With music pumping and patrons reveling in the atmosphere, leading Vincentian fashion designer, Zulema N. George, recently celebrated in style the third anniversary of AK Couture Boutique & Beauty Bar in the epicenter of the Caribbean community in Brooklyn.
The boutique, located at 4516 Church Ave., between East 45th and 46th streets, was a hive of activities, as George, its owner, was busy greeting patrons, while having fun.
“I’m proud to be in a group of selected few entrepreneurs that are able to sustain their business in these times,” George told Caribbean Life afterwards.
“All of my goals are not yet accomplish — I guess it’s because I have so many (LOL), but I can say that my main goals of keeping my doors open while still providing my customers with excellent service and merchandise were definitely realized,” she added.
“Success is relative. I’m successful because I have a great support system,” George continued. “I am successful because I have customers who believe in me and continuously support me.”
Two other designers were also featured during the celebrations: KMichele (handbags) and Peta Odini (menswear).
During the past three years, George said her first accomplishment was to launch her own clothing line, H.A.U.T.E., which was done in December.
To date, she said she has released and sold items from two collections.
Her second accomplishment was launching her store’s app, which is available for iOS and Android!
For the immediate future, George said she wants to continue providing haute clothing for customers.
“I want to continue working on my clothing line, definitely release more collections,” she said. “I would LOVE to have at least one more location.”
George, who was born in September 1973, is the only child of Vincentians, economist / accountant Auton “Frankie” George and his wife Edna, a registered nurse.
When she was only two years old, George migrated to Brooklyn with her parents.
She received her primary education at Get Set Day School and St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School in Brooklyn.
While attending St. Mark’s Day School from first through eighth grade, George said she “learned and appreciated the meaning of a ‘true’ West Indian education.”
Schooled by a dynamic group of teachers, from different parts of the Caribbean only reinforced the lessons taught to her by her parents, George said.
After graduating from St. Mark’s, she attended Brooklyn Technical High School, considered the largest specialized high school for science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the United States.
George regards Brooklyn Tech as “one of the most prestigious and selective high schools in the United States.”
There, George majored in Biology. While attending Brooklyn Tech, she participated in various activities, both social and academic, and played on the school’s women’s junior varsity basketball team.
It was during her senior year at Brooklyn Tech that George said she decided she wanted to continue her education outside of New York. So on graduation, she applied and was accepted to Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Because of her love of the sciences, and with the hope of pursuing a medical career, George majored in biology and minored in chemistry.
While at Howard University, George was also able to tap into her other passion – fashion.
At Howard University, she participated in fashion shows, hair shows, and became a mini stylist to her friends.
After graduating from Howard, George returned home to Brooklyn to figure out what exactly she would do with the rest of her life.
She entered into the retail and fashion world for a couple of years before attending graduate school at Long Island University (LIU).
At LIU, she majored in Community Health / Health Administration. In 1997, before graduating, George said she was given “an amazing opportunity” to go to Kenya for six weeks, where she was able to work on the pediatric ward of Machakos General Hospital in Machakosa.
While there, George began research for her thesis on middle ear infections in children.
George graduated from LIU with a 3.8 grade point average and went on to work in the corporate world for a few years.
In 2008, she opened her first brick-and-mortar boutique, Anavaa Kisasa, The Frugal Fashionista’s Boutique, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
It was there that George first “officially” started selling the handbags / clutches she had been designing for about four years.
At Anavaa Kisasa, George said she gained exposure from customers and media from around the world.
As more and more opportunities arose, George said she decided to close her Williamsburg location and started her online store.
She did this for a year and then realized that she was best suited to have one-on-one interaction with her clientele.
So, in 2012, George opened the doors of her second boutique, AK Couture Boutique & Beauty Bar, in East Flatbush.
Still embracing her love for the sciences and fashion, George considers herself a “fashion scientist.”
She said she studies fashion and uses different elements to put together wardrobes, and aids in the advancement of emerging designers, while committing to her theory that “you don’t have to spend a lot of money to look good.” George said that’s a formula that many of her customers can attest to.
In addition to keeping people in fashion, George is community-oriented and helps out various organizations.
For many years, she has worked with the American Cancer Society, Revlon and the Susan G. Komen organizations to bring awareness of breast cancer to men and women.
George lauds her parents, her “other half,” Ronney Philips, and her community for “embracing me and allowing me to survive in these times.”