At the age of 29 I had quit my high paying, high stress, glamorous job as Head Designer at Billabong South Africa to go sailing to the Caribbean. Here I am in the messy chaotic design room at Billabong SA.
My boyfriend (now my husband) and I had done navigation courses, and sailing courses with a tough old merchant sailor in South Africa. He was in the business of training men to be commercial fishermen on the South African Coast. I was only the 2nd woman to do his courses, and he was not very forgiving…. well the South African coastline (known as the Cape of Storms) is not very forgiving either. It sure was a steep learning curve.
The day I had my final exam the wind was blowing 30 knots and I had to take the examiners boat out to sea, and perform tricky “man overboard” manoeuvres in the gale force winds. I passed the exam, earnt the respect of the instructor and a year later we set sail for tropical island paradise.
Arriving in the Caribbean after months at sea was like putting your senses into overdrive - the earthy smells of the tropics, the bright colors of the Caribbean, the booming sounds of reggae. Its not unlike that when you fly into a Caribbean island either. Totally different world to the JFK snow storm you might have flown out in. For me the highlight of flying from North America to the Caribbean was always flying over the shallow waters of the Bahamas. It is so stunning, with a million different shades of blue. For a “blue addict” like me it is heaven.
If you google "flying over the Bahamas" and look at google images, this is what you get. WOW.
Recently I received an email from a 91 year old lady named Lila, who is a dedicated West Indies Wear customer - I just have to share this beautiful paragraph with you ....
"I went to the Virgin Islands when I was in my early twenties and fell in love with it. As the plane took me back to the mainland, I looked out the plane window and saw all those houses built on the side of the mountain facing the ocean. I promised myself I would go back and build a house too, but never did. I used to live in a penthouse in New York City at the edge of the Hudson where from my terrace on the 19th floor, I could have seen Sully land his plane. After my years in New York (I’m a born and bred native) I moved to a beautiful house in La Jolla, California. Not bad either. So I’ve always lived near the ocean and its magic. Now I’m land-bound, almost an hour away from the ocean. I’m 91 years old, and still looking at and loving your designs."
Isn't it amazing that the memory of flying out of St.Thomas 70 years ago has stayed with her for life. My years in the Caribbean have heavily influenced my life too, 6 years after moving back home to Australia, I am still designing Caribbean inspired clothing, and everything about my house reflects the colors of the Caribbean.
One love island friends.