Carlene Sheppard Duncan, the larger-than-life personality behind the design house Afrofunkk, is in a league of her own. Much like her brand, Sheppard Duncan does not conform to any design rules. She will easily mix polka dots with tribal prints and lace for a look that is all hers. Her personal style is also bold and out-there. On the day of our interview, she is wearing neon-yellow nail polish. On both her hands are rows of colourful bangles. Her signature hairdo is a massive twist bun with five or six braids on either side of her head. Her glasses are red with thick frames and wings.
Sheppard Duncan has always been around fashion. Her mother and grandmother both wore clothes that the designer used to sneak into her room to try on. She wore tall crochet socks that her grandmother made, everywhere she went. To this day she has such a love for socks that they feature in her designs. “My grandmother wore grey, stacked chunky heels and felt hats.
The shoes used to go ‘clock, clock, clock’ and she had a purse that used to close with a clacking sound. I used to watch her and say ‘one day those things will be mine.’” Sheppard Duncan was ten years old when her fashion sensibility was blown right out of the box. As she recalls, she was out in Port of Spain with her mother when she saw a bald woman riding her bicycle against the traffic.
“Her eyebrows were drawn up to the sky and she wore a scissors-tail jacket, huge skirt and knickers. In my eyes she looked like an outlaw breaking all the rules,” she remembers