Anyone who has had a ‘DH Gift’ encounter will understand that it’s often difficult to walk past a ‘DH Gift’ retail outlet without, at the very least, pausing for a moment. The elegant and impeccably designed window displays, the fragrant redolence of specialty soaps and scented candles that waft through the entrance, together with the spiritually soothing aura of the store’s interior layout combine to hypnotically beckon you in through the doors and linger for a while in its uplifting ambience. What most may not know, however, is that the DH Gift experience is an outward reflection of its founder Dianne Hunt’s essence.
Dianne’s successes – as the co-founder (with her brother Gary) of the highly successful ‘Radical Designs’ fashion brand; as the driving force behind ‘Fashion Week Trinidad and Tobago’; and as the visionary behind the ‘DH Gift’ retail chain – might give one the impression that she has led a charmed life, but this is far from the reality. As the young daughter of a seamstress and mechanic, life in Curepe for Dianne and her two brothers was far from picture-perfect. Her achievements in the Caribbean fashion sector and currently, with her home décor and gift retail chain, have come from a lifetime of hard work and her drive to transform her God-given gift of creativity into worthwhile ventures of benefit not only to herself but to the people whose lives she has touched with her talent.
“I always felt that I was a little different,” she revealed. “I hung out with my brothers and their friends, and never really did ‘girlish’ things. I was the typical tomboy who loved to climb plum trees, but I was also creative – always painting, drawing and making things.”
As a school girl, Dianne used inventiveness to earn extra money by making her own ‘versions’ of small feathered hat brooches. She then ventured into painting and selling t-shirts to friends and eventually moved a step further into the
fashion design arena when her seamstress mother’s customers began requesting that Dianne design and paint her one-of-a-kind outfits for them to wear at high-end functions. “That’s how it all started,” she explained, “I had my own sense of creative direction and my mind started to evolve into wanting to do more.”
‘More’ to Dianne meant achieving her goal of furthering her education in fashion design abroad at Montreal’s La Salle Institute – an endeavour, which she entirely self-funded by making and selling her ‘Di Hunt’ painted clothing to mall boutiques like ‘East Meets West’ while simultaneously working at Republic Bank’s Roundabout Plaza branch. Dianne’s return from fashion school heralded the birth of what was eventually to become the nation’s most successful fashion design brand. “No brand has ever done what ‘Radical Designs’ accomplished,” she noted. “Even though we couldn’t fully realize our dream of being a truly international brand with stores in fashion capitals like New York and
London, we were the only local fashion brand ever to franchise into the Caribbean with stores in Antigua, Grenada and St. Maarten.”
Admittedly disenchanted over time by the fickleness of the fashion industry and also by the lack of support from financiers (which she now understands and appreciates is crucial for local designers to achieve success in the wider international market), Dianne rechanneled her creative energies into ‘DH Gift’. “I told myself, ‘You know what, Dianne? You need to pull back and preserve yourself. Re-gather your creativity and self-esteem and move ahead in a new direction.”
Clearly, from her serene aura and from her passion to achieve for her goal of inspiring others through the DH philosophy of ‘Living with Purpose’, this new direction of Dianne’s is one that is bringing her a sense of fulfillment. “My creativity is evolving beyond fashion and into a lifestyle uplifting brand. I am passionate about every item I select for the store. In choosing the products we sell, I ask myself: ‘Who will use it? Will it be intriguing to our customers? Will it bring them closer to feeling fulfilled?’”
The questions Dianne asks herself mirror her deeply ingrained sense of spirituality and growing connectedness with a supreme energy source. “I believe that each of us has our special purpose on this planet. The Divine knows why we are here and what we are here for. I want any decision I make to be made through Love and to be based on what is best for everyone involved, because we are all one. And I think that in the time which we are now living, beautiful things are going to happen.”
Beautiful things are indeed happening for Dianne, but perhaps it is because she is genuinely beautiful on the inside. This was all too evident when she unashamedly and with great humility described herself as “a work in progress” – now happily, confidently, contentedly and gratefully sharing the ‘gifts’ of her creativity, connectedness and character with all who are open to receive them from her.