HAT TRICK: The costume designer, photographed for TALLAWAH inside her South Camp Road studio.
“Acting was my main area of focus, before I branched off into making costumes,” seamstress par excellence Quindell Ferguson breezily reveals to TALLAWAH on a golden Tuesday afternoon, as she retraces the steps that led her to where she now stands as Jamaican theatre’s ultimate wardrobe mistress. “I’ve always liked the theatre, and when I was growing up sewing was something I really enjoyed. My mother never had a machine, but we would cut the clothes and sew by hand.”
With such humble beginnings in Kingston never far from her mind, and later trained at the Jamaica School of Drama (then located on the grounds of the Little Theatre), Ferguson’s innate creativity and eye for alluring design quickly and unsurprisingly prompted friends and well-wishers to encourage her to kick-start her own enterprise. Now, it’s been well over two decades that she’s been turning her hand to mek fashion, as old time Jamaicans would says, via Q&E Art and Craft Supplies, stamping her sartorial authenticity on the creative arts in Jamaica.
Today, Ferguson is arguably the quintessential go-to woman with costuming needs for practically any kind of performing arts production (from dance to commercial theatre), not to mention styling television commercials, corporate ad campaigns and turning out bold, vibrant Carnival costumes. And the list goes on and on.
Ferguson’s South Camp Road base is a veritable treasure trove of all things costume-related. Mannequins adorned with eye-popping wigs peer down at you from atop several shelves. In the storage area, piles and piles and racks upon racks of garments and props (years worth) come into view. Given the small space, it gives the place a clustered feel. But there’s so much to take in and marvel at.
Even so, Ferguson has her concerns when it comes to the local garment industry. “As designers, we need to be able to get material. You can’t even get to buy certain kinds of fabric anymore,” she notes. “When you go into a store, all you get are little pieces. Right now I have two jobs, and I can’t get the right material to work with.”
Challenges aside, Ferguson and her hardworking team of ladies (the number varies depending on the workload) remains resolved to continue producing excellent work. “The aim is to keep researching. We do a lot of that here. We keep researching,” she says. “It’s not authentic if you’re using the wrong fabric to make costumes from, like, the sixties. You won’t get that authentic feel.”
For the future, growth is a priority and, hopefully, a new and more spacious warehouse to locate the expanding business. “We want to be able to deliver costumes for any kind of production in Jamaica,” says Ferguson, who declines to reveal her age but hints that she’s in her flirty 50s. “I think I have achieved a lot, and I’m happy that we have something that is in demand.”