Reba Dilbert, international renowned fashion and costume designer and maker has once again, put the focus on the Cayman Islands by receiving silver awards in the A' Design Award and Competition. According to their website, the A' Design Award and Competition is the world’s most influential design award, awarding best designs, design concepts and products & services. The Cayman Islands is the only Caribbean country that has ever been nominated for such a competition.
The competition comprises many different categories, with each category having specific requirements, a dedicated jury and distinct criteria. Ms. Dilbert originally showcased her three beautiful costumes in the category of Fashion, Apparel and Garment Design but the jury members unanimously opted to change the design category to Performing Arts, Style and Scenery Design, stating that it would be a better fit.
With assistance from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Tourism, family and friends, Ms. Dilbert designed and began to make the costumes in July 2018. Local wire bender Victor Swaby and Roger Hicks, Trinidadian costume maker, shaped the wings. Fabric, sequins and feathers were sourced locally and abroad. Ms. Dilbert laboured for seventeen months, until December 2019 on her masterpieces. A photoshoot was done at the National Gallery through the Department of Tourism, using local models. The costumes were then placed under a copywrite contract and no photographs would be available to the public until after the judging of the competition. In early April, Ms. Dilbert waited anxiously for the results. She heard nothing and, though feeling a bit disappointed, shrugged and carried on with creating her next pieces. Imagine, her delight at the end of April, when she opened her emails to learn that she was indeed a Silver Design Winner.
Gem of the World is one of three of Ms. Dilbert’s silver award pieces and is inspired by the white sands of Cayman’s beaches. Delicate, white wings, a stunning feathered headpiece in sliver and white and a beautiful body suit meld into an outstanding creation modelled by Briony Gallegos.
Celebrating the vibrance of the Caribbean woman was the inspiration for Western Fashionista Rebel. The colours and design meld the showgirl of the 1920s with the modern-day carnival woman. The excitement and energy of this costume is beautifully portrayed by local model Shante Johnson Smith.
Aptly named Woman in Power, the issues of breast cancer and domestic abuse are the focus of this pink and purple costume. Homage is paid to women’s ability to stay strong amid these global scourges. The designer’s own story of power and strength through pain is the inspiration for this piece modelled by Dana Smith.
Reba Dilbert is a self-taught high fashion and costume designer. She has been a major part of the National Carnival Batabano and the Pirates Week Festival for more than thirty years. She has taken Carnival bands to Honduras for the past sixteen years. Her costumes have graced stages at competitions like Ms. Universe, Ms. Tourism World, Ms. Petite Teen International Pageant to name a few. Countries like Russia, Turkey, Malta and Texas and California in the USA have been fortunate to get a firsthand glimpse of her creations. In January 2021, she became a member in the Society of Honour known as the Order of the Cayman Islands for her contribution to the Arts and Culture.
Where does Ms. Dilbert get her inspiration and drive? As an artist, she has a need to create - she describes it as putting a piece of her soul out there. “I create from the heart, mind, body and soul. I like to portray a strong woman in my work – a woman who looks as though nothing will hold her back in life – a woman that can do the impossible. I know the joy of flying and then having my own wings clipped.”
She goes on to say, “I tell a story with my work. It’s not enough to just create beautiful costumes. Art in any form should make you think, make you wonder and make you feel something. Art should be an experience.”
Ms. Dilbert hopes to see more costume making done in the Cayman Islands. As a major supporter and participant in the National Carnival – Cayman Carnival Batabano, she wants to encourage children and adults to design and make costumes – a process that she is willing to teach. In 2018, in partnership with Cayman Carnival Batabano and Sagicor, she introduced students at George Town Primary to the basics of costume making and found this to be such a rewarding experience. Ms. Dilbert was impressed by their diligence and creativity. The end result was a carnival band “Guardians of the Sky.
Reba Dilbert continues to work on her goals. Her voice was very firm and determined when she said, “I am going the New York Fashion Week with my high fashion and costumes.”