St. Lucian Designer Takes Her Totes to the Top

Photography Kareem Stanley
Taribba do Nascimento
Taribba do Nascimento

Most creative people show signs of their talents at an early age. For designer and même bête founder Taribba do Nascimento, 35, it began in secondary school, when she created her first clothing label, called Ghani Wear.

“I made really cheap and horribly tacky outfits for my friends – they loved it,” says Taribba, who grew up in Marisule. “We all loved it and thought it was the start of something big.”

Ghani Wear eventually died out, however, and after Taribba left secondary school, it wasn’t until about 10 years later that she started sewing again. But during that 10-year period, she gained global experience, attending university in Canada and then, after graduating, living and working in Ethiopia for five years.

“I got a job [in Ethiopia] to assist business women in becoming export-ready,” Taribba says.

“It was where I saw how small businesses can thrive. I saw very young girls running their own business and I saw how strong and independent they were, and I admired that.”

Photography Mygell Felix
Photography Mygell Felix

Taribba also developed a strong appreciation for locally made items in Ethiopia.

“Ethiopians are so proud of their culture, their heritage and basically anything Ethiopian. It made me want to do something for St. Lucians to boast about as well. I find now a lot of customers buy my stuff when they travel to bring as gifts and always use the same line, ‘I want them to see that we have good stuff in St. Lucia too.’ This is the kind of pride I saw in Ethiopia that I wanted to make Lucians feel as well.”

Taribba fell in love with leathercraft in Ethiopia and honed her handbag-design skills there. Later, she trained in Florence, Italy, to further develop her craft. In 2009, she decided to turn her passion into a business, and même bête was born.

The name, même bête, comes from the St. Lucian Creole saying, which means, “same animal, same fur.”

“I chose it as it is a pun on the fact that I use leather for my bags,” Taribba says. “It also translates loosely that we are all the same, so for me it is a name that unifies us. I can use African print, madras, leather or any material and it doesn’t matter because, même bête.”

“I just wanted so much of the brand to have St. Lucian recognition that I knew right away that I wanted a Creole name,” she adds. “I realised that once you hear the name, you never forget it!”

Taribba makes all même bête pieces by hand in St. Lucia, working with leather and various types of traditional cloths, such as African wax print and local madras. Her designs are sold in St. Lucia, Barbados, Tortola and Trinidad, and were recently showcased in England, at Africa Fashion Week London, where she debuted her new men’s wear collection, Jonny Shorts.

Taribba was recognised for her years of effort and creativity, winning Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2016 St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

Même bête handbags are available online at memebete.com and at the même bête atelier, located upstairs Tropics Boutique on the corner of Micoud Street and Broglie Street in Castries. Taribba also holds regular pop-up shops across the island, so follow même bête on Facebook and Instagram to find out where she’ll be next.

Photography Kareem Stanley
Photography Kareem Stanley

5 Questions with Taribba

BF: What prompted the idea to get into handbag design?
T: I feel like bags are easy to sell, they don’t need to fit, they just need to match! I love fashion, but I feel like the right accessories can enhance any outfit.

BF: How would you describe your design style?
T: Colourful and practical. The designs themselves are relatively simple because I maintain that the bags need to be practical. As a working mom, it is important for me to have a certain level of comfort in my style. And I always include colour, because même bête is inspired by the colours of Caribbean life.

BF: What have been some of your strategies for success as a businesswoman?
T: Getting the supply chain right. In my line of work there are so many inputs that I need to import and it was very important for me to ensure that I had the right supply chain so as not to disrupt production. I also market very aggressively. Every moment is an opportunity to market the brand. I try not to lose momentum, so even when it is just a social activity I always act as brand ambassador. You never know who you will meet because you are in the right place at the right time.

BF: Any career highlights you’d like to share with us?
T: It may be small, but my fondest moment was my first Christmas pop-up shop where I sold out in two hours. I couldn’t believe that people were lining up outside of the shop before I opened. At that point is when I realised that I had underestimated the demand and how fast the brand was growing. This was truly a turning point for me and made me start thinking of expansion.

BF: What’s next for you and même bête?
T: Many people have been pushing for me to go into clothing. I feel that the market is already saturated, but there is a gap for men’s clothing. I recently launched the Jonny Shorts, which have been well received, so we may continue to expand on that and hopefully start a même bête movement for men.

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