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Yello Interviews: St Lucian Christine Samuel, Owner of Christy Creations

by Karen Rollins Feb 26, 2024

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Christine Samuel

Bubbly, optimistic, positive, and inspiring are just some of the words that come to mind when you are in conversation with St Lucian creative Christine Samuel.

Well-known throughout the island as a dance legend, Christine has been successful in several creative fields, and is also a published author, an accomplished artist, and the owner of fashion brand ‘Christy Creations’.

Despite several setbacks throughout her life, including the closure of her local dance institution in 2007, Christine has managed to keep moving forward and find new ways to express herself and share her long-standing passion for art.

Christine shared some of her extraordinary business and life story with Yello.

Describe yourself using three words.

Artistic. Adventurous. Organised.

Please tell us a bit about your childhood.

I am a town/city girl. I grew up in the heart of Castries and there was always something happening, so I had a busy and active childhood as the last of five children. 

People knew me as a tomboy because I climbed trees and played marbles. I also grew up with a lot of artistic people around me. In my community, everybody was like your mother and father, and every child was like your brother and sister. Everything was about playing and having fun!

I went to Castries Anglican Infant School and from there to Castries Comprehensive Secondary. After that I went to Edna Manley College of the Performing Arts in Jamaica to pursue dance. Then I went to SUNY College of Brockport in the US to further my dance career. 

My whole life from a teenager to an adult really revolved around dancing. 

Was being a dancer your initial career plan?

Not really because when I was at secondary school my focus was on visual art. I was always painting. I was even going to get a scholarship to go to university in Miami, but that fell through, so then the opportunities and scholarships came up for dance, and I went with that. 

My dance career blossomed after I left school. I started a dance troupe and then for almost 30 years I had my own dance school in St Lucia called Christylights Dance Academy. I had children from all over St Lucia and the Caribbean coming to my school until it closed in 2007.

What led to the closure of the dance school?

I faced a few trials and tribulations, financial setbacks, and the recession which made things hard in St Lucia. It just became too much and seven years after I built the only dance institution in St Lucia, I had to shut it down. 

On my birthday in October 2016, I completely retired after teaching and dancing for over 40 years. I really became quite isolated and low. I stopped talking to people for a long time. I lost myself for about eight years because I was bankrupt, I lost so much, and it was a lot to bare.

Christine Samuel

How did you go from dance to making bags under ‘Christy Creations’?

I really had no intention of making bags but after I could not get the children to come to a summer dance programme, I was at my lowest, so one day I decided to make a cloth bag. I had a little sewing machine, and I just made it myself.

That afternoon I went to town, bought some fabric, and one bag turned into eight bags, and from there I never looked back.

In 2015, I collaborated with 8ttava on the HOT Couture fashion show and that gave me the first opportunity to showcase my bags. Then in 2016 I got the chance to take my bags to Suriname and that opened my eyes to see that I could really be part of the fashion industry.

What was the biggest challenge you faced getting started? How did you overcome it?

I never had any challenges starting ‘Christy Creations’. I was just making bags and then the HOT Couture show created more opportunities for me because after that Sea Island Cotton wanted my bags in their shops. 

My first contract was for 100 bags, and I am still with them all these years later. 

Christine Samuel

What is your design aesthetic for the bags?

The bags have a Caribbean feel because that is who I am. I look outside my window, and I see bright colours, so the bags are vibrant and colourful and represent me. 

These bags are one-of-a-kind, handcrafted and hand painted by me, and every bag tells its own story. Every piece of art on these bags cannot be replicated. 

Tell us about the process of creating a ‘Christy Creations’ bag.

The image comes to my head and sometimes I cannot wait to get up in the morning to put it onto the canvas. I’m on the sewing machine for 12-15 hours every day because I have so many visions for bags. Once I get new fabric, there is a new bag. New handles, there is a new bag! And I make clutches, purses, big bags, and small bags.

Where can people find your bags?

Sea Island Cotton has a lot of stores in St Lucia at Windjammer, Howelton Estate, which is where I am based, Ladera Resort, and Jade Mountain. 

I am at Howelton every day and when the tourists come, they can see me painting and ask me questions. When they finish the tour, they shop at the outlet upstairs, and because they have met me, they are excited to buy the bags.

Instagram and Facebook also work well for me. People can message me and connect directly. 

Christine Samuel

What has been your proudest career achievement so far?

My proudest achievement was publishing my book ‘Dance Footprints’. I was researching and working on it for seven years but when COVID came I was finally ready to write it and publish it. 

The book documents the 40-year history of where contemporary dance started in St Lucia from 1968 to 2008 and it is dedicated to my friend and dance teacher Virginia Alexander who died in 2008.

We printed 250 hardback copies, and they were all sold. They are in all the libraries and schools in St Lucia and some in the US.

I am thinking of doing one now on traditional dance because all our icons are leaving us, and it is important that the next generation know about these people who contributed to the arts in St Lucia. 

What are your plans to develop your business over the next 12 months?

What is important for me at this moment in time, is that I cater for everyone who wants a good bag. I have retired and will be 60 soon so I am not going to take on any debt. My plan is to make sure that my legacy with my artwork is there. 

I am also building at my house to keep the business at home so my customers can be comfortable because they come for hours. This small gallery will be gorgeous, and it will show my clothing, bags, jewellery, and paintings so people can see everything and buy what they want.

Christine Samuel

What do you love about St Lucia?

St Lucia is a beautiful place. There is nothing better than a sunshine day and a walk on the beach. St Lucia is home. I live in Babonneau and I can see every mountain. The scenery and the view are gorgeous. 

What is more beautiful than being on my balcony?

What advice would you give budding Caribbean designers / creatives?

Anything you do, you need to do it well. Be excellent in whatever you are going to produce. Be memorable. Do it because you love it and put 150% into the work you choose to do. 

And don’t sit at home thinking people are going to find you. Go out there and create avenues for yourself. No-one will come to look for you so let the world see you and what you can do.

If you could go back and talk to your younger self (age 13), what would you say?

Stay focused Christine. Stay the course because the future is bright. 

See more ‘Christy Creations’ on Instagram or Facebook.