Guyanese Designer Mark Roy Junor killed it at a fashion show last month in front of a large Dutch audience in Suriname with his collection: ‘She Killed Death’ leaving fans impressed, enticed and wanting more.
‘She Killed Death’ was an explosion of colour-infused designer pieces that spelled cocktail, casual, sports and beach wear. The fashion show which ran from October 23 to 27, saw Mark’s pieces displayed on the opening and closing nights. On the first night, ‘She Killed It’ kept it all white, enthralling the audience. Then on the closing night, Mark returned with the whites, but he struck harder the second time around when his models stormed the runway in vibrant and sizzling pieces in African prints highlighted in black and gold to give a royal effect.
Mark’s eye for art and glamour began while he was still a pupil of Tucville Primary and at that age he had no idea how to sew but filled his art book with pretty designs. He kept this up and by the time he became a student of Freeburg Secondary his drawings had become more intricate. He had his share of naysayers beginning from his school days, who taunted him about his hobby, but he never let them stop him from doing what he loved the most.
He later attended Kuru Kuru Cooperative College at D’Urban Street and eventually did a few sewing courses at E R Burrowes School of Arts.
“When I first started designing, everybody was against it. There has always been a stigma attached to male designers… and generally anything in the fashion industry but I kept at it because it’s something that I love,” Mark explained.
The first time his pieces made a public appearance was in 2013 at the Centre Stage Competition which was hosted by Kross Kolor Records in collaboration with the African Cultural and Development Association. He and the other designers contending for the top spot had to each create a five-piece collection inclusive of two evening gowns (one African attire and a traditional gown), a short casual dress and a short pant-suit.
It has been almost nine years since Mark took up designing and it has come with its challenges. “As a designer some of the challenges I faced are financial issues. You want to do a show, you want to create a piece and you don’t have the finance to back you. It’s hard to get sponsorship and many times you have to dig into your own pockets and just when you thought it couldn’t get harder, people make problems to pay for their pieces. I don’t allow this to discourage me. Aside from being a designer I’m a makeup artist and a model and I use these other avenues to follow my heart as a designer. Another challenge is not having all the material choices in Guyana, which makes the job a bit tougher but I make it work. As of now one of the biggest challenges I have is that I don’t have a studio space, so I sew from home and I’m working towards having a studio by next year where I can have my designs on display,” he said.
Yet Mark added that designing has its perks and a few of them are meeting people from different walks of life, having the opportunity to be creative and to leave a lasting impression on your clients and those who have seen your work, work with the finest cloths and travelling.
Recalling a time that taught him a lesson, Mark shared that he was requested to do a job last minute and took it since he realized that he would be dealing with African prints, which he has always been fascinated by.Today when he looks back, he chuckles at the experience but then of course it was more than he had planned to take on. He finished the first piece which posed no problem but in a bid to finish the second piece, a dress, in time, it was made a bit small and on top of that all the lines from the pattern didn’t quite match and he had to start over again. Nonetheless it turned out well. Mark’s take away from that is if a job will have him under pressure because the time is limited then he will take the job on.
His favourite garment to make is the gown and there’s nothing simple about his gowns as they always make a statement. He tends to use trains. The longer the train the more of a showstopper the gown is and Mark likes nothing better than that.
Mark also said that he likes working with just about any stretch material. The thing about stretchy materials, he noted, is that they complement a woman’s curves nicely. To date Mark has created eight collections.
Some of his inspirations are Mwanza Glen, Sidney Francois, Keisha Edwards, Olympia Small-Sonaram and Paul Burnette while international designers Donatella Versace, Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs make the top of his list. He added that he would be honoured to meet such designers who have become a household name worldwide.
Over the years the designer has participated in a number of fashion shows and has seen his pieces on the pageant stage as well.
The first time Mark entered a competition he did not place, but he took up the challenge again at the Guyana Fashion Week 2016 where he found himself in the finals and finished in third place.
His clients range from women to men to children though he focuses more on women and children as he finds that not many men are into designer pieces and would just rather walk into and store and pick up a piece that is comfortable and can fit. Mark designs every day and a piece that is not too extravagant would take him just about a day to complete.
Mark has his own fashion show called ‘Unchained Through Fashion’ that he is hoping to make an annual one. The show made its debut last year but because of his recent participation in Suriname Fashion Show he will not be putting on a show until early next year. “The reason for the name was basically to highlight our young designers and we don’t want anyone having to say that a particular designer came out of another designer ‘x,y or z’ and anything you want to do you have to run it by them first. We don’t want that. We are freelancers; we answer for ourselves, we speak for ourselves and we must not feel shackled in anyway but feel comfortable to express ourselves.”
Recalling his run-ins with naysayers, Mark encouraged young designers and models: “If you’re passionate about this, if you love it then don’t pay heed to anyone who may try to bring you down. They’ll always have those kind of people but you need to remember you’re not doing this for anyone else; you’re doing this for yourself. At the end of the day whether you do good or you do bad people will always judge you so do something that you love because if you do something you’re passionate about then you can expect to go a very far way….”
In five years’ time Mark sees himself managing his own studio, having ‘Unchained’ become one of the biggest fashion shows locally, participating in French Guiana Fashion Week, Holland Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week. By then of course he hopes his brand ‘Kramronuj Designs’ becomes the hallmark of the Caribbean and starts making a wave on the international market.
Mark enjoys doing makeup, dancing, singing — although he admits to not having the best voice — modelling, swimming, cooking and travelling.
His favourite dishes are chicken curry, cookup, pepperpot, and black cake. He is serious when it comes to having his fruits.
Mark’s work can be found on Instagram at Kramronuj and Mark Junor and on Facebook at Beat By Mark (his makeup page) and Kramronuj Designs (designer page) and at Mark Junor.