Best Dress), Afrosentric Fashion Competition (Runner-up), Miss Labour Queen (Best Gown)
2017 – Fashion Caribbean St. Vincent (Highlighted Designer)
Other career highlights include designing gowns for participants in Ms. Antigua, Miss Caribana (Barbuda), and Miss Dominica; creating the Unhinged Fashion Show; co-designig for Insane Mas Troupe; hosting TV’s Fashion 411; and being part of Antigua and Barbuda’s official CARIFESTA delegation in 2017 (showing during the Fashion Expo in Barbados) and 2019 (when he was part of a fashion panel in Trinidad and Tobago).
“My brand aesthetic can be very colourful at times but I aspire to the international market …so I do the seasons …In the summer, I would do a full collection filled with colours – easy breasy – linens…Winter – more of a structural situation – I will give you a few fur pieces here and there – structure my turtle necks – and the guys are liking it – short sleeve turtle neck out of breathable fabric – very light jersey out of mesh…I manipulate the fabrics – (I) keep styles for season but make it for our climate.”
“When I started my business, I knew that I wanted it to be flexible. …I took the lockdown and did all the materclasses online …I realized everybody was selling masks. I took that time and educated back in to my business and educating myself. I took that time and sit down. … if 60 designers on island, why am I going to be the 60th designer to sell masks. I made mask and donated but this was the time to me to look at strategizing. I kept posting and putting things out there. I had online consultations for brides… I was using what I learned and putting it out there in images. So my team and I were here literally nurturing the brand and putting together different collections and two collections dropped in 2020.”
“Instagram has done a lot for me – instagram and facebook …(but) what I try to stay true (to) is to the word of mouth experience… I bring in the ones that I know are going to talk – I do a lot of gifting – I would dress a particular individual – I know how to get your stuff out there.”
How it started/how it’s going
“I’ve been doing this all my life …(I was) raised in a very fashion forward household …my mom and aunts (are very) high fashion … One of the things thst nurtured my love for fashion, I was eldest for my parents …and I was always tasked with dressing them (younger siblings) for church – (like the) in house stylist – but I didn’t know I was doing fashion, I was just doing what I was supposed to do.” In house, he said, the also had a lot of shows, which stoked their creativity; and several of his siblings have piggybacked on his interest in fashion, including his sister who owns an online boutique with access to exclusives from her big brother, and his tiktoking brothers who use a lot of his designs and slogans in their videos. He counts his family (his mom and his siblings) as members of his team, along with two good friends who have their own fashion brands, plus a staff that includes a couple of assistants, videographer, photographer, and groundsman. “When I tell you I have a team, I have a team!”
“I feel good … it’s very validating. It’s very moving to see that every thing that I said that I was going to do before 30, I have done it and I have done it and done it very good and it is validating to see the response coming back and it is standing up for itself.”
If you would like to be featured in a future CREATIVE SPACE or to pay for a (web only) sponsored post (on jhohadli.wordpress.com exclusively), BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne.
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