CREATIVE SPACE #12 OF 2022 (Uploaded June 14th 2022)

CREATIVE SPACE is an award-winning 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 as a blog series and syndicated as of 2019 on 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 with EXTRAS running here on the blog and full interviews and extras on AntiguanWriter on YouTube. In 2021, the twopart CREATIVE SPACE mini-series on marine culture placed third in the OECS clean oceans journalists challenge. CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean authorjournalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer. 

Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared in the Daily Observer newspaper on June 15th 2022:

Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with EXTRAS. 


Nicoya Henry won the state-organized October 27th 2019 Independence Fashion Competition. I wrote about it then – full disclosure: I was at the show in part because Nicoya is my niece; getting to report on her win in CREATIVE SPACE was a bonus. I was especially thrilled that the model and budding designer, who had been drawing seriously since childhood, would have the opportunity to pursue tertiary studies at the University of Trinidad and Tobago in her chosen field (fashion design). Cold water has been thrown on that excitement since – as, while she has received other parts of her prize, she has yet to collect on the opportunity to pursue further studies.

But this article isn’t about that.

Nicoya Henry (model and designer).
Photo by TJ for Ted Martin Photography. MUA Brielle Joseph.

It’s about a young designer’s efforts to cut and contrive. Cut and contrive is an Antiguan-ism meaning essentially finding a new way when your way has been blocked – it works well as a euphemism for a dream built on cloth, scissors, ripping seams, and making adjustments.

And Nicoya continues to make adjustments (though frustrated and disappointed, even factoring in the pause COVID-19 put on everything beginning in 2020, about the state’s failure to date to deliver the promised and earned scholarship).

“The main reason for the scholarship was I wanted to learn how to bring the designs in my head to life and the scholarship, I felt, would have worked in my favour in that way.” That’s what Nicoya told me recently while sharing a couple of new dresses – designs well outside of her comfort zone (pictured in pink and blue). As the scholarship slipped away, “I said, you know what, I’m going to learn on my own and I said I am going to start with this project and I call it my self-development project…I just didn’t want to be home and be in the same spot I was two years ago.”

Nicoya’s design comfort zone has been swimwear – even her winning design, though a dress, had a dramatic swimsuit reveal. So these dresses are “out of the norm” for her, in a number of ways. The dresses are high fashion (“the epitome of glamour, structure, and sophistication”) but economically made – and that was the point.

“Nobody really works with cotton dacron like that,” Nicoya said, “I wanted to use a cheap fabric and make it look as luxurious as possible.”

Clip from a making of the making of the dress video, uploaded to both NicoyaHenry and Jhohadli on instagram and on YouTube.

Also, “I wanted to work on my finishes and learn how to create new shapes.”

Her crafting was informed by research – watching other designers, online guidelines on making patterns, etc. – and inspiration – the historical naval uniforms of Georgian era World Heritage site Nelson’s Dockyard, where she works, and 18th and 19th century fashion generally among her inspirations.

One of the things she wanted to try – and did – was exaggerated sleeves, “so it started with the sleeves and …I really wanted to try doing pleats on the top, (and I) really wanted to do a corset, then a long dress.” She kept on meeting the challenges she set for herself.

Like any social media savvy millennial, she organized a photo shoot and posted the images online, and the response, she said, has “inspired me to just do more.”

Just as the former Caribbean Next Top Model finalist has a modelling portfolio, she has decided to build a design portfolio – and find other paths. “I like creating statement pieces that you can wear as art, that’s what I like as a designer,” Nicoya said. “What I would enjoy doing is bringing unusual silhouettes to life.”

She speaks of trying a resort collection to “still be creative but in a toned down way”, while acknowledging that some of the things she dreams may not be considered commercial, especially operating from a small island in the Caribbean – “I would have to really find my market.” But she dreams – and she reminds me that creatives will create, no matter what.

“As a creative, I’ve decided to work on a few self-development projects during the course of the year for the main purpose of growing, learning, and sharing as a fashion designer. Most importantly in my own way.”


Before turning her attention to design Nicoya Henry was a model, walking catwalks from Antigua (debuting during the Independence fashion show) to the Caribbean (including St. Lucia Jazz & Arts) to New York (NY Fashion Week specifically) highlights of which include being a top 4 finalist on the second season of the Caribbean’s Next Top Model in 2015.

The Independence fashion prize isn’t Nicoya Henry’s first win as a designer. Previous wins include the Courts Fashionista competition, in which designers were invited to create clothing inspired by items in the furniture store, and a shared win at Fashiontastic with Shem Henry.

She has also organized and hosted the Fashion Formation promotional showcase.


If you would like to be featured in a future CREATIVE SPACE or to pay for a (web only) advertisement or sponsored post  (on exclusively), BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne. Contact me also to explore advertising options.

All Rights Reserved. Sharing or excerpting with link and credit is okay. But for re-publication of CREATIVE SPACE or any other content on this site contact Joanne – also use this link to contact Joanne for appearances (reading, speaking, discussions), workshops/courseswriting, editing, or other offered service.