Jenissa of Ancestral Memory

Meet Jenissa of Ancestral Memory. I connected with this queen through Instagram and couldn't help myself liking all of her pictures. Her color palette is tropical, bright, eccentric and reflective of her Caribbean roots.  From chunky gold bracelets, to bright mustard tank tops and beaded purses, she is my walking summer closet or at least what i would want my closet to look like. I chatted with Jenissa about her style, blog and creative process as a carnival designer. Here's what she had to say... 

Bilphena: What’s your process when getting dressed? Are you one of those people who lay out your outfits or do you just go with the flow for the day? 

Jenissa: My process for dressing varies depending on myriad factors. On some days, I premeditate my look down to the last detail. On other days, I go with the flow...maybe I’ll let the weather dictate the outfit or maybe a certain song may inspire the look. 

Bilphena: Your wardrobe is so colorful and i love it! What inspires your color palette and your entire wardrobe? 

Jenissa: Colour for me is therapy. There are certain colours that I tend to gravitate towards because they make me feel happy or feminine or regal. The usual suspects are pinks and cobalt blues but pretty much my taste in colour spans the rainbow. I take a large amount of inspiration from Indian and African cultures. I think Indian and African people are kind of obsessed with colour. Notwithstanding this affinity, I have been know to wear white and black. White because it looks so damn good on dark skin. Black because it’s a fail- safe means to looking pulled together.

Bilphena: Describe your style to me

Jenissa: My style is a mode through which I can articulate the things that inspire me, my world view and sense of self.

Bilphena: What is fashion to you? 

Jenissa: In my opinion fashion is driven by other people’s opinions on what one should wear. I think fashion lends less room (than personal style) to express the beauty of uniqueness. Don’t get me wrong, I too draw influence from fashion, from trends but not to the detriment of self-expression. I’m fiercely independent and I find the notion of acquiescing  to someone else’s idea of what I should wear, toss, keep or buy disturbing.

Bilphena: A lot of people go through a process of finding themselves and then finding their style. I remember going through so many phases from this emo gothic phase, to the cutesy cupcake dressy phase [laughs]. Did you go through phases and how did you finally, say “okay, this is what I like to wear?

Jenissa: [laughs] Growing up in the Caribbean, I wore a uniform until university age. Although, that experience was beneficial in that it helped me find other ways to express my creativity, I  now embrace the opportunity to use clothing and adornment to do so. With maturity, I’ve come to realise what looks good on me and I’ve come to prize comfort. Yet, I still take risks. So there’s this balance between wearing what feels good to me and trying new things. My style may continue to evolve.

Bilphena: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be fashionable but also want to watch their wallet?

Jenissa: I think Thrift stores are wonderful places! You can find cool stuff for even cooler prizes. You can create looks that no one else may have. Granted, you have to be willing to look through hordes of clothing and to see the potential of things that may not be obvious winners. This is where creativity comes in. Often, a piece that you may be hasty to overlook would look great belted, dyed or altered. I do the majority of my shopping for clothing and bags at thrift/vintage shops. For shoes, I visit regular shops but even then, I seldom buy them if they aren’t on sale. [laughs].

Bilphena: You’re a carnival designer. I’m actually not familiar with what that is. Can you tell me more about it?

Jenissa: Trinidad & Tobago Carnival is the oldest Carnival in the Americas (older even than Brazil’s). Like Brazil’s and New Orleans’, it takes place before Lent due to the Roman Catholic origins. They are various art-forms that comprise Trinidad & Tobago’s festival, from  traditional stick-fighting to the music (calypso, soca, steel-pan and chutney) to the masquerade.  I design costumes for the masquerade. I was inspired to start my company because I felt there needed to be a balance between the old traditions of mas(querade) making, which were more focused on artistry and the new approach, which caters to a young audience that wants to look sexy. I would like to find a happy medium between honouring artistry and celebrating sensuality.

Bilphena: What’s your process when coming up with designs for a carnival? Are you working on anything new? 

Jenissa: I come up with a theme, then design the presentation around it. I’m presently working on the presentation for 2016’s Carnival. 

Bilphena: Let’s talk a little about your blog, ancestral memory. When did you start blogging and what made you take that step?

Jenissa: I started the blog last year. I wanted to share the musings behind the Carnival company. I wanted my masqueraders to have a glimpse of the things that inspire me as an artist: literature, travel, music and style. Also, I wanted to create a community that extended beyond the Carnival season. 

Bilphena: What’s the story behind the name “ancestral memory?”

Jenissa: The term Ancestral Memory is one pulled from psychology. It’s based on the belief that there are things a race of people may do based on a sort of genetic recollection. It suggests that there are practices we inherit from our ancestors often without realising the connection. I use the term in honour of my ancestors, in honour of those without whom Carnival would not exist. When it comes to Carnival, foreigners and many young Trinidadians even, don’t know the history. They don’t know of the struggles and pain that were transformed into the beautiful celebration of life we now take for granted.

Bilphena: A lot of people are trying to break into the blogging community but don’t quite know how. What are some things you’ve learned in your own experience blogging?

Jenissa: This is still a learning process for me. Lessons I’ve learned so far: 

    *It’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to convey and to convey 

      that idea very consistently.

    *Set some type of  time-table for your blog entries, for eg. 4 per month, maybe every 

      Monday. I think that helps to maintain frequent posting, something that’s so 

      integral to building a loyal readership.

     *Pick up ideas from others but be yourself. I think it’s way more appealing to express

       your personality and style than trying to copy some blogger who you think is popular.

     *Invest in having your blog professionally designed or if you can’t afford a full-blown

      design, obtain a good-looking template and add-on’s.

     *Invest in a good or decent camera/lens, something that will capture your photos well.


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