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 efforts.  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 Caribbean 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 throughout 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. 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!