B Michael has been commissioned to handle the textile interiors for the Symbio Villa in Virgin Gorda, one of the British Virgin Islands.
Myrna Colley-Lee, who designed and operates the villa, recruited the designer to create beddings, table linens and even items like umbrella fabrics. Colley-Lee, who also works as a costume designer for theater, is a longtime client and friend and the pair met years ago. “I was really honored when she asked me to collaborate with them to update the interiors of the villa. It was created for a celebrity,” said Michael, declining to identify the individual.
Having visited the property with his eponymous brand’s cofounder and chief executive officer, Mark-Anthony Edwards, a few years ago, Michael will return to complete the project to be ready this fall for the upcoming season.
Interiors were new terrain for the designer but a welcome challenge. “I’m a frustrated interior designer, so this of course appeals to that in me. Growing up, my mom was always changing things in our home and consulting me on colors and so forth. It’s always been present. Now as we look at things that we always wanted to do, this became one of those projects,” he said.
Developing patterns is especially exciting creatively. During his previous stay at the villa, Michael took photos of the floral arrangements that he had made culling blooms from the garden. Those photos inspired some of the patterns that are being used in the textiles. “It’s all really coming from the space and will feel very part of what’s happening there,” he said, adding that he is also designing lightweight, tropical resort wear that will be sold on the Symbio site.
The Virgin Gorda project has shown Michael the possibility of developing a home line, which is something he is looking forward to as he moves forward. During the shutdown, he and Edwards used the time to remodel the business, which will include a designer ready-to-wear collection that will be sold via the company’s first e-commerce endeavor next year.
It’s additional, tangible opportunities like these that give Michael hope that representation can improve in the industry. “Tangible means that we have equity stake in the business, in the industry. That is what Mark-Anthony and I are focusing on for our own business. That’s really where the difference lies — it’s economic. Having equity in the industry is most important,” he said. “By equity, I mean we have some ownership in the industry. It’s a global $3 trillion industry. As Black-owned businesses in the fashion industry, we have very little equity, meaning ownership where we are at the table, we can make decisions and we are stakeholders.”
Moving forward with plans, Michael said raising capital is always part of the agenda. Doing so as a designer of color, as many have been historically excluded from access to capital “is a very specific thing,” he said. “The conversations are [becoming] easier. Improvement will be when there is actual capital raised. But real capital that allows us to really compete vertically so we can have a different kind of presence.”
Planning to return to Virgin Gorda to finish up the project could lead to other inspiration, he said. “I call it paradise because you’re not able to do anything but soak in what is there. It’s not like going to Puerto Rico or one of the islands where there is a lot of activity. There’s The Baths, which is in the ocean and is one of those big rock formations that you can spend a few hours walking through. That’s what you call an event. It’s just like stopping the world and getting off.”