Interviews

Conversation with Wendy Lee, owner and CEO of La Pluma Negra

Written by Xavier Murphy

This week we interview Wendy Lee, owner and CEO of La Pluma Negra. The company was conceived in 2003 with the idea  to create simple, classy graphic designs for everyone, on a comfortably soft, quality garment. They create tough, sexy, humourous designs that reflect the “Out of Many” experience that makes the World. Here is our conversation with Wendy….

Where in Jamaica are you from?
I am from Amity in Westmoreland. I went to Mannings School, then came to Kingston for college.

Tell us how La Pluma Negra got started?
A friend, who is a graphic designer teamed with me to start the business. He was the creative side, I was the business side. We initially had no place of business, so we operated out of his residence, till we found a spot in Liguanea. From there, we grew from strength to strength.

What La Pluma Negra?
It is a Spanish name, meaning the Black Feather.

What inspires your designs?
We mainly use Jamaican phrases and slangs, but also create designs with an international appeal. Many times, it’s through conversations with friends that we end up with a message, like “Browning”. We have designs such as Mek Yuh So Faas with highlights our Jamaican language, and purely graphic designs that are more international in their flavour. We try to keep the graphics simple and clean so that it has longevity.

How are your current designs doing?
With the closure of the store, we’ve have had a challenge in getting sales. It could do much better. For this year, I am working on new marketing and sales strategies.

What is your favorite design?
SOULJAH. The colours are bright, the design is classy, and will always hold appeal, even 10 years from now.

You use alot of patois in your designs. In your opinion is patois a slang or a language?
Patois IS the (unofficial) national language of Jamaica. English is the International Language used. I wished we had more PRIDE in the uniqueness of our language, but at the same time, I wished we had a better handle on speaking the English language. I’ve always prided myself that I can speak both fluently!

Do you have any major retailers abroad carrying your designs?
No we don’t. We however have an online presence but the e-commerce side is currently down, being re-vamped. Those items will be filled from a Ft. Lauderdale location.

Do you participate in Caribbean Fashion week?
No.

How many new lines will you be releasing in 2011?
Our plans are to promote the brand name and release at least 10 new designs.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Drinking vodka and tonic! I never wake up with a headache after a night of drinking!

If you could get rid of one thing in today’s world what would it be?
Corruption. Corrupt people affect everyone around them. They cost the economy, they cost the country and even the world. People who lack integrity are the most likely ones to be corrupted. We need to engender integrity and honor in everyone, especially young and impressionable children.

Any words of advise for budding entrepreneurs?
Be very clear what you want to do. Visualize the processes and document the steps involved. Think of all the areas of the business and make sure you have systems, staff, etc to cover them efficiently. Ask for help! There’s always something to learn, and advice is cheap. And listen to everyone. Even the lowest of persons has something of value to say.

Thanks for the interview. Any closing thoughts.
La Pluma Negra is still holding on, 8 years later. We are persevering through today’s challenges. Our plan for 2011 is to promote our overseas online store and bring the brand to a wider cross-section of people in Jamaica.

I encourage everyone to maintain hope that these financial times will pass. Think of ways to get around the challenges. And remember, we’ll be stronger and better when this all ends.

Learn More about La Pluma Negra by visiting their website @ http://www.plumanegra.com

About the author

Xavier Murphy