In September 2017 we sat with Ain Earle Founder of the Fashion Arch and of the Bald Beauty as she was preparing to build her organization to build awareness about alopecia in Trinidad and Tobago. We’re blown away by Ain’s tenacity in the face of the adversities that face entrepreneurs, and salute her as someone who is bringing awareness and reducing stigma around alopecia in the Caribbean. Ain Earle is a Bene Caribe Woman who is Good for the Caribbean.
Tell us a little bit about you. What are you involved in right now?
I’m currently the lead consultant and founder of Fashion Arch and I also have a foundation/support group for just about a year now, Bald Beauty which is a foundation that aims to bring awareness to alopecia and how it affects people with the condition. Through Bald Beauty I aim to promote self-care and self-love and bring awareness to persons with alopecia in Trinidad and Tobago.
What does it mean to you to be “Good for the Caribbean?”
I do what I do for fashion branding to expose the world to what we have here in Trinidad and the wider Caribbean. The Caribbean has talent and creativity that we can boast about and share to the world and I want to develop fashion here and ensure that it is sustained. I am fulfilling my passion to grow and promote what the Caribbean has to offer in the creative industry and to show the broad cross section of beauty (with or without hair) that the Caribbean has to offer through my foundation.
What do you love most about being Caribbean?
The people. Our countries may have differences, but when it matters most, we do come together for positive causes! Of course, we come together for carnivals but more importantly, when devastation is happening across the Caribbean, we help each other out.
What, if anything, do you see as areas for improvement, or work that needs to be done in the Caribbean or the Caribbean Diaspora (including in Caribbean Communities globally)?
We need more collaboration, communication and more support for each other. I see this with creatives especially, we can’t try to do this on our own. It is important to ask others to come along on our journey with us and to mentor others. From the layman to the politicians, we need to move together as one.
How has being from the Caribbean shaped or influenced your career?
From my childhood experience, the people I grew up around supported each other. I have a background in tourism and fashion and it makes me want to expose what we have here. The fact that we had to go to the market to support our neighbor or friend is important – that’s ours and it should be supported first. We grew up with calypso playing in our house throughout the year and learned to play Caribbean instruments. This helped us understand where we came from. It meant: home first, always and with this mentality we’re able to support and understand what we do. My intention is to show others about loving where they came from.
How did you get into the fashion industry and what led you to creating the Fashion Arch?
Development and marketing is a main part of Tourism. I worked at a community group called Nature Seekers working on tourism and marketing. That’s where I met the other co-founder of Racked – a fashion market that we launched in Trinidad – which I loved the concept of because I was always around local fashion. People would always ask where I got my clothing and accessories from. The solution seemed easy – start a market! My colleague and myself decided to start this and sales, which was great, but designers needed more, especially on the back end. With that information, I birthed the concept of The Fashion Arch.
What do you hope for your Fashion Arch brand in the next 5 years?
In five years, I see the Fashion Arch as a company assisting regional fashion brands and companies to be more sustainable. I want the brand itself to be able to speak on branding and marketing for the creative and tourism sectors, become a resource and representative. I hope to develop an online showroom, a Caribbean showroom specifically, that can develop brands and show what the Caribbean has to offer to an international audience. For this I want connectivity, ensuring that the buyers at trade shows can get access to Caribbean designers and so expand their global reach and footprint. These connections can then help with increased sales. I want brands to have full sustainability, where I assist with one on one coaching, strategy services and workshops to support this.
How do you choose who to work with as a fashion consultant?
I host a consultation to get to know where the company is in their business. My choices are based on the connection I develop with the company and the passion they have. It’s all about their passion so the best comes out of what they’re doing. While working with each company, we work out policies helping them to be ethical in terms of using non-toxic paints, sweatshop-free cotton, and generally using materials that are sourced ethically.
Can you tell us about your alopecia campaign and your experience working on it?
It’s still pretty new. We literally launched in the beginning September 2017, there’s a Facebook page where information about the condition is posted, treatments that persons have used, stories from persons with the condition, ways to cope and general love and support. I have done several TV and print interviews over the past year especially during Alopecia Awareness month which is September. I’ve had alopecia since 2004 and I felt that there I didn’t have the support of a foundation and I couldn’t find anything locally. People would think that my baldness was a style, so I would have to repeatedly explain my journey and process and how alopecia transformed my life in a way. I was opening up people’s eyes to the condition. I knew during alopecia awareness month I had to start campaigning, so I reached out to every media person and started to share my story. I received a lot of positive feedback thus far. Since creating the Facebook page people have been so grateful for the group because they never had been able to turn to others. With the momentum we are formulating, developing and promoting events and activities to get the awareness people always needed. Our campaign is about self-care and teaching people that we are so much more than hair.
The foundation is for people who may need wigs or makeovers, eyebrow treatments, lashes hairstyles. We raise funds through branded merchandise – we have printed some t-shirts with our logo created by Patricia Granum and jewelry designed by me and created by Bead Cafe. Patricia has also designed and created some limited necklaces as part of the merchandise.
What’s the most gratifying part of your multiple professions?
Sometimes just hearing “thank you” from clients or seeing their name somewhere on a screen or on print is extremely satisfying. I’ll get messages saying, “we’ve been looking for someone to help us, thanks for starting your business.” Positive responses on the Bald Beauty page and just having persons interested in attending a support meeting is satisfying enough.
What Motivates you?
My mom motivates me most. Support from my mom keeps me going because she’s my main confidant and support from her is amazing. I also get a lot of motivation from my clients and everyone around me. Sometimes I want to curl up in a ball and just stop, but then I do a Facebook or Instagram Live, and people ask questions, comment and engage -They motivate me to keep going. I’ve been beginning to see things falling into place with my business as well and that pushes me further.
What have been your biggest struggles in your career and/or life? How have you overcome or attempted to overcome them?
My biggest struggle was recognizing that I can’t work for people. I had to realize working for others was not for me because I’ve never lasted two years in a job. I felt like there was something more I needed to do, and I struggled with accepting that.
What has been your biggest accomplishment?
Taking a leap with the Fashion Arch and Bald Beauty. I’m proud of the brands and the way they look because I got to choose everything based on what I need to do for clients.
Advice and Tips:
How can Caribbean people in the Caribbean Diaspora stay connected to their Caribbean roots and contribute to the Caribbean community?
I’d love to see fellow people from the Caribbean do research and get involved in different things that they are passionate about. They can start a foundation and give back by doing what they love whether it’s Caribbean based or not. If people can’t find something to get involved with, they can start their own group or organization. We need more change-makers and doers in the Caribbean.
How do you think the diaspora can support what you’re doing?
For Fashion Arch, experienced fashion designers can provide mentorship and we can work out some type of exchange program. For Bald Beauty, people can share their experiences with alopecia so that others know it’s a condition that’s worldwide. I would love if doctors in the diaspora could lend a helping hand in support groups and discuss research and other issues related to alopecia.
What do you want this audience to know about fashion and alopecia?
- Fashion is a business so treat it as such.
- On alopecia: We do not have cancer. We are not sick. It’s an autoimmune disease that affects hair loss. Alopecia affects our mental and emotional health
- To support someone with alopecia, treat them the same as you would before they had alopecia, because they are the same person. Just continue to love and support them.
We’re honored to work with Ain as part of our Bene Caribe family. Follow @theFashionArchTT or #BaldBeautyTT on instagram to keep up with Ain and learn more about her work.