I started West Indies Wear back in 2006 when I was sailing around on my yacht with my husband and baby girl. Here is a photo of my daughter then and now...
In those early days we had very few customers but there were some early boutique buyers that believed in us from the get go.... one of those was Tessa from the now famous Foxy's Bar in Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.
I clearly remember meeting Tessa for the first time. I had heard about her from my fellow artisans in the islands. Other artists, jewelry makers, photographers who were creating island gifts to sell in the island resorts. Tessa's boutique was already renowned as one of the best boutiques in the Caribbean. I love this series of photos I found on their Facebook page post hurricane.
The first time we met, Tessa came into my booth at Surf Expo, sat there patiently looking through the whole line with her daughter. I remember thinking "WOW Tessa from Foxy's!!!!". So at the end of showing the line, Tessa got up and walked off, leaving me with nothing but her business card and an off handed comment about my colors. I didn't know what to think.... had she liked it? had she hated it? What was wrong with my colors? I like them ha ha. Well 2 weeks later I had my first order from Tessa, and she has religiously carried my line every year since.
As it turns out we have become good friends. I love her honesty and she is the one I first turn to each year that I have designed a new collection, to say "do you like this or that?" She always tells me what she thinks. "Why is that top more expensive than that one?" I remember her saying once.....hmmm good point Tessa!
I love this old picture of Tessa & Foxy.
How does a girl who grew up in suburban Australia, end up on a tiny Caribbean island with only 200 residents...for 40 years!!! Well she fell in love of course. I love this recent blog post on "Island Style Weddings" telling the story about how Tessa came to be in the islands. Click here to read it.... fascinating.
This time last year I was looking forward to catching up with Tessa at Surf Expo, we had our dinner plans organized. As I flew out for USA, Hurricane Irma was bearing down on them. The email I got from Tessa just days before the hurricane said she was not coming and that this hurricane at this stage was looking "DICEY"- yes, after 40 years in the Caribbean, Tessa still uses her Australian words for me!
The night Tessa's island was getting pummeled I did not sleep. The following day I was desperately seeking info on them. 3 days later I finally got an update on them, there was grainy video footage of the island of Jost Van Dyke taken by helicopter.... the island was 90% flattened, but Foxy's main roof was still partly on. It was an emotional time.
In the months after the hurricane Tessa and her family worked their butts off, helping people in the community. Click here to read the blog post I did about them at the time.
In the year since the hurricane, there has been a LOT of hard work keeping Foxy's Bar & Boutique going with bare bones staff and very few tourists. All the while re-building. Click here to visit their Facebook page and see the progress, that is where I found this recent photo of one of their visitors with the famous Foxy's sign.
Sometime after the hurricane I helped Tessa design a new IRMARIA Hurricane Relief T-shirt and helped her get started with an online store. So now they are able to sell their Foxy's merchandise online. Every little bit helps to get them back on their feet... and Foxy's is so famous now, its a great way for them to reach out to their customers who nave not been able to get back to the island yet, click here to check it out.
You have got to love the resilience of these island people after such soul destroying hurricanes last year..... they just pick themselves up, dust off and get back to work!
These days its a great idea of all the bricks & mortar stores to have an online store too.... why not !!! Its actually not as hard as you think.... if you would like help setting up a website too, please let me know. Perhaps I should do a blog post about how easy it is!
One Love x