Trishelle Leacock’s swimwear hits international fashion magazines

Trishelle Leacock is pouring her all into her passion and making others take notice. The 26-year-old former national track and field athlete-turned-fashion designer and entrepreneur has rebranded her Reign fashion line to Kaiso. Swim and was recently featured in Marie Claire’s 40 Best Swimwear Brands for Summer 2022 and Essence’s emerging Black women fashion designers.

For Essence, Leacock took charge of her destiny, reaching out to the magazine to make them acquainted with her brand.

“I strongly believe that nothing in this life will be handed to us, so we have to find ways to go out and get it. That mindset is what fueled me to start making those genuine connections,” she told the Sunday Guardian recently.

It paid off as the Scarborough native’s talent was recognised by Essence, and she was highlighted in an April 1 article alongside up-and-coming Black female fashion designers to know.

A composite of styles from Kaiso. Swim’s Flora & Fauna.

Leacock’s Kaiso. Swim label pays homage to the vibrance and allure of her island heritage and expresses her vision of the continuity of culture through storytelling and innovation. In the word “kaiso”, ka means “go” and iso is interpreted as “forward”, she explained, so she hopes to reflect continuous evolution and innovation in her brand.

Incorporating bold prints, clean lines and high-quality materials, Leacock aims to make each swimsuit “the perfect combination of luxury and comfort” while complementing the body.

A former national sprinter who represented T&T as part of the 4x100m relay team at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships, Leacock started track at age 16 and received a partial scholarship to the University of Miami two years later. She, however, admitted that she had always had an affinity for fashion and a love of swimwear deep down.

The University of Miami Advertising and Marketing graduate made the leap from the track into the fashion world in July 2018 during her last semester at a university and founded her swimwear label which she first launched as Reign, special.

With her first collection Trouble, the self-taught designer encountered some teething issues and also felt a strong disconnect between the name “Reign” and her vision for the brand. Bent on learning more about the fashion industry, she did further research and relaunched as Kaiso. Swim last year. It was all part of the course, Leacock felt as she had emerged as a designer on a mission, with her third collection Flora & Fauna winning nods on the international scene.

Going after her goals is not new to Leacock who also participated in the Miss World TT 2020 pageant. She said she was influenced by the long line of talented individuals in her family. Her father George and mother Carol are the owners of Radio Tambrin in Tobago, her older sisters, Nicolette and Yolande are former national tennis players, and her grandfather George carved stones, made signs and had a museum in his home, while her other grandfather Alfred was a painter.

Ever ready for new opportunities, Leacock has an appearance on a show set to air AMC in the works and may even have a collection for men up her sleeves.

Q&A with Trishell Leacock

1. You have been recently featured in Marie Claire’s 40 Best Swimwear Brands for Summer 2022 and in Essence’s list of emerging black women fashion designers you should know. Please tell me, how does it feel to be highlighted, and what do you think these accolades mean for Caribbean women?

It has all been very surreal. I have been working for months on elevating the brand by doing research and just learning from other brands in and outside of the fashion industry. The rebrand to Kaiso. Swim came about at perfect timing because it now allows me to give subtle hints of where I am from, portraying what we have to offer and show Trinidad and Tobago in a positive light.

I definitely think it shows Caribbean women that we are capable and possess a lot of talent, so I do hope it gives other women the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and pursue their dreams. I have had this brand for approximately four years and I am only now gaining momentum, so just note that it takes time.

2. Tell me about Kaiso. Swim. I read that it’s reflective of the Caribbean aesthetic, with bold prints and clean shapes that flatter the body. To what type of women do you cater?

I believe I cater to women who are not afraid to make a statement through their choice of clothing. They are unapologetically themselves in their words and how they choose to carry themselves. They are Daring and seekers of adventure!

3. Tracing your personal journey, what sparked your interest in athletics?

I believe my interest in athletics started with how active I was as a child and being raised by parents who were both very athletic in their younger days. I always loved running, playing tennis, and trying any other sport I could. I knew I had a bit of talent in track and field, so in secondary school, I decided to pursue track to see where it would take me and also so I wouldn’t have any questions on “what if”. My parents and grandma definitely influenced me positively to pursue this. They always pushed me to try new things, so I was not afraid to give track and field a solid effort.

4. Is there anything you wish to reflect on about winning the partial scholarship to the University of Miami at age 18?

I think the number one thing getting the scholarship showed me was that once I put my mind to achieving something and create a roadmap to achieve whatever goals I set out to accomplish, it is possible with God’s guidance and strong faith in His plan.

5. How did you move from sprinting to fashion design? Is it something in which you were always interested?

I was always interested in swimwear growing up and would do little sketches, but nothing serious. It was just natural for me to participate in sports and not really look at fashion as something to pursue because I didn’t have the background knowledge. When I went to the University of Miami I decided to major in advertising with a minor in marketing and in my advertising major classes I was able to learn how to do designs but not for fashion more for graphic design. I then used the skills that I gained in those graphic design classes to design the first swimsuit that I launched along with the help of a graphic designer from Tobago– Terrel George–who made the elements for the print. I think the main influence came from all my experiences and love of swimwear coming to the forefront at a critical time of my life. I was dealing with a lot of injuries from track and knew it was time to pursue this dream I quietly had before I graduated and had to enter the world of work.

6. Please share any memories of your Tobago roots that may have influenced your designing talent or pieces.

So many influences…but growing up in Scarborough, my mom and also the connection I have with my grandmother who ignited my love for hearing a good story and learning about different cultures, places and people around the world. Also, the trips I would get to go on around Tobago when I was in primary school allowed me to see so much of Tobago at a young age. My late grandparents, Alfred James and George Leacock Sr, also had a great influence on me as they were both creatives in their own right.

7. As a child, what career did you dream about?

I don’t think I really knew exactly what I wanted to be, but I did know that whatever I did, it needed to be something that made people happy or feel good!

8. What qualities do you take from the track into fashion designing?

Definitely the ability to push myself, step outside of my comfort zone and not be too afraid of failure. When it comes to track and field, it takes a high level of discipline, focus and passion for the sport. For the most part, I have been able to transfer those qualities into my work and how I approach sharing the brand with people.

9. Any high points and/or adversities you faced along the way that you are able to share?

I think the high points would be the latest features and the rebrand which allows me to say a lot more with each collection. A new level of creativity has definitely been unlocked. I think at one point I lost touch with what I wanted to say with the brand, especially coming off the first collection. A lot of doubt crept in and I wasn’t sure if I would be capable of creating more pieces that were of the same standard and pieces that turned heads, but with a lot of mental growth, I was able to reconnect with my creative side .

10. Anything else you wish to say re pursuing one’s dreams?

Just trust God and go after your passion. You will face ups and downs, but it’s all part of the test you get to share when it’s time to share your testimony. At that moment, you may be able to inspire the person coming up behind you.

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