The theory of bold and bright

  • Bermy look: Bermudian Shanna Hollis has designed 12 pieces for the Maryland Institute College of Art’s fashion show, Authenticity featuring Bermuda-inspired clothing. Her work has also featured in Footwear News
  • Bermudian student:

Shanna Hollis

There’s a lot of Shanna Hollis in her first fashion collection ... a little more than she bargained for.

The graphic design major had no experience in sewing; she suffered quite a few pricks while getting ready for the Maryland Institute College of Art’s fashion show: Authenticity.

The 12 looks each feature a Bermuda motif. “There’s a lot of me in the show, a lot more than there should be,” she laughed. “My identity is definitely in the clothes. I decided to do what I thought was authentic to me — a Bermudian collection that describes my identity and my experience.”

Ms Hollis patterned fabric with images of Art Mel’s fish sandwiches, Barritt’s ginger beer, Dunkley’s milk cartons and Simmons’s pineapple sherbet.

“I didn’t think I was going to be so greedy,” she laughed. “When I thought about what was important to a Bermudian, a lot of it happened to be food.”

To balance, she also included birds of paradise, Bermudianas, and longtails.

“One of the prints is my Mio [scooter],” she said. “I have the Bermuda bus too, but the old bus, the number 10, St George’s, with the stripes not the waves.”

She will show the collection tonight and tomorrow. Her outfit for the event is “a deconstructed Gombey dress”.

“I love colour theory, it’s probably one of my strongest subjects in graphic design but I’m often having to tone that down to match what graphic design is currently doing — monochromatic or a more minimal layout,” she said.

“I wanted to create a show that’s bold and bright like me. I’m very energetic and I’m very bubbly. I wanted to be able to show who I truly am, my last graphic design statement before I leave Mica.”

Footwear News featured the collection last month.

She customised matching shoes for the show and the co-ordinated looks were shot by Derek Blanks, the “celebrity photographer” and Mica alumnus.

As her thesis project, “21 Miles” looks at how her “Bermudian identity actually conflicts with American assimilation”.

“In America, people identify each other by their ethnicity and background and stereotype them,” she said adding that the black Bermudian experience is very different from the African-American one.

“Bermudians are a little more complex because nobody really has an idea of the Bermudian background.

“I was really just creating the show to give them a feel for my background.”

Her models will walk to soca, reggae and “a little bit of Rihanna” to capture the island sound.

The 21-year-old lives in Baltimore City. Though Mica is known for its graphic design programme, she was drawn to the university’s positive community.

“It’s definitely different from home,” she said.

“I live in a glass palace. And my room is right next to the highway. I hear cars endlessly, but the city is actually small and close-knit like Bermuda.”

The Baltimore Riots in 2015,marked her first year in the programme.

“I’d never experienced anything like that,” she said.

“Even my school community, in terms of accepting homosexuality and transgender rights, really opened up my eyes to things that are happening outside in the world. The Black Lives Matter movement — I’ve marched in those. It’s made me politically active.”

She said issues of colourism are strong in Baltimore.

“My school is predominantly Asian and white with just a sprinkle of black people,” she said. “People don’t like to look at me as ‘black’ even though my identity is black Bermudian.

“Before I came to college, I didn’t really have to face that issue.”

She said a lot of her projects have drawn on her experience as a Bermudian in the US.

One imagined campaign was titled “Bermuda, don’t drink and ride”. Another was an anti-violence youth organisation project she called Ayo — the name derives from Gombey culture.

She created a collection of dolls for a graphic design packaging class to challenge ideas of black identity. Each doll has her own story and unique characteristics such as freckles and different hair types.

“The brand was called Queen,” she said. “The tagline for it was ‘every shade of royal’. The idea behind that was for young black girls to see there are different types of black, different backgrounds and different experiences.”

She was inspired to go to Mica by her brother Nahshon Hollis, an oil painter, and her high school art teacher, Fiona Murdoch. “I graduated from Saltus wanting to be an accountant, but they inspired me to go for what I really wanted to do — fashion and graphic design,” she said. “When I came to Mica I barely knew how to work anything — Photoshop, Adobe, I learnt everything here.

“I see a lot of young Bermudians coming together and making these spaces and groups to share their talents. The commercials are getting funnier, they’re cleaner; they’re better. The music production, video production everything is getting better.

“A lot of me wants to come home to bring what I have to the table as well.” Instagram: @iamshannahollis