Twenty-year-old Abigail Herman is not your average young woman. It’s not often you find a youngster who turns adversity into opportunity. But that’s exactly what happened when Herman returned to St Lucia armed with her certificate in Crime Scene Investigation from the University of California – Riverside. She was in search of training, and with the new forensic lab and the desperate need for qualified professionals in criminology, Herman was optimistic. But after sending out several internship requests, offering her services – for free – failed, resting on her laurels was not an option. You see, Herman was already a survivor. She is originally from Fond St Jacques, Soufriere, one of the hardest hit areas during Hurricane Tomas in 2010. Unemployment was not going to be her demise.
“I’d been in the house from January and I couldn’t stand the pressure of being in the house for too long. I started watching the ceiling, I would be on Instagram and Facebook, but that just wasn’t enough for me because I’ve always been somebody who likes to do something for myself.”
Daydreaming morphed into deep contemplation.
“Actually, from last year I had the idea of doing something, opening a business, but I didn’t know exactly what that business would be. I started the gym earlier this year and I was thinking why not open a gym, but then I spoke to my mom. It wasn’t the best idea because there are so many gyms right now and it’s not something you can lean on because persons come and go, so I needed something more stable and that’s when I started drawing.”
Herman admits that her sister is the artistic one in the family, but she tried her hand at it and eventually came up with ten designs that she realized had potential. She started thinking of ways to manufacture the product and creating a business plan before approaching her mother again. The response was more favourable.
“She said this would actually be a great idea for the Caribbean. The tourism industry is booming in St Lucia, that’s our main industry so why not go into that field? Why not do something not just for locals only but for tourists? So when they come and go back, they can get something that was actually made in the country. So that’s where the idea came out of.”
The idea? Tropical Bliss, a swimsuit line featuring sexy but tasteful pieces, which reflect the ideals of the designer.
“I don’t like putting my body out. If you look at the collection you will see that there are high waist pieces, there are skimpy pieces and there are in between so it fits anybody. There is something for everybody.”
It even incorporates her love of family.
“In the fashion industry, before I even went into it, I was looking at different ideas as to how to go along naming the swimsuits,” Herman explained.
“How do you know to differentiate that swimsuit from that swimsuit? So I realized that they would name the swimsuit after somebody or if it was a print they would say tropical print or something of that sort. So, I went with names because a lot of persons inspired me to do different things. I started with Pam and it’s one of the pieces that everybody’s talking about. And I named it after my mom. From the moment I put my eyes on it I knew it was going to be the one that persons would really like, so I said you know what? Let’s name this one after Pam.”
Out of the ten, four pieces are named after family members with the rest being issued monikers to capture the essence of each suit. Each order is custom made for the client by a manufacturer right here on the island. Most of the fabric used is also sourced in St Lucia. Currently the line is strictly for the ladies, but there are definite plans to expand into menswear in the pipeline.
But don’t think Herman is satisfied as yet. Law school is the next goal, but not before she is satisfied that her pet project has taken root.
“I planned to start law school in September but with everything going on now, before I just leave the business up to my mom or my team, I’m trying to set certain things in place, because I’m the one who has the passion for it. If I go and I leave it up to somebody else, they won’t be able to put in the effort that I would, they don’t have the vision that I have. So I’m trying to set that foundation that even if I leave to go to law school, I know it’s in good hands.”
The worlds of crime scene investigation and fashion are as far apart on the spectrum as they come, but not for Herman.
“It wasn’t a hard transition because I have always been into fashion. I love new stuff, I love new trends, everything that has to do with fashion, I’m on board. Transitioning from crime scene investigation to drawing swimsuits, it wasn’t huge because that’s what I love doing. It’s part of me.”
For the full range of the Tropical Bliss collection and details on how to order, check out this weekend’s 2Nite magazine.