Fashion was Santia McKoy’s first love and passion.
Born and raised in Haiti, McKoy came from humble beginnings. Unfair labor systems, poor road conditions, dwindling agricultural practices, lack of sanitation and water supply all were common for McKoy.
During her childhood, McKoy spent hours working in her family’s small clothing shop where she first learned to sew. At 16 years old, McKoy fell in love with fashion.
McKoy said she would work relentlessly designing clothes for herself, her friends and other children.
Now, at 36, the Ocoee resident will host her first fashion show with models, designs and performances all by her company, S&M Custom Design LLC.
Although the future for McKoy is bright, accomplishing her dreams has been anything but easy.
“If you want something you cannot simply just wish it,” McKoy said. “I worked hard to make my dreams a reality, and I will not stop.”
DREAM INTO REALITY
In 2007, McKoy immigrated to the United States. She later obtained a degree in medical coding and billing from Valencia College. However, because of the decline in the field, she was unable to find work.
McKoy said that bump in the road only made her more focused on accomplishing her goals.
“I know who I am, and I was confident in myself and the ability that I had to create a life for myself,” she said. “Something difficult for me turned into something that I knew I had to accomplish for myself and my family to show them that you can truly do anything you set your mind to if you just believe in yourself.”
McKoy soon began traveling the United States and Europe, expanding her brand by entering fashion shows and earning a multitude of awards. In 2017, she participated in her first fashion show, where she was hired to help create some of the featured pieces.
However, when one of the main designers faced complications, McKoy stepped up to help with the collection she helped to create — with no professional fashion show experience.
It proved to be a turning point in her career.
WORLD TOUR FASHION SHOW
In 2018, McKoy was invited to her first New York Fashion Week. She entered the show with 23 models featuring unique designs that accented her Haitian culture and her passion for color and creativity. Her line utilized one unique fashion with various styles and clothing design represented throughout the collection.
McKoy said her first time participating in NYFW was a cultural shock. The representation of the models showed lack of diversity and creativity.
“The models all looked the same,” McKoy said. “To me, anyone can be a model, and everyone is beautiful, so there is no specific standard for what beauty is or should be. I knew that I wanted to capture the beauty of everyone being themselves in my collections.”
McKoy again returned to NYFW in 2019 and then attended the Los Angeles Fashion Week the same year.
Now in 2021, McKoy will host her first fashion show —with all designs and models crafted and selected by her.
The World Tour Fashion Show will feature 60 models from across the United States with five different lines, special performances and even some surprises. The show will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4, at the DoubleTree By Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld.
“The designs will be something that have never been seen in Orlando, Vogue or New York Fashion Week,” McKoy said. “The designs will do more than look beautiful they will tell a story.”
McKoy said although she loves living in West Orange, she never will forget her roots. She said the turmoil happening in her home country now weighs heavily on her heart.
“It’s very unsettling to see my country go through so much calamity and pain,” she said. “From the killing of our people, the assassination of our president and the recent earthquake. We will soon have a well-deserved time of peace and happiness. Though it doesn’t seem like it now, I believe it.”
In the future, McKoy said she hopes to have many more fashion shows and even open her own stores in Orlando, Los Angeles, New York City and Haiti. She said she hopes to open the stores by 2025.
“I want to have something in fashion for everyone,” McKoy said. “No matter where you come from or where you are at now, now you are who you are meant to be because there is no one in the world like you. You are beauty. You are perfect.”