I remember it as clear as day, walking into the Fantasy Mas Camp and running into Humzee Mohammed for the first time. He was bright, charming, and shy almost to the point of being a recluse. Most of the other designers I met that day were boisterous and confident in their work, some were loud and a little too sure of themselves. But what made Humzee stand out to me was that little bit of obeah in my soul that can spot greatness. My grandmother had this gift, and I am almost never wrong when I see someone’s potential.
He presented to the selection committee, and transformed into another person all together when he presented his drawings and prototype. I liked what he was selling, even though, truth be told, the costume he presented was just another costume. There was no magic to what we saw that year, and he wasn’t selected. The committee however saw what I saw and invited him to show again the next year. Most times when this happens, we never see the designer again, however I am pleased to say, Humzee Mohammed left that year and came back as Humzee the following year with a bang!
Humzee; one word, like Madonna, Beyoncé and Versace, has evolved into what I call the “Couture Carnival” designer in just under three and a half years. Returning to mas after that rejection, Humzee began his study of the human female body with Monday Wear, taking this new phenomenon to beautiful heights in the last few years.
His collections of Monday Wear have sold out consistently in this time, and been seen in every band on the hottest girls. Last year he truly shined, with some pieces that even gave Carnival Tuesday pieces a good run for their money. (Remember the Masks from last year?)
Adaptive and extremely current with his work, Humzee has a portfolio that has spanned Island People Mas, EPIC Mas in Hollywood, Miami Carnival, Chutney Artists dancers, Soca Stars and more. He’s finally made his home with Fantasy and Entice Carnival as the Head Designer, and works with an in-house production team dubbed “House of Fantasy” alongside many other designers who were mentioned in this year’s launch.
“A lot of people actually don’t know this about me, but I am a very shy person and Humzee is almost like my alter ego.”, he says when asked to define his brand. “Humzee is a risk taker, strong minded and focused on taking the raw elements represented in gems and fabrics and create a modern woman who has that couture touch.”
He draws his inspiration from life, nature, animals and music, with a design process that starts with a taco and an ice tea lemonade when he visits NYC to shop for his materials. His approach is fascinating, in that he starts off with simple silhouettes and forms, then builds on the simplicity with whatever gems and fabrics speak to him. He’s careful to edit himself though, because as he says, “Less is more, and there is a fine line between exquisite and gaudy. One must also always consider how the costume is going to move and how light will touch it on the road.” This year he translated this into 7 fantastic designs for the road, my favorite of which being Hera in Fantasy which he designed for Sasha Gates, from WAGS LA fame. I love how he could take a totem of Hera – the Greek goddess of Marriage and wife of Zeus king of the gods, (the peacock), and translate it into something that screams Queen of the goddesses, especially on a woman’s body.
Humzee will also be producing another exclusive Monday Wear collection this year, when asked about his point of view for Monday Wear he said, “Monday Wear is where I first started to get my hands into carnival. It was customizing carnival costumes, re-gemming outfits, adding that extra glam to masqueraders’ costumes which opened door to design my very own Monday Wear Collection and possibly have a section in a band. The following year I brain stormed an entire collection with a very low budgeted photo shoot which was a success. I’ve been using my Monday wear that I have been designing for the past 4years to express my passion for creative photo-shoots, fashion and concepts. I feel limitless when I am my own creative director and shoot coordinator when showcasing my designs in a different light to my carnival Tuesday pieces.”
When asked if he had any carnival muses, he smiled “There are a few muses I draw inspiration from, and they are fellow industry leaders like Sandra Hordatt, Gail Cabral and Solange Govia. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for these three innovators and I have always been inspired by their work and ambition to take carnival to the next level.”
We also asked him which collections spoke to him from the offerings so far for Carnival 2018, “You’re probably going to think I’m going to pick mine, but I must say that I enjoyed some of my fellow designer’s pieces this year the most. Joan of Arc by Lauren Castillo and Kristen Camacho in Entice and Ostara by Gervais Dattoo really spoke to me. It’s a dual thing for me, watching them put their energy and talent into building those costumes and seeing the result on the stage really sparked my love of them.”
He believes that Carnival is always evolving, “Designs through the years are becoming more fashionable and creative. I expect to see fashion greatly influence the story telling of our mas in the next few years, and my idea is to harness that and make it very Trinbagonian”
I always like to ask my subjects how would they advise young people to enter the market, I think it’s important for industry leaders to not only inspire to show the way for the youth. He rose to the challenge extremely well by offering “Designing on the whole may it be mas, fashion or architecture you need to be ready to put your all into it. It isn’t an easy road, and it’s not just feathers and beads. The process can be an expensive and risky investment and sometimes your personal life goes on hold. Learn to always take critique, believe in yourself and have an open mind. Always do you and express you to the fullest and always keep a positive group of close friends, be respectable to your peers and tolerable. Lastly, enjoy every single accomplishment, no matter how small, it goes by quickly.”
With sage advice like that it’s no great surprise Humzee turned around a rejection into year after year of growth and success. Follow Humzee on Instagram @Humzee90 to see what’s popping this year with his Monday Wear and designs and keep your eye on him, trust me, his best is yet to come.
*cover image by Anthony J Photography