Caribbean American Designer Spotlight

Caribbean American Designer Spotlight

Allison Stroman - Celebrating the rich culture of Caribbean American people and their wide array of contributions, June is Caribbean American Heritage Month. In 2004, Claire Nelson, Ph.D. began a campaign to recognize and honor Caribbean Americans. The next year the House of Representatives passed a Bill to name June Caribbean American Heritage Month. In June of 2006, the President signed a Presidential Proclamation naming June as Caribbean American Heritage Month.

Gamalier “Gam” Calderon is originally from Puerto Rico and moved to Florida in 2010. Shortly after high school, he founded House of Gam in 2014 as a platform “dedicated to spotlighting emerging and underrepresented fashion designers, offering them a conduit to reach a broader audience” which later became his own fashion brand. In June of 2018, Gamalier shifted towards being a Style Editor for LaPalme Magazine. 

Currently based in New York City, House of Gam was “founded on sustainability with a rebellious attitude towards the industry’s wasteful nature” with heavy inspiration from “cartoons and pop culture” that have been a part of his creative life since he was young. At the core of Gamalier’s fashion philosophy is adaptability: “Fashion isn’t static; it's a force of evolution, a catalyst for transformation. It’s about taking an idea and twisting it, reshaping it from every angle. As a fashion designer, my role isn’t just about creating; it’s about adapting.” Gamalier strongly believes that fashion designers must be aware and conscious of how their creations impact the environment. House of Gam specializes in ”crafting one-of-a-kind or limited runs of garments through resourceful utilization of discarded or deadstock fabrics and surplus materials from esteemed mills” in order to reduce the environmental harm done by mass production of textiles. Beyond the creation of his garments, Gamalier contributes to environmental nonprofits with 10% of every sale going to support causes like ”reforestation, waste management, habitat rehabilitation, and conservation”. In addition to being the Creative Director of House of Gam, Gamalier is a costume designer and wardrobe supervisor for film, television, and theater. Currently, Gamalier is the Wardrobe Supervisor for Atlantic Theater Company’s “The Welkin”.

“‘Eat well, travel often, and dress to inspire!’...In other words, make life beautiful.” That is the philosophy behind Felicia Noel’s fashion brand Fe Noel. Felicia’s Brooklyn-based womenswear brand is “deeply influenced by her Grenadian heritage and has mastered the ability to bottle up culture and glamour infused with sensibility and sensuality” with a strong mission to empower women in their femininity. Driven by her mother and grandmother’s teachings, Felicia started her fashion career at 19 with a vintage streetwear boutique. Felicia's love of “vibrant colors and [her] penchant for bold prints” combines with “the high-drama wardrobes of ‘70s muses like Bianca Jagger and Diana Ross” to create her joyful designs that feature her Grenadian heritage. For Felicia, fashion is a powerful way to convey who you are as an individual: “My main objective is for women to feel good in their own skin, dress beautifully, be who they want to be, and create the life that they want for themselves.”

In addition to being the creative mind behind Fe Noel, Felicia is dedicated to empowering other women in entrepreneurship. The Fe Noel Foundation is a program for young women to gain mentorship and tools to express their creativity and start their own business. Felicia believes that young women “can be successful in anything that they decide to do as long as they work hard and commit to their craft.” This success also stems from realizing their own potential and realizing that they can reach their goals. The Fe Noel Foundation’s mission is to “provide opportunities in a safe environment where the future of our generation can come and express themselves creatively, as well as bring their ideas to life in the form of a business.” At the core of Felicia Noel’s work with young women is the strong belief that your dreams are possible: “‘Dream in Color’ which represents bringing your dreams to life. Your dreams can become a foundation for future ambitions. I firmly believe that when you help young people realize the potential that lies within them that you are actively shaping a brighter tomorrow.”

Born in Jamaica and raised in New York City, Terese Syndonna is the designer and creative force behind her Manhattan-based eponymous fashion brand. After working in finance, buying, and merchandising, Terese switched to working with top designers like Jimmy Choo and Marc Jacobs. In the corporate world, Terese quickly witnessed how many women were asked to minimize themselves. 

Since pivoting to her own brand, Terese focuses on empowering women with her designs: “With a deep understanding of how self-worth is impacted, Terese Syndonna sets out to empower women to show up as their authentic selves so they can confidently reveal their inner strength - their untapped superpowers.” Terese aims to give women the space to be fully expressive and to recognize that “insecurity is temporary”. With boldness at the core of each collection, Terese’s designs require minimal specialized care where “95% of the collection is machine washable, quick drying, and wrinkle-free”. Furthermore, Terese incorporates environmental considerations in creating her original prints. The solution used in printing the garments is “water based and free of contaminants, making them non-hazardous, non-toxic and 100% biodegradable”. With a deep knowledge of “fit, construction, prints and mixing fabrications”, Terese creates a “safe space” for women to be their full selves, embrace their “inner superhero”, and empower them to be community leaders. As an entrepreneur herself, Terese is passionate about supporting other women entrepreneurs. Terese mentors students at Lafayette college, her alma mater, and and sits on several advisory boards centered around entrepreneurship.” As Terese continues to empower and uplift other women, she emphasizes that embracing one’s true self is integral in a climate that often tells women to minimize themselves for someone else’s comfort: “Be Bold. Join us in the fight.”

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