1- Tell us a little bit about yourself
Well, my name is Marelle Steblecki. I was born in Zimbabwe which is in Southern Africa. I lived there until I was about 10 years old until my family decided to migrate to England. I’m 22 years old and at the moment I’m a makeup artist at Dior as well as a costume designer, and an undergraduate in womenswear design.
2- How did you get involved in carnival?
I’d always dreamt of being in carnival. When I was about 12-13 years old went to my first Notting Hill carnival with my cousins and sister and I’ll admit I absolutely hated it! I was in amongst the crowds standing still for hours and watching all the kids my age taking part made me jealous.
A few years later I had my work experience at school and I left it to the school to find me a placement because I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time. They placed me with South Connections carnival band, and I fell in love! I started as work experience and stayed on into summer and every summer after that I was back, each year being more involved than the last. It’s now been 8 years of me playing and making mas!
3- Why do you want to design/make mas?
I never felt like I had the flair for designing and sewing when I was younger. I cried real tears when I couldn’t draw myself a paper doll or make my dolls little outfits but I loved art and after being with South Connections I realised I could look at a design and replicate it without difficulty. I wanted to do more and I love the feeling you get when you start to see all of your work come together. After my first year spending hours sewing roses out of fabric then seeing them on people’s costumes it all sort of clicked for me. I was having fun doing something I loved for people who loved what I was doing.
4- How does it feel making mas for a band instead of just being a masquerader? How has that transition been?
Well, I never started out as just a band member, my introduction to the band was as part of the construction side of costumes. So I was glueing and cutting from the first day. It’s a challenge being in almost complete charge now though. I don’t think anything can prepare you for the amount of responsibility being designer comes with. You pretty much sink or swim. Or do what I do which is both. You panic, cry, laugh, start over a million times, lose sleep, burn yourself. But it’s all worth it, after seeing my costumes after launch I cried with pride. You may have noticed by now I’m a big cry baby!
5- Where did the inspiration for your sections came from?
I had actually come up with these designs and the theme in 2013! I chose fashion as the theme because of my degree. It was easier for me to use my knowledge of fashion history to pick out what design aesthetics I wanted to use for each section. The hard part was linking fashion and carnival costumes and making them wearable. I really did want to change a lot of my designs because I felt like my style had changed in the years since I’d first drawn the illustrations. But I’m happy with the outcome now.
6- What the most difficult thing you’ve found as a mas designer?
The most difficult thing I’ve found in this whole experience is managing my time. It’s a full time job! And I work part time already, you have to understand that the carnival industry in London is so different from Trinidad or Barbados! There isn’t a lot of money in it and you have to do it for the love of Mas most of the time. It’s pretty much a sacrifice becoming a designer. You say goodbye to your social life, your sleep and your beautiful nails! (Because glue guns and Evo stick wreak havoc on a manicure!)
7- What is your favourite costume design from another designer?
I’ve found I’m constantly costume watching! Even when carnival season has long passed. There’s so much talent and work that goes into costumes and I really respect those that put the extra effort into designs because Mas is turning into pre ordered bikinis with gems and feathers added. I learnt to make costumes from the beginning. I feel like there’s so many great costumes this year I honestly couldn’t pick just one! The most inspiring have come from Wassiville, Bacchanalia and Ucom. All of the designers of these bands have designed in Trinidad already and are doing amazingly well for themselves in the carnival industry. I just hope the same awaits me.
8- What makes you different and unique as a designer?
In all honesty, I couldn’t say. I find I’m worst with self promotion so I’m actually really bad at bigging myself up! But I think I’m different because I come from a fashion background. And I have my makeup experience as well as having played mas for 8 years. It just helps my vision. I can picture the way I want my costumes to look from the shades of eyeshadow to gems, the cut of the fabric and placement. I also think I’m one of the very few designers that actually illustrate designs. I loved when I could come into camp and look at the drawings of costumes and think of my footwear and accessories to get because we had a depiction of what the designer wanted it to be as a finished product. It’s essential to have a solid foundation and drawing has always been a stress relief mechanism. I don’t share a lot of my work but it helps that I can now combine my art with my costumes.
9- Where does the future hold for you? How do you think you will evolve as a designer and where does Miss Marelle Steblecki see herself going?
This experience has taught me SO much!! I can’t even begin to explain how it feels. It’s such a challenge and you never know when you will reap rewards. But I would have never imagined at the age of 22 I’d be designing a whole band on my own. It’s pretty much a dream and nightmare combined. Being really honest, I don’t deal with pressure well at all so I really did throw myself under the bus a lot of times. But I recovered and grew from all of it and that’s what it’s all about. I have an amazingly supportive band leader who kicks me up the arse when I start to slack and pushes me because she knows what I’m capable of even when I can’t see it myself. My next step is to finish my degree next year and hopefully come back bigger and better!
I’ve never seen carnival as a competition (well I did, when we had Calo festival and were judged for prizes on the road) so I’ve never thought I want to be better than anyone else or on top. I just want to be the best me. And I want to share my best with everyone else. This has been such a big part of my life and I’ve found so much happiness through carnival. I became more confident, I learnt amazing skills, I danced, laughed, fell in love all through carnival! So I wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for work experience with SC all those years ago. All I know is I will be great! And fingers crossed one of the greats!