Drevait All Day: Meet the designer behind the hottest hand-made handbag line

[dree-vay] noun.
A wayward person who likes to “knock about”

To most, the word drevait is just another one of our local colloquialisms, one that might not necessarily have meaning – or even be used in any one particular way. But for those who know Danielle Murray, the word drevait means so much more, because that’s the name of her brand: Drevait.

This wasn’t always the case. In fact, less than five years ago, Danielle was still working in the business field – doing consulting on her own for brands, but feeling like something was missing.

“There was no passion in it, so I decided to explore my creative side,” she explained. “That is when I took the leap to apply for the Diploma in Fashion Design at UTT[‘s CAFD].”

In fact, while she was doing the two-year diploma alongside working fulltime, she realized that her “hobby” was more time-consuming than even she expected. She ended up having to stop her job, and really focused on honing her craft while she was at the school. But it was only after she finished the program did she ever consider creating a brand of her own.

“I went through these past two years and I worked so hard and put everything into it,” Danielle added. “So let me try to make something of it.”

She decided on handbags – largely because she wasn’t 100% confident in her sewing abilities, even after the program, and the fact that creating a clothing line requires you not only to make the clothing, but fit it to suit the body of each and every woman. But with her decision, and advice from her handbag teacher-turned-mentor, she released her first ‘collection’ in 2015, starting with her first bag “The Flaunt”. It was only two or three bags, really just put out to show her friends, but people started asking how much they cost, and from there, it became a full-scale business.

From there, she frequented markets and pop-up shops, and her brand grew instantly.

“I got a spot as a vendor in [local market] Bits n Pieces, and I had a focus to make a certain amount of bags, and they sold out,” she recounted. “From there, people started asking for more and more. There was no way that I could turn away from the business because people were demanding the product.”

But it doesn’t happen overnight: in fact, one collection can take a few months to produce. The process is intense – going from inspiration to design, then product sampling and actually making the product. Once the product is made, the work continues, with the focus on marketing and promotion – and then finally comes the sales.

Right now, Danielle works alone – but the brand has reached the point where she’s looking to expand. Doing so, she knows, will allow her to produce larger quantities, and reach wider audiences – hopefully those internationally soon enough. And though it’s only been a short three years since Drevait stepped on the scene, the brand has completely exploded.

“I started off with maybe 30 of the smaller bags when I first did it, and that took me the whole of Christmas [to sell],” Danielle said. “Now, we have moved up to about 300 to 400 per collection in just the small bags.”

But the thing that sets Drevait – and Danielle – apart from many other designers is that her bags don’t scream local, or even Caribbean.

In fact, when she showed me a picture of her first design, The Flaunt, I saw a bag that looked better suited on the shelves of an upscale department store in New York than on the tables of a local vendors’ market.

“I think what makes the design look the way it looks is the types of materials that you choose, and what you choose to make with them,” she explained.

“When you can marry fabric and design properly, you can come up with a product that does rival what you might see internationally or in a store.”

Don’t get it twisted, though: Drevait is 100% Caribbean. But it’s a marriage of the Caribbean lifestyle and a city flair aesthetic, somewhat modernizing the idea of what exactly the Caribbean woman is. And that’s who the Drevait woman is:  she’s a woman with passion and purpose, who loves to explore and learn new things, new cultures, new places. Someone who’s always on the go, always on a mission, and always looking for that next thing.

“She’s a hot foot, she loves to travel, the loves the journey, and that’s what our brand is based on,” the designer added. “It’s about your journey, it’s about taking you where you need to go. What else does a women need to have when she’s going where she has to go? Her bag.”

Caught up in our conversation of Caribbean fashion and our personal style, Danielle’s phone rings, a call she’ll always take – her son’s. It’s then that I remember she’s not just a fashionista or a handbag designer, but a mother and a woman firsthand. And I think that’s why it’s so easy for her to create for her brand, because she embodies it in its entirety.

“He’s my number one seller, and surprisingly enough, for ten years old, the boy is more business-savvy than me,” she says of her son, with a laugh. “He tells me what I should and should not do, and it is good advice. I have a degree in business and he’s telling me things I learned in my degree. So now I probably don’t need to send him to university.”

He definitely gets it from his mama – Danielle doesn’t stop working. In fact, she produces four fixed collections a year: at Christmas, carnival, Easter and summertime. But throughout the year, when inspiration strikes, she’ll release a few one-off styles on top of it all.

That brings us to her newest collection: Dripping in Drevait, which released just last week. Inspired by the love of her three favourite colours: black, white and gold, the micro-collection features a lot of painting, and a lot of gold hardware.

“It’s smaller in quantities and styles, because there was a lot of handwork involved – a lot of hand painting,” she said. “It’s a lot more city chic. It’s not going to be about the flora – there are no leaves and flowers. This collection is more edgy.”

And just like that, another collection has come, comments have flooded her social media and bags have flown out the door – but it’s certainly not as glamorous as it seems. Drevait, she says, is a love/hate relationship – because it makes her work so hard, but the feeling at the end of it is so rewarding, it’s the reason she’s in it in the first place.

“What is it they say? You have to do it for 10,000 hours before you can master your craft – you realize that with practice, your body just starts to understand what it needs to do, and you start to move at a much quicker pace.”

I ask if she’s crossed those 10,000 hours yet. “Girl, I don’t know,” she laughs. “I sure hope so.”

You can see all of Danielle’s work and the newest Drevait collection on Instagram (@drevaitofficial) or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/drevaitofficial).

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