Photo Credit: Courtesy of House of Jem
This Black-Owned Swimwear Brand Is Heating Up Caribbean Beaches
From Shoal Bay in Anguilla to Pigeon Island in St. Lucia, it’s no secret that the Caribbean is blessed with some of the most gorgeous beaches on the planet. And where there is a beach, there is a sexy swimsuit sure to follow.
One of the women responsible for those eye-popping swimmies is Jemima Harrigan, owner of one of the West Indies’ premier beachwear brands, House of Jem.
Harrigan considers herself somewhat of an accidental designer. She doesn’t have any formal education in tailoring or design nor was she ever taught to sew. But as the old adage goes, ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. ‘
“My mother is a seamstress and has been for over 40 years, so I learned mostly from observing her,” Harrigan told Travel Noire. “I’ve always had a creative side, and so I started to explore sewing and design and to self-teach. I learned by trial and error and improved with lots of patience and practice.”
Her foray into fashion was the result of some innovative thinking. When she couldn’t find a swimsuit to suit her taste she decided to make her own. People took notice and requests started trickling in.
“I realized that there was a market for custom-made pieces and so I started taking orders. That was how it all began,” she recalled. “Over time, I refined and built the brand to what it is now with only my original designs.”
Harrigan describes her designs as “high-quality, creative, and inclusive” and wants her customers to feel empowered, sexy, and liberated.
“I seek to serve anyone who would like a unique swimsuit that fits in a way that makes them confident and comfortable,” Harrigan explained. “It is quality over quantity for me. I have clients who’ve had their piece for four to five years, and they’re still in great condition. I only intend to improve from here.”
The young St. Lucian entrepreneur takes immense pride in getting recognition for her work and slowly building a reputation both regionally and internationally.
“I’m proud that I’ve been able to keep the business afloat, even though this last year has been extremely difficult. I was able to launch my sub-brand, Opal by House of Jem, which is an extension of what I’m trying to accomplish with House of Jem, except it’s lingerie. Getting to a place where I can ship internationally has also been a highlight for me.”
So far House of Jem is a one woman show, with Harrigan taking on the roles of designer, seamstress, marketer, and accountant. But she remains undaunted in the pursuit of success.
“When I started the business, I had very little business knowledge, so getting to the place where I am now was definitely a challenge,” she admitted. “One of the other major challenges is funding. I have a lot of ideas for new projects and improvement, but I have to go according to what my budget allows and what I can reinvest. Time management is another major challenge for me. Despite all the challenges, I see this experience as a learning process of continuous improvement and opportunity, so I am very hopeful.”
Currently, Harrigan is working on a website to make her designs accessible globally. There’s also more to come from Opal by House of Jem. And don’t worry fellas, the House of Jem might soon have a treat for you as well.
“I’ve also been getting requests for men’s beachwear so maybe that’s something you may see from me in the future.”