I formed Trèfle Designs in 2008 on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. The company has built its Caribbean footing in Swimwear, Resortwear, Accessories and Home Goods. At 7 years old, I got my first “adult” sewing machine. Coming from a family of women who made crafts, crocheted, knitted and sewed all things from garments to accessories to home furnishings and more really allowed me to express myself both on and off the sewing machine. While sewing and creating is my first love, I also had other avenues that I moulded and grew up in as well. I’m a singer with a voice ranging from first soprano to baritone and I’m also a lover of writing, acting and telling stories that uplift, inspire and make people laugh! In all honesty, growing up as a child and well into my teens, I thought that everyone was super talented around me because I came from a big family and even in my peer circle of friends and associates, they too were very talented and so I saw nothing else but drive, hard work, consistency, passion and success from a young age. I also play the clarinet and am a lover of music so when the opportunity came to choose a career path and what I wanted to go leading into my senior year of high school and forward, I decided to combine all my talent and love for the Arts, Fashion, Music and Literacy and went to Tampa, Fl to study Fashion Design & Marketing. 

Leading up to that decision came many late nights and early mornings of sewing and draping in my mother’s sewing room and weekends and days after school I would spend in my grandmother’s store called Clover’s- a family-owned and operated business in Tortola. My work ethic and charismatic and bubbly personality allowed me to start selling not just the products that Clover’s sold but my grandmother allowed me to also sell products and accessories that I made – this is where the business side of my experience began. My products complimented the store as Clover’s caters to the selling of shoes, craft items, notions, fabric, home furnishing items and more. The store would also set the tone for my growth as an entrepreneur today. 

Once I began to study abroad, my experiences and natural love for travel, culture and people gave me the opportunity at the age of 19 to travel to London where I did a student exchange/study abroad of 3 months and took two classes, Fashion Journalism and Trend Forecasting. This opened my eyes in a vast way to the world of Textiles as well. After doing a double internship at Carolina Herrera for Fashion and BCBG for marketing in early 2006, as an International student, I had the opportunity to do an OPT(Optical Practical Training) which gave me rights to work in the US for one year only. I secured an Assistant Buyer position at a family-owned company called Bealls Outlet and worked on seven departments for purchase, distribution, sales, marketing and overall business development. 

In 2007, I moved back to my homeland in the BVI and in 2008, started my Fashion label with all the information that I was taught coupled with the experiences I received while growing up in my grandmother’s business. I tied it all together and founded Trèfle – a French word that means Clover. I tied the start of my legacy to the woman who started it all. My intentions were clear and my discipline was to execute my plan for my business in the best way as my home has a population of less than 35,000 people and my mind was to think globally. 

I started my company with the most difficult thing that challenged me in school and that was swimwear for women. My goal was to participate in as many Fashion Shows across the Caribbean as possible so that my brand would sit with other Caribbean brands as many designers came out of the bigger islands like Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica. I also began participating in Fashion Shows in the US like Miami and New York as well while slowly building interest, press, clients and followers on my social platforms. 

Over the years, Trèfle has expanded to swimwear for boys, girls and men along with accessories and home furnishings like pillow covers, curtains, bed throws, chef jackets and more. In expanding my product offerings, I also introduced my textiles of various prints that are designed annually. I went from a store-bought print designer to a textile print designer almost overnight. This opened up an avenue to allow for collaborations and partnerships with both local and international businesses. In 2014, my first celebrity client was Beyoncé and in 2017, I was the first Caribbean Designer to partner with US Accessory company Otterbox where they housed my prints on their Symmetry Series Phone Cases. My products serve a twofold purpose. 1) To create and curate products that are top quality, durable, fashionable and market-priced. 2) to create the physiological aspect of garments and story-telling that allow for women and men to feel beautiful, confident and overall, internally aligned with the products from our brand that they wear externally. Confidence and colour exude happiness and happiness exudes peace. Peace creates an environment to thrive and this is the difference with our brand.

My most proud accompaniments lie in two things: My professionalism and discipline to managing a business through character and networking. I’m also proud of my international credits that allowed me to put both my brand and my country on the map in Fashion. I’m an island girl who still lives and works out of the Caribbean and with such a small population, the stakes and opportunities are far less. I’ve been able to break that stereotype with hard work, my personality and consistency. The brand and the work I’ve been able to do has also impacted lives in my country. I currently have about 9 mentees who are all amazingly creative with their own stories to tell. Giving back is key and this is a core focus and mission that I continue to do throughout the community. Being creative is great but being a consistent creative allows you to pivot and shift to the ever-fast changing world and Trèfle intends to do just that on the #roadtothe15th. 

One of the challenges that I face daily is the population of the BVI. We are a very small community and even though we have close to 60 islands, islets rocks and cays, we are just under 40,000 in population which does not give me a wide net to sell. My story as a Caribbean brand however has allowed me to open my designs to a more global audience where we ship products worldwide and sell wholesale to other stores and boutiques around the world. I have successfully been able to collaborate with US companies like Otterbox and SeaStar Beachwear and have had celebrity endorsements from Beyoncé and other esteemed clients.  

I am now on a new journey to the #roadtothe15th of 15 years in business and I’ve gotten there through my resilience. With this new chapter comes my third and final re-brand and look of the company’s word and brand mark logo. My new brandmark speaks to the culture, history, legacy and evolution of the brand with its new interpretation of a Cloverleaf and the word logo represents my roots as a Caribbean brand. The best advice that I can give as a small Caribbean business is to understand why you formed your business, plan to remain persistent and consistent while learning along the journey in everything that you do and you will succeed.  

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Images: Paradise Print One-Piece and Lounge Cover-Up, Len Neoprene Tote, Gold Clover Brooch

Elena Ognivtseva
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Nutritionist, Cornell University, MS

I believe that nutrition science is a wonderful helper both for the preventive improvement of health and adjunctive therapy in treatment. My goal is to help people improve their health and well-being without torturing themselves with unnecessary dietary restrictions. I am a supporter of a healthy lifestyle – I play sports, cycle, and swim in the lake all year round. With my work, I have been featured in Vice, Country Living, Harrods magazine, Daily Telegraph, Grazia, Women's Health, and other media outlets.

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