Eights years ago, if anyone had told Jaya Persad she would be riding the waves of independence with her own clothing brand, she may not have believed it.
Married at 25, Persad had great expectations of the perfect life with a family, pet and white picket fences. Instead, her marital reality was quite a different story, literate with trauma, depression and great disappointment.
Now divorced, the 33-year-old owner and managing director of the fitness clothing brand, Pumpeii Fitness, spends her time building her brand out of her Maracas, St Joseph home gym and workshop, reaping the benefits of the years she spent struggling to channel her energy into it during the most trying period of her life.
“My marriage lasted two years and nine months to be exact. He was my first love and the only person I’d ever been in a relationship with…During that time I was always ill, I had two miscarriages back to back, which made me feel like I had no purpose in life,” Persad told WMN.
In hindsight, though, she believes it all served a higher purpose.
“I would not be who I am now if I hadn’t gone through what I did. I would not have been as focused as I am now.”
Persad said prior to being married, she had done studies in business management and events management at the School of Business and Computer Studies. After her marriage ended she returned to her parents’ home to try to figure out what she wanted to do with her life.
“My doctors told me I wasn’t recovering quickly enough physically from the miscarriages. And mentally, the healing process was really slow. I felt ugly on the inside and out because I felt like there was no growth in my life. During the period in which I was married, my then husband didn’t take into consideration that I had passions of my own. It was like I had lost myself.”
But she did find a small amount of relief in exercising and working out at the gym. Gradually, her mind felt a little more at ease and she started to feel good inside and outside.
“I like to pump hard and lift heavy weights. If you look at my logo, it’s a kettle bell with bulging biceps on it to represent strength and ferocity.”
Persad said because she had always had a knack for fashion and was really good at hand stitching, she saw this as a sign that she should get into something fashion-related.
“When I was a child I was always digging in my mother’s sewing bags. Don’t ask me why. And I was the one who fixed everyone’s clothing at home…And whenever my dad traveled I would ask him to bring me things like beads.”
Eventually, Persad decided that as half broken as she was, it was time to return to the real world. She began working with a friend who was a designer and during that time she slowly began to find see the vigorous, determined young woman she was slowly emerging from her painful hiding place. She decided to return to school and struggled through a fashion making and fashion design diploma at UWI.
“I didn’t have that mindset to study yet, but I pushed through. It was really hard but I completed it in 2019…I worked hard, saved and with a little support from parents, I bought my machines and invested in myself. I started small, and now here I am! I have a fitness clothing line for men and women, as well as a kids clothing line.”
She makes sports bras, hoodies, joggers, dry-fit tops, leggings and crop tops, all custom-made using “high-quality” material after consultations and fitting appointments with her customers.
“I like to talk a lot, so it’s I enjoy interacting with my customers…When I was younger I had a lot of problems finding the in-between clothing sizes to fit me. That’s why I decided to go with the ‘measure to fit’ for my brand. I even have male customers who need in between sizes.”
Like many other small businesses, Persad said her operations were affected by the covid19 pandemic, causing her to panic because she had invested so much into it.
“Of course sales slowed down because gyms and sporting facilities were closed, and I knew I had to do something to keep generating income. I didn’t know how to make masks, but I quickly learned and started making for family and friends and different companies. That worked out well for me because it gave me the opportunity to advertise my brand.”
And because so many people, herself included, sought comfort in food during the pandemic, she used the universal weight-gain effect as the launching pad for her fitness events, one of which she hosted this weekend at the Roopnarine Grand Marquis Conference Center in Chaguanas .
It’s a fitness expo to raise awareness about the importance of fitness and health. It opened on Saturday and continues Sunday from 10 am to 7.30 pm. The theme is Action Today, Lets Get TT Healthier Together. We have feature speakers, fitness demos, vendors and giveaways.”
And with all that she has achieved spurred on by misplaced love, has she given up on love?
“I can’t say that I have. If ever the opportunity comes along again I’ll be open to having a family, once it’s the right person,” she told WMN.
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