Shari Cumberbatch is a graphic designer who possesses a keen passion for vibrant patterns and bold colours. After working with various design studios, advertising agencies and departments, Shari purchased a sewing machine on a whim in 2014. That decision unleashed a hidden wealth of design passion and creativity that subsequently gave birth to SHOPSHARI, now one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most hip and recognisable fashion brands. For the past three years, she has also designed a section for The Lost Tribe, winner of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival’s Band of the Year (large) prize in 2019.
Based in Trinidad and Tobago, SHOPSHARI is a fashion brand inspired by print as imaginative, colourful, and diverse as the cultural landscape from which it emerges. The essence of the brand reflects the beauty and creativity of our people through the use of bold colours, prints, and, specifically, the combination of a variety of prints that mirror our cosmopolitan mix. SHOPSHARI caters to sophisticated and upwardly mobile women in the 20 to 45 age group, who are confident in expressing themselves through fashionable statement apparel that simultaneously allows them to feel a sense of ease and comfort. Here is what Shari shared with We Mag in an interview:
What are some of your treasured milestones?
Throughout the journey, I believe the milestones which have stayed with me would be my very first trip to London for a pop-up, curated by Caribbean Lookbook (then Trinidad Lookbook), for Caribbean designers. It was the very beginning of setting my eyes on exactly where I wanted the brand to be positioned. Additionally, I would say I’ve enjoyed thoroughly my four-plus years with Lost Tribe Carnival and designing costumes that I hold very dear to me.
Who or what are you inspired by?
Colour and the way hues and tones interact with each other really thrill me. Outside of my love for colour, I’m constantly inspired by my brilliant daughter and her ability to be her true, unedited self. She helps to shape me and my brand in ways I’m sure she may never understand. I’m also drawn to new places and travelling but the favourite part of my entire experience while doing so would be seeing people’s unfiltered reactions to my work, especially before they find out I’m the creator.
What does the inclusion of African prints in your pieces represent for you?
It’s us. On a very personal level, my inclusion of African prints comes from a place of wanting to share the greatness of our past and present and keeping to the forefront the importance of being one’s most authentic, bold, real self.
We understand that you’re also designing a section for Carnival that’s African inspired, what can we look forward to?
Yes! For 2020, my Lost Tribe family is presenting Anansi. Within those stories of Anansi, there is a character named N’yame (referred to as Sky God). My interpretation of N’yame felt like the most organic experience I’ve possibly had in my very few years of designing costumes. Somehow I felt guided and focused on the story we’re telling. I hope that is felt by both masqueraders and viewers.
What does emancipation mean to you?
Freedom. That sounds quite cliché, however, in the true essence of the word, Emancipation Day for me, is much more than a holiday. It is one of the core words that I constantly channel back to on a daily basis. I believe it’s possible for us to have our own meanings and feelings. For me, emancipation signifies the freeing of the mind, body and soul. It’s a journey that has no end.
Why do you do what you do?
For the love *cue Chronixx*. Really though, the most rewarding part of my entire experience as a designer is seeing the joy on customers’ faces and hearing the excitement in their voices; to see people feel good about themselves while being as comfortable as they can be, has always been at the head of why I do what I do. If we can make people smile, even in the smallest of ways, it counts for so much, especially since the world feels like a dark place lately. Brightening up with some colour and wild prints makes even my days brighter. It never gets old.