MONEY SHOTS: The designer, 33, sporting one of her own designs; (below) accepting her cheque for The Fashion Genie.
DESIGNER Cecilia Davana exudes such a girl-next-door charm that in conversation she feels like someone you’ve known all your life. Like family. She brings that same down-to-earth aura, that utter realness, to her work as a seamstress and businesswoman. No wonder she’s been able to amass such a large clientele who keep her busy crafting custom-designed pieces perfect for the dancehall party scene and the occasional high-end event.
Versatility becomes her and, by all appearances, that it factor, coupled with the quality of her work, helped her secure her second win at the Avant Garde Designer of the Year Competition, which recently had its 2017 staging in Kingston.
Davana (née Bucknor) topped the competition (30 designers all showcasing work inspired by Campari and Lasco Money) with her piece The Fashion Genie, a feat of exquisite skill, texture and vivid imagination that left the panel of judges (Sophia Max-Brown and Tom Tavares-Finson among them) – not to mention the packed Courtleigh Auditorium – in awe. Her big win secured her the coveted $100,000 cash prize.
“It wasn’t even about the money. The money just topped it off,” the 33-year-old designing woman tells TALLAWAH, trying to catch her breath after a lengthy round of picture-taking, alongside her leggy model, Deneil Lyttle. “I didn’t come into the competition this year thinking about the money, so the judges are the ones I have to thank. For me, it’s just the hard work paying off. Right now I’m on top of the world.”
With her big diva hair and megawatt grin, the Meadowbrook High School graduate is a veteran of the competition, having entered back in 2012 (the year she won with the her “Lady Ackee” creation), 2013 (pregnant and glowing), 2015 and last year.
As for the story behind the name The Fashion Genie, Davana says it came from her clients. “They call me The Fashion Genie. They say I’m a magician with fashion. So I decided to use the name,” explains the designer, who runs Awahsuh, a Downtown Kingston-based garment factory with her mom that supplies PE gear and dancehall-ready outfits.
She had to use after-office hours to work on her entry for the competition. “My customers keep me busy, so I had to work on it late nights. No sleep,” recalls Davana, who has a three-year-old son with dancehall deejay Wasp. “It wasn’t easy, but my mom and some of my friends supported me along the way.”
Davana isn’t sure if she’ll re-enter the competition given her two wins, but she is grateful to organizers Saint International for giving relatively unknown design talents like her a swirl in the spotlight and the opportunity to earn while doing so. ”I really love what Deiwght [Peters] is doing; without him I wouldn’t have been able to do this. A lot of us designers have the talent, we just need the opportunities,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to design, and I’ve been doing it for 10 years now. So winning a national competition like this is a dream come true.”