Twenty-four-year-old Dexter Michael Gardener is one of the newest kids on the block in the fashion industry and he is pulling out all of the stops as a designer. One of his most recent designs took the crowd by storm at the Miss Earth Pageant preliminaries on April 21, securing the bronze medal.
It has only been two years since Dexter took up designing at the professional level, more so because he had competed at the second edition of the Mr Guyana International and won the title of Mr Wonderful World along with the People’s Choice award and Best Formal Wear for a design he created.
“Prior to coming out of my cocoon, I began designing since age 14. I always had an eye for fashion. Though I wasn’t a huge fan of cartoons, I recall spending most of my weekends watching Cinderella or any cartoons involving princes and princesses. I was fascinated with the big gowns the princesses wore and princes’ attires also. They inspired me as a child,” Dexter said. Dexter’s sketch pad was full of them.
He was never one to follow sports at school, especially during high school. At recess and lunch breaks he would get his refreshments and return to his desk, doing what he did best, creating new designs. His drawings included costumes, mermaids and houses. Houses were his favourite and still are. It is his dream to pursue architecture someday soon. Dexter is good at making small module houses and sometimes helps the youth in his village with school projects especially when it comes to buildings.
While Disney movies may have been an inspiration for him, his parents played a vital role in this area also. He has always admired his mother for her kindness and the passion she put into everything she did. “She was an unstoppable force especially when it came to lifting others up. Unfortunately, I lost her to stage four ovarian cancer earlier this year. It’s still fresh and hard for me so I’m kinda still in recovery mode,” Dexter sadly shared.
His dad, he added, is his favourite person and he loves him. “He picked up where my mother left off. He’s always supporting me in following my dreams no matter what those dreams are. He doesn’t subscribe to society like most dads do, especially when your son is into fashion, pageantry and modelling,” he said, adding that the stigma attached to men in the fashion industry today is “cruel”. Rae Wiltshire, Dexter’s “best buddy” is a friend who is always encouraging him to pursue his dreams and would go to the extent of helping to purchase needed materials whenever he is on a project. Dexter added that he feels grateful having someone else besides his family who supports him 100 percent.
Dexter is not one to be challenged and will always find a way to turn a challenge into a statement piece which he did at the Miss Guyana Earth Pageant. Having been contracted to design Oriana Castello’s costume just two days before the preliminaries he was both excited and nervous at the same time he said. To make matters worse, he accidentally burnt the costume while trying to iron it and there were no other designs he could use to cover the accident, as he had already applied the beads and sequins. Yet that didn’t keep him back and he managed to wow the crowd at the event with his piece and cop the bronze medal.
Apart from Oriana’s costume, Dexter designed his own piece and won the award for best formal wear at the Mr Guyana International Competition. The designer also competed in the Mr Guyana African Roots Pageant where again he was able to cop the evening wear award.
He also designed Oriana’s evening wear for the Miss Earth Guyana Pageant.
With the little exposure Dexter has had so far, he believes Guyanese are supportive and because of this and the local talent climbing the scale, he’s certain that fashion in Guyana is going somewhere.
The best part of being a designer for him is hearing the cheers from a crowd when a piece of his makes its way onto the catwalk; there’s no better feeling, he said.
Dexter also has upcoming plans to pursue studies in hotel management, touring Guyana and is looking forward to working alongside his father on some personal projects.
In the next decade, the designer hopes to manage an international hotel, have a job as an architect on the side and have a few lines of his Dexter Gardener statements already showcased and walking the streets of Guyana and beyond. A model, Dexter is also an avid animal lover and hopes to someday open an animal shelter here.
Dexter enjoys wrestling, cooking, watching the movies and even doing masonry, as he likes getting “dirty” sometimes as he puts it.
This new kid on the block is one to watch, especially when it comes to out-of-the-box designs that will stand out in any crowd.
Dexter can be contacted on 616-0520 and is on Facebook as Dexter Gardener.