As you walk into her boutique in Long Circular Mall, you instantaneously feel an eclectic vibe. Every inch of the space oozes sophistication, from her large initials, CP, on the walls to the images of famous women whose styles she likes. You can easily tell that everything you see in the store is part of what feeds her creativity. Her style is always elegant and never run of the mill.
Renowned for her signature work in various types of fabrics—silks, intricate hand embroideries and luxurious fabrications—she is definitively dynamic though diminutive, sassy and classy. She is not only fashion; she is Trinidadian fashion designer Claudia Pegus. Bearer of a legacy of excellence, which motivates, triggers and drives her innermost being. She is style. Claudia Pegus is an iconic businesswoman who stands apart as a resilient and passionate entrepreneur with fierce ambition, no nonsense business smart and a down-to-earth charisma.
This Trinidadian couturier has ventured to, held her own and built a strong and reputable name in the highly competitive global fashion industry. With a design company that bears her name and focuses on an exclusive niche market, she caters to a cosmopolitan of local, regional and international dignitaries, public figures, models and celebrities.
It all began for Claudia in the late 1970s while employed in the field of Education at the University of the West Indies. Claudia began importing clothing from London for retail sale in Trinidad. With the realisation that the European cut was not the proper fit for the Caribbean woman body, it awakened the entrepreneurial skills within her and she began stripping and recreating garments. This was by no means a simple task, but earned her the skill of an A class cutter. At this point, Claudia’s company went from selling imported clothing to creating its own designs.
Business grew and expansion brought its own share of successes and challenges. This fuelled Claudia’s learning and growth as she used all her experiences as tools of learning and reinvention. By 1983 the economy’s downturn and Claudia’s need to pursue international opportunities and schooling triggered her move to Spain, where she embraced the opportunity to add to her skill set by working with tailors in Barcelona.
By the late 80s she owned and operated a small atelier in Germany while still maintaining elements of her business in Trinidad. So enamoured by her time in Spain, Claudia decided to relocate, but fate had other plans for the budding entrepreneur. On her return to Trinidad, she would be embraced by high-end clientele. And so began the evolution of the Claudia Pegus brand.
Claudia’s serial interest in business and her quest for excellence energises her momentum and fuels unparalleled success. The quintessential Caribbean designer and a producer of uncompromised indigenous design and flair, it is no surprise that Claudia has been active within the Caribbean regarding business development. Having worn several other hats such as image and wardrobe protocol consultant for executives and board members of various organisations, she has worked with various bodies regarding restructuring retail and export oriented companies in the fashion industry.
She has also presented papers on various business and Caribbean development initiatives locally and regionally. Particularly valued by her is the topic of encouragement and fostering of women in business. She is of the strong belief that women need a sisterhood with a mentality similar to the support groups enjoyed by men.
Among Claudia’s string of accolades and awards in recognition of her achievements in fashion, worthy of mentioning is her being the recipient of the UNESCO Seal of Excellence Award for her work done with Sea Island Cotton and the Chaconia Medal in 2010 from the Government for her outstanding contribution in the field of fashion.
Her ongoing unparalleled and remarkable contributions made in the Caribbean Fashion Industry to influence its growth and international recognition is an inspiration to women who need look no further for a definition of success and sheer strength. Her biggest challenge is that of understanding her own journey and she sees each day as a refreshing learning experience with personal motivation derived from conquering each little step.
Today, with over 40 years of experience in the business, Claudia Pegus Designs Ltd is an exclusive niche market design/production. It produces two labels: The Claudia Pegus label carrier featuring the haute couture lines, and the CPFS label which produces the ready wear and career apparel lines for retail and wholesale purchases by boutiques, hotels, resorts and corporations. I recently had a lovely chat with Claudia to ask her some questions and this is what she had to share with me.
Brian: Who is Claudia Pegus?
Claudia: A daughter, a sister, a friend.
How would you describe your sense of Style?
How would you describe the typical Claudia Pegus woman?
Confident and driven. Very much a team player and focused on building a better world for all.
If you were to dress one powerful woman in the world, who would it be and why?
Michelle Obama because she personifies qualities that I admire; confidence, style, poise.
Which powerful female figures you look up to and what about them you admire?
Nancy Pelosi, Bridgette Annisette George, Dianne Hunt, Oprah Winfrey, Sheena Thorpe , Liz Montano, Sharon Rowley, Mia Mottley, Michelle Obama. Each and every one of these women are a solid entity on their own. I call them foundation women on whose shoulders towers are built … Need I say more?
Do you think fashion is a form or an outlet for empowering women?
To me fashion is about style. Personal or influenced. Style cannot be purchased. Fashion can.
I do not strive to influence my clients’ sense of fashion. I allow my clients’ sense of style to influence my direction as my job is to enhance and empower what they project individually.
What challenges you had to overcome as a woman in business to reach where you are today?
Overcoming challenges will always be a work in progress. Understanding the balance of feminine power, which is a mixture of soft and tenderness with strength and firmness. Listening to all sides but making the final decision. Sifting fluff from substance. Prioritizing quite thinking time within the noise. Capturing and maintaining the power within good and bad times.
What more can be done in Trinidad and Tobago to empower women?
Our voices are heard in the corridors of influence and we should continue to build on that. We have a current Speaker of the House who is female; we have had a female Attorney General, Senate President, Prime Minister and a current President. To me equal recognition for competence is the main ingredient.
Stay focused on your dreams and build from your strengths. Nothing is impossible if you focus on self-development. Listen and learn.
What must-have piece of clothing a woman should have in their closet?
Definitely a black sheath dress.
Brian has a passion for everything fashion and public relations. With a resume spanning over 10 years of experience, he has worked with a number of brands, talent and personalities.