Sonia Noel: Creating local fashion
July 6, 2003
You’ve heard the name, you’ve seen her work but who really is Sonia Noel? Sunday Stabroek interviewed the designer as she prepared to launch her new clothing line.
Sonia’s passion for style started years ago as a child, and found its first expression when she owned and operated her own boutique in her home town of Bartica. She said that she used to purchase clothing from overseas to sell in the store, but for herself, she would design her own outfits. Her customers started complaining that she always saved the best for herself, and asked her why she didn’t sell the outfits she had on.
So five years ago, at the insistence of her family and friends, she took the initiative and ventured into the fashion world.
Using natural fabrics and her artistic ability Sonia creates clothes for both men and women, which are designed to make them feel comfortable, positive and sexy. While she designs everything herself, she gets inspiration from her eldest daughter and assistant, who she says gives her a lot of ideas.
Sonia’s father, the late Patrick Noel, came from Georgetown while her mother, Claudia Noel-John (now remarried) hails from Bartica. Before the age of ten, Sonia and her family lived in Georgetown and when her parents separated, her mother moved back to Bartica, where she spent her later childhood years.
She is the eldest of six children. She has two brothers and three sisters, all of whom, she said, had been very supportive of her work.
It was her association with pageants during her period in school which first stimulated her interest in fashion. She said that she was a very shy child, and had to be coaxed into participating in her first pageant when she was 11-years-old. On that occasion she was adjudged first runner-up. One of the requirements for contestants was that they create their own outfits, and she made a cotton creation, she said, “and it was great.”
Sonia only had good memories about participating in pageants. She said that by so doing she was able to become a positive person, forget her shyness and become outspoken.
That first pageant was Sonia’s stepping stone into the fashion world, and from then on she designed her own outfits. She continued to take part in pageants throughout her teenage years.
At the age of eighteen, Sonia became a teacher at the Bartica Community High School, but she subsequently left and joined the Ministry of Tourism for one year. It was after leaving the ministry, that Sonia ventured into the fashion world full-time by starting her own business in Bartica.
Of her personal life, Sonia said laughing, “Well you know that at twenty I started making babies.” She has two daughters, Mariska, 11-years-old - the adult clothing line is named after her - and Shante, 6-years-old, after which the children’s line is named.
Now, five years on, Sonia’s creations are recognised in several countries abroad. She has outlets selling her clothing in Grenada, Suriname and Barbados and individual clients in the United Kingdom and United States of America.
How did she come by these personal clients? “Well some people come here and see my shows; they would contact me to do something for them and it remains that way even after they’ve left. They would also pass on the word to others, who contact her and that’s how I build my clientele.”
Insisting that she’s a self-taught designer, Sonia hopes one day, if given the opportunity, to study at a designer school overseas. However, for now she continues to use her talents to create daring and exotic outfits.
Other than designing, Sonia also has a soft spot for the Joshua Home for children, and when she launches her new line, half of the proceeds will be used to purchase mattresses for the children of that home. She has on a regular basis treated the children to dinners, sewed outfits for them and provided linens for the home.
The show will be held on July 6, 2003 in the Savannah Suite of Le Meridien Pegasus, and will comprise twelve segments.
Sonia will also have three shows later this year in Barbados, Grenada and Suriname.