Next season, Caneel Bay Resort visitors can look forward to getting their hands on an exclusive new line at the resort’s gift shop.
Caneel representatives have recently partnered with renowned Dallas-based clothing and soft goods designer Nicolas Villalba, of Nicolas Designs, who will create a line of women’s clothing and accessories which will only be available at the resort.
Somewhat of an anomaly in the fashion world, Villalba started his higher education studying law and never made the seemingly requisite move to the Big Apple.
Winning Gold at Fashion Olympics
After a short stint at Brown Universty, the future designer made his way back home to Texas and eventually graduated from the University of North Texas’s Fashion Design program with honors.
At the age of 20, Villalba was chosen to represent the United States in the international design competition Etoiles De La Mode, where his eveningwear won the Prix du Public — a first for any American designer.
“I was only 20,” said the designer. “I had never been to Europe and I didn’t even have a passport. When I got there I really wanted to entertain the crowd with my clothes and my models.”
The crowd was definitely entertained and it didn’t take long before Villalba was entertaining crowds across the country. First, however, he made that required fashion designer trip to New York City, but didn’t stay long.
Ambitions for Own Line
“I interviewed in New York after college,” Villalba said. “When I was young I guess I always dreamt of making it big in New York. I thought that was what you had to do in the fashion world.”
“Then I realized I’d have to share an apartment and work for someone else’s label,” he continued. “I thought, ‘why can’t my name be on the door.’”
Soon it was, as Villalba launched his own label and opened his first atelier in Dallas in 2001. Honing his couture skills, eveningwear was his main focus at first but that was soon to change, Villalba explained.
“I started out doing eveningwear, but I took in everything from table clothes to hems,” he said. “I had to pay the bills and I was willing to work on anything. I think that’s how I got into soft goods in the first place.”
While Nicolas Designs has released a line of beautiful soft goods including linens and bedding, the designer’s passion remains firmly rooted in evening-wear.
Passion for Eveningwear
“I feel I am best at eveningwear and that is where my heart and passion are,” Villalba said. “I love bringing out the personality of the wearer. The opportunity of being trusted by the client and the responsibility of making them feel and look amazing — I love that challenge.”
The designer recently stayed at Caneel Bay Resort in order to get a hands-on feel of the place.
“This is my first line for a gift shop, so I did a tour of the shop and asked the manager about what the clients ask for,” said Villalba. “It’s really hard to get a philosophy of a place unless you’re here. You can read literature about someplace but you need to be here to form a strong connection.”
Inspired by Nature
Although Villalba had heard about the beauty of St. John and Caneel Bay, he was still surprised.
“I saw brochures and magazine pieces about the island so I knew it was going to be beautiful,” the designer said. “But I was really taken in by it all still. I’m inspired most by the flora and fauna.”
“I see all these color combinations that you don’t think you see in nature but there they are,” Villalba continued. “Like the incredible Flamboyant trees and the dark green palms. I’m designing in my head all the time.”
While the popular Caneel Bay Resort petroglyph logo will be incorporated in several designs like tanks and tees, shoppers should expect to see a little something out of the ordinary in the Nicolas Designs line as well, according to Villalba.
“I want to incorporate an art bag, really wearable art,” he said. “No two items will be exactly alike. I want to do a limited line of signed and numbered items.”
The line will invoke the exclusive but comfortable feeling of Caneel Bay, Villalba explained.
“These pieces will only be available here at the resort and I want them to reflect the feel of this place,” he said. “When people wear the clothes I want them to remember their vacation.”
Villalba has even higher ambitions than merely reminding people of Caneel Bay, he added.
“I want the women who wear my clothes here to stop traffic — that’s my goal,” said the designer. “I want to surpass everything in terms of visual appeal. When a lady is wearing one of my items to the Equator for dinner, I want every other woman in the restaurant to wonder, ‘where did she get that.’”
The Nicolas Designs line, which will be exclusively available at the Caneel Bay Gift Shop, is expected to be available by November or December 2007 just in time for the high season.