Sheneice James

About me:

Before university, my life was about me not trying to be myself. I was weird. People thought I was strange. I was always unusual and didn’t fit in.  SO I spent all of my high school life trying to be less-extra, less loud. Every term I would tell myself, “This time, you’re not going to be crazy. You’re gonna be like everybody else. You’re not gonna shout, and you’re not gonna laugh that hard, and you’re not going to say off the wall shit.” But it never worked. By the time I was in form 6, I started to accept that I was a bit different. Not that I didn’t have friends, but I was always the weird friend. Interestingly enough, I was always friends with the popular people. I don’t know why. People weren’t mean to me, they still liked me. I just never fit in.

It wasn’t until I got to UTT and was around creatives all the time, that I stopped feeling different. Everyone in university was a creative just like me, so I tried to relax into being myself a bit more. Although I was finally around people who were like me and I felt less pressure to fit in, there was a lot going on behind the scenes that ultimately led to my complete emotional shut-down.

Making the decision to do fashion design really threw my parents for a loop, and I had to fight for so long just to be able to do what I had always wanted to do. Even though my dream ever since I was 15 was to go to fashion school abroad, I wasn’t able to do that because I didn’t have the support, so I went to UTT. Really and truly, I wasn’t ready to be able to go out there on my own. I didn’t have anyone to hold my hand and walk me through it. On top of that there was some boy drama. It was the first time I really liked someone and put myself out there, and it didn’t end up working out very well. My response to that was to shut down completely emotionally to just about everyone, and it all happened at the same time that I was fighting with my family, and my dad was moving to Tobago. The hardest part was that I was by myself a lot while going through all of these things. I thought that I was moving on as time passed but in reality, I was just swallowing my feelings and locking them away, progressively becoming more and more numb. By the time I was finished at UTT, I had no connection with my emotions.

After UTT, I decided to move to London and study fashion for 6 months at Central Saint Martins. While moving was one of the best things that ever happened to me in The grander scheme of things, it was a dark time emotionally. It was as though everything hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that I didn’t know who I was, or what I wanted to do, or who I wanted to be as a designer. Everything immediately just got so hard. I wasn’t really able to do as much as I would have been able to if I had a better understanding of myself. Yet still, the amount of work that I did and what I achieved was so important for me, and it contributed a lot towards getting me to where I am now.

The first thing I did after coming home from London was trying to work through all of my emotions. It was a deep, difficult process of digging into my childhood. Eventually, I had a breakthrough and I connected to the source to all of my pain at the time; it was a huge release. For the first time in years, I was in touch with my feelings again.

Despite that, I was still unclear as to who I was. I remember visiting Barcelona for a weekend while I was studying in London, and passing the Sagrada Familia on the tourbus. The guide shared a short story about Gaudi and his work, and what his work meant to him. It was so special to me. Since that moment, I knew that exploring his work would be connected to me figuring myself out (hippie ting) so I gathered all of my savings and went to Europe.

I spent all of my time collecting things that I loved and documenting the experience. I studied Gaudi’s work and learned more about him and the meaningfulness in his art. In experiencing that and seeing that, I found my direction in terms of what I wanted design to mean to me and what I would have needed from design for myself.

It took me back to a letter I read at 15, that the dean of Parsons wrote to prospective students. He described art as the thing that shapes the world that we live in and you having the ability to not just leave a mark on the world, but to actually define your life and shape the space that you experience. There was also the fact that the world that you live in has already been shaped and defined by someone else. Everything was created by someone: the roads we drive on, the cars we drive in, the buildings we live in. Everything was created by an artist. Seeing Gaudi’s work and how big of an impact his art made on the identity of Barcelona was unbelievably inspiring. One could argue that it is the lifeblood of Barcelona, and what makes it so special. It’s his expression all over the place. His art; his architecture.

I came home and proceeded to try to do a collection for myself. It was the first collection I’d done where I was intentionally digging into my emotions, and choosing and collecting things based on how I was feeling. When I sat there and looked at everything, I noticed a common thread, so I asked myself, “What am I trying to say?”

With no initial answer I continued to build the collection based on instinct over the next few months. Afterwards, I stepped back and looked at the collection. It was me. I was able to see myself and see what I was reflecting. It was feminine, and sweet and sensual and all of these emotions that I’d never really expressed.

At that time, I also challenged myself to share more with people, so I knew that I needed to share this collection. I reached out to stylist Stephanie Ramlogan who I followed. She had a reputation of being very honest and upfront, so I knew that she would tell it as it is. If she saw it and she didn’t like it, she would just say that she did not like it, and honestly, it was her positive response to the collection that made me believe that it was now the right time to share it.

I packed the collection and sent it to her in New York because at that time everyone who I wanted to work with from the model to the photographer was there. From the moment Stephanie showed me the completed first look with the hair, and the makeup, and this dream model, I cried. I sobbed. I couldn’t catch myself. It was as though I was seeing myself outside of myself. It was a complete and totally reflection of Sheneice. A true moment of validation. This collection was my gift to myself.


Fashion Design, Styling

About my collection:

My collection is a true reflection of who I am. So sharing my collection with people is basically me sharing myself with them.

james_036 james_040

My favourite shot:

This captures everything I want to say.


My favourite moment so far:

The first time I saw my dress fully styled. This is the photo that brought me to tears:


My favorite thing about what I do:

Even though design is this beautiful thing, it is still very stressful. My actual favorite thing to do is styling the looks when I’m done making them. The most perfect thing is taking a photo of the collection at the end. It’s extremely rewarding because of how long the process is. But then again, I don’t know if I would enjoy it as much if I didn’t toil and labor over it.

The type of brand I want to build:

I want to create for the person that wants to add pockets of whimsy to their everyday life. My work is meant to be fun, feminine and sensual. It’s meant to stir up an almost child-like excitement in the wearer or viewer. It will always be heavy detail-oriented, and will always be about mixing textures, patterns and prints.

What’s next for me:

I’m moving to Florence to study fashion brand management because I would like to run my own brand one day. I spend a lot of time doing research, and what I’ve learned is that when young designers leave school and try to jump straight into starting a brand, they end up “bouncing dey head”. It’s very difficult. There’s a huge learning curve that can be a real challenge to overcome because design is just the first step to running a fashion business. This degree is perfect for me because it’s a combination of creative direction and management. So, yeah! You’ll just have to wait and see!

Instagram: @sheneicejames




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