Village Dispatch: Trinidad & Tobago with Tanya

AM: What inspired you to create Designer Island? 
Also, tell us a bit about Designer Island.
Tanya:Designer Island started simply as a blog to share my own research on what my 
creative peers felt the “Caribbean Aesthetic” was. That was in 2010-2011. It was a 
personal search for motivation and inspiration as a design practitioner in the Caribbean. 
At that time, I had reached a point in my career where I was starting to ask myself a lot of 
questions about authenticity, about what it means to be from the Caribbean and a 
Caribbean designer. While it started as a search for answers for myself it eventually 
evolved and expanded to become the website it is now thanks to several collaborative 
 It continues to grow as a brand and creative community. It facilitates conversations 
about Design and creativity. These are not areas that are talked about often. Most of the      
conversations are very narrowly focused and the respect levels for certain fields vary 
greatly. I really wanted to dig into the way different creative people think and how 
they work and collaborate with each other.

           I love talking to a fashion designer one day, a beautifully creative chef another, a 
           product designer, a graphic designer, an architect, a jeweler and listening to a 
           photographer describe how he or she sees the world. There is so much we can learn
           from each other and so much we can create through collaboration. Overall it’s really an 
           effort to raise creative thinking and awareness of the vast amount of talent we have 
           throughout the region and the potential to harness this to affect the way Carib-  
           bean design is viewed on a global scale.

AM: What are the most fulfilling aspects of having a career in the creative field?
Tanya: Every day I wake up, I’m doing what I believe I’m best at and meant to do. I 
assume a person who’s always wanted to work in medicine and gets to be a doctor is as 
happy as I am being a designer. I get to discover and play in many different fields. Every 
new project with a new client is a new creative challenge. Whether it’s a simple design 
job, branding projects, or being the creative consultant on a project, it’s an opportunity to 
really get into my client’s world and visually translate it in a way that’s going to resonate 
with people.

AM:What are the things you find most inspiring about Trinidadian culture?
           Tanya: The absolute vastness, richness and multilayered cultures are inspiration.
           I think our mixing but simultaneous pride in our individual cultures is as special as it is fragile. Not everywhere can exist as we do with such relative harmony.

          Yes, we are far from perfect and we have our issues and ignorance to battle with, 
          but the reality is in some places wars are fought over similar differences. We’re 
          also a Caribbean melting pot. It’s fantastic living and working with people through-
         out the region right in our own backyard. There’s so much creative value in that. 

AM: There is a notion that Trinidad & Tobago’s most developed art is Carnival.
         Do you agree or disagree with this view? Feel free to elaborate.
         Tanya:It’s definitely the most popular. I stopped doing the whole Monday, Tuesday 
          pretty mas thing some years ago because I didn’t like the costumes or enjoy  the 
          experience anymore. There were many things about Carnival I no longer
          liked. But what happened when I stopped partaking in Carnival in one way is 
          that I started really seeing and experiencing the rest of it, the stick fitting, the 
          Camboule, the Paramin Blue Devils, King and Queen Costume shows… all these  elements of Carnival I had forgotten or never noticed in some cases.
           We have so much creative talent and potential in Trinidad and Tobago 
     within Carnival that is not really nurtured and a lot of those parts are the things 
        that give our Carnival the most identity and will sustain our   brand in the future. In addition to that, there are the many art forms outside of  the Carnival season that 
are filled with creative potential. I think we are barely scratching the surface of this development.

AM: How would you describe your approach to style? 
         (From what you wear to how your home looks.)
            Tanya:When it comes to what I wear, my need is comfort and simplicity. I don’t like 
            anything too fussy or loud. I like quiet details, whether it’s perfect tailoring, an 
            interesting cut or knit. With home however, it’s all textures, colour, indoor plants,
            books and a curated collection of furniture, art and vintage things. I think for me, 
            home is a sanctuary of inspiration and it’s where my husband and I are most self-
            expressive. My husband is a sculptor and designer and we’re both artistic old-souls
           who love antiques and things made by hand that leave a craftsman’s touch. Our home 
           reflects that very much.
           My style is relative to my environment and need. On the one hand, it’s crisp and black 
           and white; on the other, it’s rough on the edges, filled with texture, personality and 
          heart. I’m contemporary and vintage, artist and designer. 
                It’s conflicting but very, very me. 

AM: Speaking of your style, I adore your haircut Tanya!  How long have you worn your
         hair short and what motivated you to do so?
Tanya: Haha! I think I've been wearing it this low for about 3 years now. In secondary school I switched from natural to straightened hair a few times, braiding between, then at the 
 end of my teenage years and through my twenties I grew dreadlocks. I loved my locks 
but eventually I needed another change as life changed and this change was more drastic than the rest. I cut it all off. It felt freeing. It may or may not stay this way so don’t hold me to anything. I'm starting to become very comfortable with change.

AM: And when you need a change of pace, 
   (away from the demands of career) what do you do?
Tanya: That’s a toss up between a quiet beach day with a friend or 
taking myself to lunch with a book at Chaud Café. I’m a really big fan of leisurely, quiet 
eating. Sometimes though, I really just want to and need to recharge at my parents’ home. 
Both my parents are retired and my siblings and several cousins have always lived on the 
same street in SantaCruz. There is nothing and no one that recharges me like family, husband included. It’s how I get back to center.

Check out for a glimpse of Tanya's work and that of fellow Caribbean creatives.
 *Tanya is wearing a top by one of her favourite Trinidadian designers, Aisling Camp


  1. Absolutely beautiful photography, well done article!!

    1. Thanks Jam Jam! It's so refreshing meeting other local creatives committed to telling the Caribbean story.

    2. Awww! Thanks so much Jam!

  2. Great piece! I follow Designer Life's IG just for this:) The authentic passion for her work is inspiring to say the least!

    1. She is truly inspiring. I could spend days chatting with her and basking in her beautiful home!

  3. Replies
    1. She is Chan, from the way she has designed her life and career to her style to her beautiful home!