Her name is a combination of Brian and Sandra: Sanian, the first child of Brian Lewis, Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee president, and Sandra Lewis. Avant garde, funky and stylish, this young woman left a full tennis scholarship and psychology major at Tuskegee University in Alabama to follow her true passion—fashion—at Concordia College, New York.
Having been a former national junior tennis player, she reflects that sports “channelled our focus and discipline, and allowed us to travel and meet new people and cultures.” Her mother found creative ways to use things and decorate, and Lewis was front and centre watching it all. “My exposure to culture through dance, moko jumbie and pan lessons coloured my mind. Trinidad is a great place to feed one’s creativity.”
As a child, Lewis loved to make dresses for her dolls. Her parents owned a men’s clothing store (Courtney’s), which introduced her to local fashion. Her life provided a beautiful landscape from which her creativity flourished, including the time she spent at the Caribbean Academy of Fashion Design (CAFC). The benefit of her experience with directors like Carol Mongo, and instructors like Babatu Sparrow, Jessel Brizan, Sandra Carr and Tonya St Cyr, was immeasurable.
Working at an accessories boutique called The Style Files exposed her to management and marketing. At 25, she launched Sanianitos, presenting ‘A Bohemian Collective’, at On Locations Gallery. “I wanted to create a brand around the idea of a ‘Trinbagohemian’ aesthetic: a free-spirited traveller whose appreciation for art and culture manifests as a lifestyle expression, creating art as adornment. There wasn’t a niche like this in Trinbago.”
Having been an ambassador for Meiling, and encouraged to showcase her creations at Meiling’s Atelier in Woodbrook, she marvels at the fact that in Trinidad, designers help each other to excel, and she is grateful for the assistance received in creating her jewellery and sunglasses. Sanianitos did a capsule for Meiling’s collection last year, creating “sleek, cat’s-eye sunglasses with a bug-eyed/butterfly effect”. She is also part of Trop Shop, an e-commerce curation of emerging and established Caribbean-based designers spearheaded by Leah Marville. For carnival designer Humzee Mohammed’s interpretation MIDAS, she collaborated with Sarah Jane Waddell (SJW designs) for Monday wear.
While working as a customer service representative for Lost Tribe, she learned to combine creativity and business and designed sunglasses to accompany their costumes as an add-to-cart option. She also provided sunglasses as part of the masqueraders’ package for Solange Govia’s—Sambala and Tribe’s—Tribe X for 2018. Why jewellery? “The beauty of an accessory and its mobility was what I wanted to pursue. You can translate a pair of earrings from one outfit to another, one designer another. My inspirations came from my mother’s accessorising, my father’s attention to fit and detail, and my aunt’s knowledge of fashion. These three pillars were where this fusion of creativity was born.
“For Sanianitos, I began with flower crowns, gold-plated jewellery and embellished sunglasses. The crowns developed quickly from assortments of flowers to standard flower options and spray-painted effects. This allowed us to play with Pantone’s international fashion colour palette, so someone can purchase our item and easily find clothing to match.”
She used gold-plated and gold-filled chain, wire and stone details. “Sunglasses have absolutely no need to be anything but stylish,” says Lewis. “You can identify many frame styles because of iconic eyewear throughout the decades.” She designs, decorates/paints, packages and delivers from Trinbago. She also has selections available at 6 Carlos and Etsy. “We use vibrant acrylic paints and UV resin coating for our painted frames. Fashion jewellery is primarily embroidered, hand-sewn with beads, gems and sequins and backed on felt. Our metal jewellery is either wire or precious metal clay, or precious stones/crystals.”
The current challenge is a balancing game: solidifying the business structure while focusing on product development. Her next collaborative project is with Liseli Fitzpatrick of Natural Ink Clothing, focussing on Afro-Trinbagonian culture, highlighting the unlimited levels of our creativity. “If you do what you love, work hard, keep your intentions clear and move with your higher frequencies, you will create your reality,” said Lewis. “I know what I’m capable of. I am a creative force, and the possibilities have always been endless.”