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Yello Interviews: St Lucian Designer Sharleen Lagon, Founder of Jaeylu

by Karen Rollins Jun 15, 2020

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St Lucian fashion designer Sharleen Lagon has been slowly but steadily building her brand’s reputation over the past 10 years.

Jaeylu is now established on the local scene, and Sharleen has plans to break into the international market by developing her online presence.

In a fickle market, where fashion designers come and go, Sharleen is proving that attention-to-detail, exceptional customer service, and exquisite taste will stand the test of time.

Sharleen shared her entrepreneurial story with Yello.

Describe yourself in one sentence.

I am a creative workaholic; culture and innovation are my muses, always leading me to push onto new and exciting horizons.

Please tell us about your background.

I was brought into this world on 20 March 1984 by two awesome, supporting and a tad-bit-crazy parents. By virtue of their profession (they own a restaurant and bar), I was exposed to a lot of interesting and unorthodox situations, personalities, and opportunities.

Needless to say, I grew up fast, but in the perfect way.

I attended the Ave Maria Girls Infant and Primary School and then the Saint Joseph’s Convent, where I discovered my love and knack for the visual arts, particularly sketching and painting. Over the years, I sharpened my skills through trial and error, focusing primarily on the areas of fast and high-end fashion.

I was able to network and meet some phenomenal persons in the fashion fraternity, which assisted in cementing my foundation in the local and regional marketplace.

Again, with the support of my awesome parents, I attended the Barbados Community College to pursue an associate degree in fashion design. To date, my family has been an integral part of my brand and its triumphs.

Were you always interested in fashion?

Not always. I had my eyes set on visual arts (painting, sketching, sculpture, etc.) at first.

I never lost interest in that as it stirs my creative process, but I found interest in interior design and architecture, which I pursued for a little while until I really found my soulmate in fashion design.

It has been over 10 years now, and I’ve never looked back.

How and when did you start your brand ‘Jaelyu’?

Jaelyu was actually birthed from my final assignment at the Barbados Community College in 2009. We had to conceptualise and produce a collection that we felt represented our individual style and creativity.

During my thought processes, I envisioned something profound and timeless, that would be empowering and exhilarating and go against the status quo for the Caribbean woman.

I officially registered the business in St Lucia in 2010.

Of course, the brand has grown since then, and we cater to both men and women (individual and corporate clients).

Can you tell us the story behind the name ‘Jaeylu’?

OK now, this is an interesting story. Let’s just say it was a very long and tiring process when it came to settling on a name for the business with my siblings.

Jaeylu was the most favoured and not just for its uniqueness. Jaeylu is actually a combination of our parents’ names.

We spent some time shuffling the letters around and settled on this spelling after much deliberation. The name is actually pronounced “halo”.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced setting up the business? How did you overcome it?

Start-up capital was a headache at first. I explored numerous outlets because I didn’t want to rush the process or throw myself into a sour deal.

After exercising patience for quite some time, I got lucky and secured funding through a competition for young entrepreneurs. A family friend actually called me the day before the deadline, and I submitted my business proposal to the funding agency.

They were impressed with Jaeylu, and its philosophy, and I was one of five persons identified for grant funding.

Who are your clients?

Jaeylu caters to a vast and diverse demographic. Our clientele ranges from politicians and diplomats to the avid partygoer during carnival season.

What is your brand’s unique selling point (USP)?

Jaeylu specialises in highly customised clothing that is specific to the request of the client.

Jaeylu is incomparable to other brands.

My style and attention to detail are very meticulous, and to be honest that kind of frustrates me sometimes! I am a stickler for quality, crisp and well-made garments, and my private and commercial clients can all attest to that.

What is your design process?

Usually, I work with a theme or concept that the client has. I build from there based on different factors (budget, timeframe, availability of materials, etc.).

With respect to my collections, they are typically theme-based and carry a hint of St Lucian culture.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

That’s a tough one. I usually just go with the flow.

I have all of these awesome ideas tearing at the seams of my imagination. I put pen, or pencil, to paper and the magic just happens.

What has been your proudest career achievement so far?

My proudest accomplishment has always been consistent growth.

I try to never become complacent in my work. I always set higher and higher milestones for myself, my team, and the brand. Growth, relevance, and perseverance are very important to me.

What are your plans to grow the business?

We have been working silently on some grand ideas.

Jaeylu will definitely have a stronger online presence that will catapult the brand even further into the international scene, especially in light of the changing commercial landscape.

Are there any local and regional entrepreneurs / designers you admire?

Knowing the struggle wholeheartedly for what it is, I have the utmost admiration and respect for any entrepreneur (young and young-at-heart) who decides to pursue their dreams.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs / fashion designers?

I hate to sound clichéd but do not give up! Do not entertain negativity and doubt. Surround yourself with positive and like-minded people.

What do you love about St Lucia?

The island is scenic and has this inexplicable creative energy which just gets you going.

The people are crazy (in a good way). The melting-pot of personalities for such a small state is rather exciting, to me at least.

I’ve been fortunate to meet so many amazing people in my life who have undoubtedly influenced my style and processes.

Where do you go to relax?

I like to get lost in a good book with a chilled glass of red wine. That’s my guilty pleasure. Anybody who loves me knows that much.

What is your philosophy / approach to life?

Carpe diem! None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, so I always like to live life to its fullest.

If something doesn’t make you happy, or you have doubt in it, leave it alone!

You can contact Sharleen via:

Facebook or Instagram: @jaeylu.atelier

Twitter: @jaeylu_atelier