At 21, Taijhaun Hollis is already six years into his design career.
Fashion houses such as Armani and Versace got him interested; when drop crotch pants became a hit, he decided to get to work.
Then a student at CedarBridge Academy, he’s been focused on getting his clothing into the public eye ever since.
“My mother [Patricia Durham] always told me you never know who’s looking at you, so always look your best — I took it to heart. I always liked designer clothes but, being in Bermuda, they’re not always around. Also, we are limited to what is trending and not necessarily different styles or types of clothes. Since I didn’t have what I wanted, I decided to make it.”
The problem was, he couldn’t sew. With no classes on offer at his high school, he bought a machine and taught himself through “trial and error”.
“I’m an artist, so I know how to draw and I’m pretty good at maths and things so, with basic measurements and drawing out flat clothes, I just drew on fabric and made things,” he said.
“Obviously it was not the technical way you’re supposed to make it, but it looked like it was supposed to.”
He was encouraged by the compliments he received.
“I started off with pants. I took my mom’s old clothes and things with real crazy prints and turned them into pants to wear and, from there, just kind of went crazy and made shirts and jackets and things like that. I even tailored my school clothes.
“I look back at those early designs and I’m actually surprised at what I came up with. Obviously the designs, and the way I did them, were completely wrong or kind of crazy, but just to know that I thought of an answer to the problems I had with my clothes and made it work for me is impressive.”
The downside was that not everyone understood that a male might want to learn how to design and sew.
“I got backlash from everybody — family, friends, even teachers and faculty at the school looked at me like I was crazy. It’s disheartening to know that people can change their outlook because of something you’re interested in.
“I, as a heterosexual male, am constantly stigmatised due to shallow ways of thinking. It made me figure out who was in my life for me and who had my back. I lost quite a bit of people ,but it just showed they weren’t worth it.”
Through those early efforts, Taijhaun Hollis Clothing or THC, was born. Mr Hollis is one of seven local designers now preparing for their big reveal on the Bermuda Fashion Festival runway next week.
“This is my second official showcase of my clothes. The first was in 2015 in high school. People responded to my showcase just like when I started to sew, but I was definitely encouraged by the negative feedback. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody but myself.”
He put his name forward for the Bermuda Fashion Festival following a promise made to a friend last year.
“They wanted to see me involved in another show,” Mr Hollis said. “I’m nervous, more so for the feedback and outcome of the show.”
His designs, he says, are “for everybody”.
“My clothing line is a physical embodiment of what I find stylish. It’s for anyone and everybody who is willing to be different but, ultimately, I wouldn’t create anything thing that I wouldn’t wear myself. It’s named after me for exactly that reason.
“Before, I would have described my line as definitely streetwear. This one I’m trying to be more refined, more avant garde with the pieces I’m making. I’m trying to branch out and do different things. I design for everybody. I’ve made baby clothes, clothes for plus-size women, swimsuits, clothes for males, for females, for everybody.”
Adolfo Sanchez has mentored him through the process. Mr Hollis is grateful for the American designer’s efforts.
“He’s definitely opened up my eyes and made me think very hard about how I want to present my collection. He’s an amazing designer and mentor.”
His hope is that the Bermuda Fashion Festival will move him one step closer to achieving his dream.
“From here, I plan on building the franchise that I see my brand as,” he said. “Everything I wanted to do for the show couldn’t happen, but I will use my ideas and put them to use in my own shows.
After the show, I’ll continue my journey and hopefully go to school to further my education.
“Hopefully, I can network with the organisers of the event for future ventures in the industry. I also hope that the international professionals can give me much needed advice and critiques to help strengthen myself as a designer and I’m able to build lasting relationships with those that are designing with me.
Look for Taijhaun Hollis Clothing on Instagram: @taijhaunhollisclothingofficial; @taijzrodriguez. The Bermuda Fashion Festival runs July 8 to 14. Tickets and details of individual events are available on ptix.bm/bff