From the Road to your Home with Carnival Capsule

When you’re trying to bring your backpack home through the airport, the struggle is real. Every masquerader, at least once, has had to make the imminent decision to either give their backpack away or, quite literally, leave it all on the road, but Carnival Capsule is changing everything. 

Tamara Belgrave’s Carnival Capsule is the latest innovation that allows revelers to transport their backpacks through the airport without having to worry about compromising its design. Using her background in interior design and masters in material design and computer information systems, Carnival Capsule’s hands-free and lightweight bag was the product of frustration and taking a massive leap of faith. 

“When I was developing this whole thing, I was pregnant,” she shares. “Literally after I had signed up the LLC—that was 2020—two months later, I found that I was pregnant. [I had lost my job], I put my money and whatever savings I got into a business and [now I’m] pregnant. Granted the baby was planned, but I didn’t care. I said, ‘I know God has me’ and I was not afraid to step forward with this.”

Through Carnival Capsule, the New York native of Bajan heritage displays her design ingenuity. By revolutionizing how masqueraders transport their backpacks when flying home, the brand creates a product that is quickly becoming a must-have, saving costumes one capsule at a time.

We spoke with the innovator about her business, the design process and she reveals one of her biggest goals. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

Carnivalist: How did you come up with the idea for Carnival Capsule?

Tamara Belgrave: I used to go to carnival as a kid all the time, but my mom was super strict, so she never really allowed us to partake on the road. We could watch. Once I got old enough, I really wanted to play mas and I decided to go to Crop Over in Barbados because family is there. I’m not gonna lie, I was stressed when I got back to the airport. I was like, ‘How I’mma get this costume back?’ Stressed, girl. [When I jumped] the first year, the backpack wasn’t that big. The next year, I booked a first class return flight just to have enough space to bring my costume next to me on the plane, like the spot in between the armrest and the wall. So I did that and then I’m like, ‘No, there gotta be a better way.’ Every year I come back and I’m searching ‘How do you travel with your carnival costume?’ online. There gotta be something out there. The only thing I found was a garment bag—and the airports obviously gonna give you that clear garbage bag that they always do—but a garment bag was the only option. I was like, ‘What’s the difference between a garment bag and a garbage bag?’ There’s no handle or anything like that, and I’m a Bajan girl. When you get to the airport, you need Chefete, Mauby. How I’mma carrying all of that, duty free, this costume and a carry on? It’s impossible. It literally grew out of frustration. 

So Trinidad Carnival 2020, right before the pandemic hit, I came back and my gears were already spinning in the airport. I can tell you the whole drama with that whole thing: I lost my phone, I had no way to take pictures or anything and I remember coming through baggage claim when you go to get your luggage, and I saw costumes on the conveyor belt where the luggage come down—not oversized pickup—on the conveyor belt. Mind you, I have pre pre-check, so I’m there early, I’m seeing these costumes come down and I’m like, ‘These girls’ feathers about to get crushed by these suitcases.’ On the plane, I couldn’t even sleep. I’m thinking, ‘What’s the name gonna be? What am I going to do?’ Literally out of frustration, that’s where it all came from. 

I took my last paycheck—I actually lost my job when I came back from that carnival. I lost my job and I didn’t really care because I felt like God was already speaking to me about what I was supposed to do. So I was just, like, ‘Okay, you have money saved, you’re all good. Don’t worry about it.’ I took my last paycheck, I went to my accountant. I actually had to do my taxes and I was like, ‘Um, you mind setting up this LLC while you at it?’

How have things been since? I’ve been reading the testimonials on your website and people are finding real value and usage in it which is so great. 

I dropped last September right before Miami Carnival. The idea came to me in 2020 and a lot of fear, anxiety and people just not being in my corner really held me back. Fast forward, and honestly now that I’m on this side of it, I’m so mad at myself that I didn’t do it sooner. The girls that are in my DMs all the time are like, ‘Yo, we are so proud of you’ and ‘That’s so amazing. That’s so dope.’ That is girl power. All the things that I felt like I didn’t have leading up to this point, I got the minute it dropped online.

How did you determine the design and what was the design process in cultivating what we see today?

The idea of the bag came from back in like 2016. I didn’t know what the shape would look like. I just knew that something had to be done about it. If you put a carnival costume, regardless of the shape, in that clear garbage bag, all the feathers close in on each other to create a round shape, because [the airlines] want you to have it as small as possible. They make you tie it in a knot so all the feathers close in on each other. That was it. That shape came to me in 2020 when I was on that plane coming back from Trinidad. I think it’s because I didn’t have a phone, I didn’t have anything else to look at other than my surroundings and that was all I was dwelling on.

I knew that the bag already had to have a strap on it and it needed to be something where it can be hands free when we’re traveling from carnival. I wanted the ID tag in the back so that you can identify [your capsule] because it’s meant to be left at the gate. I know some girls have brought it on the plane with them, but that’s like a first come, first serve thing. I just wanted the bag to be able to lend itself to [the fact that] maybe you’re not [going to be able to take advantage of] first come, first serve. Maybe you’re the last to board the plane. 

Then I also added those internal straps. That was my one problem with the garment bag. My background is interior design and oftentimes, a lot of clients when they order pillows will come back in and say, ‘My pillow’s flat. Why?’ Because once the spine of the feather breaks, it’s not coming back. There’s no fixing it. One of the things I wanted to do was prevent the feathers from dropping to the bottom of the bag to snap or break because there’s no way you’re gonna bring it back after that. I didn’t want the shape to be so square that it would also cause the feathers to snap, so I felt round would allow them to bow but not snap or break. That internal, big, heavy duty, velcro strap is to prevent the costume from dropping to the bottom of the bag and snapping the feathers. 

What can we expect from Carnival Capsule in the future?

There’s a lot, not even just with the capsule, there’s a lot of other ideas that I got to patent first and that I gotta trademark first. That’s one thing about Carnival Capsule: I was like, ‘I know this about to pop. Let me get my stuff in order.’ I have one patent, I’m waiting on the second one but I have it trademarked. I have a lot of other ideas. I definitely want to make the capsules in other sizes in other shapes because costumes come in many different shapes and sizes. Because I saved my own money to start this business, I made the decision to start with a bag that I thought was universal in size. 

When you really think about it, how many people are paying frontline? I’m a frontline girl, and I’m not hating, but not that many people are paying frontline. Most people that go to carnival are playing midline and backline and some are frontline too, but mostly midline and backline. I wanted to make sure I cater to the front, mid and backline. The individuals? I’m sorry, you got to fend for yourself, but I will make an individual backpack. I already had the prototype for that. I’ve already traveled with it. That will be coming out.

I definitely want to work with mas bands. That’s like numero uno. Allowing them to do a custom logo with Carnival Capsule, I’m working on that. When you leave from picking up your costume, that’s a struggle too! I’m definitely trying to find a way to make it fun, to make it easy, not just for carnival. I’m thinking fetes and all that stuff too.

What does it mean to be an innovator within the carnival space?

I’m blessed. I definitely love the fact that I felt like I was accepted with open arms. A lot of people really think that idea is really cool, so that part of it has been amazing, but also keeping in mind the stigma that we have as Caribbean people. Sometimes when you do have an idea, people tend to, instead of support you, copy you, and take what you design. That’s why it’s important for me to protect what I have poured my heart and soul into. I would hope that there’s a way that we can work together as opposed to taking from one another. That’s more so the message that I’m trying to bring across. 

There’s so many other women that I’ve come across, whether it’s influencers or other businesses, that I also am in touch with and we support each other. Oftentimes Black women, or even just Black people in general, don’t have or we’re not brought up with all the tools of how to run a business. A lot of us didn’t go to school for it. A lot of it is learning and depending on one another, so I do feel like I do have a good core group of people that I feel like I can call on, but I wish there was more people that we can, you know, call on and talk to. 

I do have one other thing: so my goal, right, believe it or not, I’m gonna speak it into existence, and I think you are the first person I’m telling: I want to partner with an airline. 

Carnival Capsule Founder Tamara Belgrave


I want an exclusive. Yeah, Caribbean Airlines. You know their color? That little magenta-purple color? It’s giving that! It’s giving approved by Caribbean Airlines! It’s giving approved by JetBlu! It’s giving approved by American Airlines. All of that. With a little logo near the seal. Tell them to hit me up. 

What else is important for us to know?

The one thing that probably made me keep pushing forward with this idea is I just had a son. I want to make sure that I show him that anything is possible. I feel like a lot of people say that and I hear it all the time, but it really is. If you really want something to happen, whether it seems obtainable or not, give it time, nurture it and it will grow.

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