Teenage dream becomes designing reality for Thaelia McZenna
“Fashion is art and you are the canvas.” For Thaelia McZenna, fashion is not just the expression of her gift. It is also the avenue that has unlocked professional and personal doors. Today, the valuation surveyor and fashion designer of Thaelia McZenna Designs takes us to where her style dream started as a teenager.
“I’ve had a passion for fashion. I began sewing at the age of 14. Being a third-generation seamstress, I was taught how to manoeuvre the machine and how to do basic cuts,” she told Living. She recalled hearing the sweet soothing sound of the sewing machine pulling her in and beckoning to her to make art with fabric.
But it was only a hobby for McZenna, until she was encouraged by her friends to take it to the next level. “They saw the work that I did, noticed how I paired pieces, so they encouraged me to sew for them and pursue it as a career.”
While studying land evaluation and surveying at the University of Technology, she actually did a fashion show where she displayed a few pieces. With no formal background or training, the designer was able to make sales at the end of that showcase. This became the catalyst for a career that was formed five to six years after pursuing a year-long course in fashion design and fashion construction at the KaJu Fashion Institute in Pembroke Hall, Kingston.
Known for her designs in resort wear, cover-ups, and shorts and pants sets, she continues to be overwhelmed by the love and support received from customers. “My sense of style can be found in my personality. I’m very whimsical, with a touch of avant-garde. I like pairing pieces and prints together,” she explained, adding that this is not reflected in her clientèle who prefer more classic and chic styles.
Most of her fashionistas are professionals, so she goes along that thread for them. But there are those who are on the eclectic side and like colours.
“Usually, a client will show the style or look they want, but I usually tweak it or add a different look. I love to utilise vibrant colours, as most of the clients prefer colours that add to their personal taste and style,” she said.
She mentioned two of her clients that have stood out. “Katrina D’Aguilar is one of those memorable clients who has really pulled me out of myself, as far as tapping into my skills and creativity is concerned. I was in hiding; and I wasn’t confident in myself. But after seeing the work that I’ve done, she encouraged me to just do it. I’ve worked with Cherine Anderson as well. She and I are both in the real estate industry and we became friends. When she learned of my second hobby, we did projects on her professional and personal style.”
One of the biggest obstacles she has encountered to date is a lack of seamstresses on the island, which has created a gap in the fashion industry. Since then, her efforts are focused on getting others to follow in her footsteps, training as best as she can, while encouraging others to get certified and pursue a career in this area of study.
Practising for 17 years as a valuation surveyor, when she isn’t in the field she is getting creative around her sewing machine. “I always tell people that I have a nine-to-five. But then I sew from five to nine.
So what’s next for McZenna? She would like to further her studies in fashion, with high hopes of getting certified internationally.