Darcel de Vlugt is a Designer, Freelance Writer, Editor/sub-editor, Mother and Owner and Creative Director of Van der Vlugt.
For her Creativity is an expression of the soul and of the imagination. Being creative is taking one's thoughts and turning them into a tangible, visual piece of communication. It is a gift. How well you do at it is a skill you must develop. You either tap into your gift or you don't. If you don't, then you have raw talent, but you may not be successful in your ventures using that talent. If you have raw talent and also have the discipline to hone the skill and build on it, branching out into other skills, then success is inevitable.
What's your standard for evaluation your own work?
That's a difficult question because I don't believe any artist is ever 100% happy or satisfied with their end result. Even after the runway show, even after the product leaves the studio, there is always something that could have been altered or done just a little bit differently or better. I know I have a good piece on my hands when I fall hopelessly in love with it; when I can create a story around it - its birth, its life, its end. I have a vision of where I want my brand to be and what brands I wish to emulate in terms of product and work ethic, so I guess that is the standard I aspire to eventually.
Everyone is a [Fashion] critic. How do you deal with that?
I think you need to believe strongly enough in your own work to not listen to critics. That doesn't mean that an artist should not heed constructive criticism! However, there is a difference between listening to advice that is critical to your product and brand, and listening to naysayers or people bashing your brand or product. If they don't like it, then they probably aren't your target market anyway, so what they say should not matter. What does matter, is what your client thinks and what your target market thinks.
What also matters, is emotionally detaching yourself enough from your work to know what sells and what doesn't, no matter how much you personally may love it. I always say "No one can criticize me any worse than I criticize myself"… so, if you say something that is true, then I've probably already beat you to it in self-criticism and it cannot hurt me anyway. And if what you're saying is false or hurtful, then it doesn't matter anyway. I also am wary of 'gushers' - people who overly love your work without any real feedback or input. Most of the time, gushers aren't buyers in any case.
Speaking on the cultures that influence her style, Darcel tell us “I grew up in Europe and the Middle East, so those cultures are very strong in my inspiration and techniques and training. However, being a Caribbean woman, I am influenced by the diversity and colour of the Caribbean. The colourful spirit of where we live is something that comes through in my pieces; perhaps not always through colour, but the playfulness is in the silhouette or the style of the outfit.”
Idea to End: a long journey, or a leap?
I need more than a spark; I need a story. There must be a beginning, a middle and an end to an idea in my head. Who is it for? How did it happen? Why did it happen? Where are they going? Who are they with? How are they going to wear this? I don't just design and make clothes. I design a story. I design an experience.
The Van der Vlugt brand motto is A Moment Of Fantasy because that's what I want the VdV woman to have. A moment of wonderful, beautiful fantasy in what can be a very mundane and sometimes uninspiring every day reality. I think this stems from my own experiences of using imagination as an escape from the norm when my childhood was tough at times with my skin.
Financial freedom. Between being a mother and starting a business, there is no time or money for me. I have not bought myself new clothes in years, even though I make clothes for others! I hardly socialize anymore, so when I do, I love to have a glass of wine and treat myself to some fine dining - I'd choose that over a hot party any day now!
I have also sacrificed friendships, sadly. Sometimes, people don't understand where you are going or what you have to do to get there. At some point, you need to let them off your train or they will completely derail you. And that's perhaps been one of the hardest parts on the journey to a successful life and career - losing friends I considered to be family. So, when I lose a friend, I die a little bit inside.
The good thing about being an artist is that most of us are masochists and we turn negative experiences and dark moments into something beautiful in the end.
What helps you to persevere?
MY MUM AND DAD!! Without a doubt, no questions asked! And my daughter who is almost three. She gives me a reason to do what I do because of the example that I MUST show her as her mother and as a woman. She needs to know about perseverance, commitment and ambition and I am the first example of that in her life so it is necessary that I continue even when the chips are down. I am trying to build a business and turn it into something even bigger than that so that one day I can pass it onto her, if she wants it. VdV needs to be around long after I am gone.
Favourite piece of work to date?
My yellow Dita dress from 2009, and my black silk organza gown that debuted at the London International Fashion Showcase in February 2013.
I cut the Dita dress once and it was complete - no laborious toiling, it literally just fell from my fingertips; fabric, design and technique came together perfectly on that one. It has been THE signature VdV dress and a bestseller ever since - everyone asks about it. I had to retire it in November 2013 after too many shoots and appearances.
The black gown was originally a ballgown skirt and at the very last minute, I cut off the original waistband and remade it into a gown. I think it was so successful because no one here is doing that kind of garment locally. We have gowns, but not gowns like that.
Darcel’s advice to young and emerging creatives on her field: Love it with EVERYTHING you have. Always keep investing in yourself and your education. Plan wisely. Stay spontaneous. Tune into your business side - the sooner the better! You WILL need it. Learn to say "no". You cannot please everyone. When you don't know what to do… do SOMETHING! (one of the few pieces of wisdom I took from university) When it's no longer fun or does not fill you with love and joy… stop doing it. Stay true to your brand and your aesthetic. Every change you make that does not reflect who you are will contribute to hindering you.
Forget me not.
I want my brand to one day be the household name for bridal across the Caribbean - follow in the footsteps of Vera Wang. I also want to do for the Caribbean what Oscar de la Renta has done by becoming an international household name. More than anything? I'd like VdV to be the first Caribbean brand invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to be a guest member. Yes… I dream big!
If Darcel were a Crayon, the name of her colour would be Royal Purple
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