REIMAGINING Bahama Hand Prints
Welcome back to Cacique’s Artist In The Spotlight series - a journey into a thriving Bahamian art scene. This time round we revisit Bahama Hand Prints at one of it’s new boutique locations - The Island House. Sitting back on a bahama-handprinted love seat, I have the distinct pleasure of chatting with Alannah van Onselen, new owner and creative mastermind, who, having flown her perch in South Africa, has come home to breathe new life and vigor into the 54-year-old handcrafted, Bahamian company.
A classic Bahamian lifestyle brand that pairs idyllically with wide-brimmed straw hats, cushions and cocktails, Bahama Hand Prints, with Alannah at the helm, prepares to navigate a new creative course, without losing sight of whence it came from. The tropical fronds, playful pineapples and classic conch shell hand prints that the world has grown to love will not be lost, but Alannah strives to channel the less palpable facets of the Bahamian archipelago into her repertoire. A darker palette or more abstract patterns perhaps? Alannah is not giving the game away at this stage, but hints at the shape of things to come, which has us Just Imagining what may lie beyond the horizon...
Cacique. What brought you to Bahama Hand Prints ?
Alannah. I have always loved Bahama Hand Prints and have been fascinated by the timelessness and authenticity of it. The colours and prints are so captivating and when you take a closer look at the ins and outs of the factory, how it runs, the team behind it and the art work… it has a way of drawing you in. We were living in South Africa at the time, and when we realized that it was for sale and took a closer behind the scenes, all we saw was great potential and exciting opportunities to bring it life on a larger scale as a true Bahamian lifestyle brand. A company that can proudly design, print and manufacture its products on site is a rarity outside of China and India these days. It’s a Bahamian treasure, and as a proud Bahamian myself, I am excited to keep it that way!
C. moving forward, are you looking to rebrand or refresh the existing look of Bahama Hand Prints ?
A. Absolutely. A fresh approach to the brand was needed and welcomed. We have already created new patterns to update the clothing range, brought in new fabrics, and made bolder colour choices. We brought back some vintage prints and added new designs. When you come into the stores, there is a definitive new energy. The brand has a loyal following that we appreciate and love, and our aim is to now broaden that, to include a younger more urbane Bahamian that may not have crossed paths with us before. Essentially our vision is that Bahama Hand Prints is a household Bahamian brand that locals know and are proud of. We plan to maintain our printing process as it is the very core of our brand. We do hope to expand into other areas of printing, but the hand screen printing will remain at the core.
C. In terms of the style of existing prints - is this something that will remain or perhaps experience a change in direction ?
A. Many people don’t realize that we have 150+ prints dating back to 1966, all of which are different and designed by Bahamian artists. In may ways I have found it like shopping in my own closet and finding delightful surprises that had been somewhat forgotten. In the current collection, we went back to the roots of the company and brought back some of the very first vintage prints in loud new colours and designs. I plan to introduce 2 or 3 new prints this year to add to our growing collection.
C. What is a typical day for you and your team ?
A. It’s a juggling act that kicks off at 8am every weekday. We have 15 full-time employees that all contribute to the design, printing and manufacturing process. Our printers spend their days mixing paints, laying out the fabric, washing screens, hand printing and shooting new art work. The factory backs on to our Ernest Street store location. We often have customers come to watch the boys print. They are proud to show off their skill and always give a little tour of their work station. They printed over 15,000 yards of fabrics last year alone, and we expect that to nearly double this year. We have 4 full-time sewers and a pattern cutter that make up our production team. Between September and early December last year they sewed close on 3000 garments! To say there is a constant hum in there is an understatement! It’s a creative, busy and physical day. I love it. We have a great team here and everyone feels a sense of pride in what they create.
C.What are some of the first things that customers may notice when they walk into any of the locations ?
A. The freshness of brilliant colours, fashionable island-chic designs and the artistic display of products that line the store walls. From kids clothing to homeware, it’s the perfect depiction of a truly Bahamian lifestyle brand. The stores are bursting with colour - it’s a visual feast!
C. Where does your inspiration come from ?
A. You just have to look around you...The Bahamas. The colours, the culture, the fauna, the people, the history, the beaches… the list could go on forever. We are absolutely spoiled by its beauty and I draw from that everyday!
C. Are you hoping to do any collaborations in 2019 ?
A. We are looking to introduce new prints to add to the growing collection. So, at the moment, I’m thoroughly enjoying researching the Bahamian art community for ideas and inspiration. Of course, a collaboration with The Bahamas premier DMC is not out of the question either!
At Cacique, we love to showcase our colourful Bahamian art scene and the characters that create its distinct flair. For more information on Bahama Hand Prints and our other featured artists, or to find out about curating a unique look, sound, taste or feel for your event, do not hesitate to contact us.
Looking forward to the next chat! SMS:)