“Africa is just a special place and there is so much need and want and poverty and through all that, through everything that is just desolate about it, is this incredible magic.” Trinidadian songstress, Sezi (pronounced Sez-i) speaks with a contagious ramble and when she describes her recent four month teaching stint in the West African country of Burkina Faso, she moves excitedly in her chair but keeps her legs tucked under her in traditional yoga style. It’s striking how she can be both energetic and comfortably still in the same moment. “The people are full of life and energy and love and I’ve never been around more respectful, generous people in my life, as a community, then when I was in Burkina Faso… and they had nothing.”
Sezi’s living room is an eclectic, airy space fit for an artist with multiple talents: Singer, songwriter, yoga-instructor, dancer, teacher and now clothing designer. In one dedicated corner of her apartment a rolling rack holds her latest project, a radiant new travel-friendly capsule collection entitled “Bagnpagne”. In West Africa, “pagne” is the word used to describe the colourfully patterned panels of cloth that hang in the local market in Burkina, where Sezi sourced the material for her collection. “It’s a play like everything else, because you know I love words and writing,” she explains about the collection’s name.” It has a real influence in Jamaica because you say, ‘Jesus, you a travel with your bag and pan?!’ Bagnpagne then relates back to the whole travel capsule.”
Last September, Sezi–whose given name is Sarah Silvera– travelled to Africa on a temporary teaching excursion. She went to cover for a teacher at the International School in Burkina Faso who was away on maternity leave. During her stay she worked with the local orphanages and taught yoga, sang to the children and went to local music shows. Her intensions were to immerse herself into the culture for three months and come back with a fresh new way to fuse what she had learned into her work. However, “work” is a very ambiguous term for Sezi as it encompasses many things.
One day she found herself in the local market looking at colourful pagne. “I knew that when I went, I wanted to get some print for myself but the experience of being over there and working with tailors, they are incredibly talented tailors.” Sezi quickly became intrigued in taking her designs further. “It was the first time I’d ever really experienced that idea of, ‘I like this shirt but I want it in this material and I want it to be a little shorter.’ Ive always been in to fashion and I’ve always been a stylista, but it was in Africa when I really started honing in on, ‘Oh my God I can actually make things exactly how I want them and take inspiration from other things.’”
The concept quickly grew in strength as Sezi started to envision a collection that was conducive to her current state: colourful, comfortable style that is ideal for the international traveller. “(It) came from me wanting to put together a collection that was inspired by African pagne but also had very much of a travel appeal to it. You could technically pack my capsule collection plus your cottons and denim into a case and have outfits for day and night, work, play, sexy, chill, comfy, to travel in.” The vision has a sense of humor as well. “The materials I’m using don’t crush, ‘cause that is a real pet peeve of mine: ironing.“
The collection is as diverse as Sezi is. It includes pants and dresses, crop tops and matching jackets. The pagne is sometimes ample, covering the entire piece, and at other times it is discreetly lining the edges of a cotton tee. “I’ve always had a love for African print. Always. I remember when I first went to Island Post to their hotels and saw their towels trimmed with African print and I was thinking ‘You know, I could steal this off the table. No one will know,’” she says jokingly in a devious lilt.
This Friday, the debut collection will be premiered in tandem with The Return of the Wanderers, Sezi’s re-immersion into the Jamaican musical landscape with musical director and long-time friend, Jason Worton– for which she calls a much needed collaborative “anchor” in her life. Collective processes are important to Sezi, who also cites local wardrobe stylist, Charl Baker, as a confidant and mentor for Bagnpagne.
There is a symbiotic element with both artistic roads leading to one creative presentation at the Return of the Wanderers show. Sezi’s empowerment seems to come most strongly from her ability to create and explore the creative process. “It became this ‘Ah hah!’ moment,” Sezi says about her realization of Bagnpagne’s importance. “It was that I’m always gonna create stuff for myself, I’m always gonna be able to express myself exactly how I want to through the stuff that I wear, not only through the stuff that I share or say.“ As an artist she is weary of an existence without a creative outlet to express herself through, which is why anything is within the realm of possibility for creation, including a clothing line. And why not? She said so herself: “You shouldn’t stop life when life is happening, because sometimes its making you see something completely different.“
Sezi and Jason Worton will be performing Friday, March 28th at 8:30pm at Redbones Cafe. She will be sharing her new capsule collection, Bagnpagne.