Is this the best T&T had to offer Vogue?

Originally published on January 28, 2014 in print issue of Metro Magazine.

Without a doubt, Trinidad and Tobago have some of the most talented people in the Caribbean. The festive island produces great entertainers, artists, intellects, and phenomenal people altogether. Therefore, establishing a dynamic threshold for fashion creatives should not be a problem right? When attempting to establish Port-of-Spain as the fashion capital city of the Caribbean and driving it towards international recognition the best will be put forward to represent the country right? Moreso, when inviting an iconic fashion publication such as Vogue Italia (yes, all the way from Italy) to view fashion talent of T&T as the first step to being recognized as the fashion capital of the Caribbean, all steps would be made to ensure that the usual cattiness, backbiting, disillusions and plain old ‘fight down’ will be put on hold to promote Trinidad & Tobago positively to the fashion world, right? Hopefully, these statements will ring true one day, however, the day Creative TT debuted its initiative with Vogue Italia was not one of those days. Sadly, amidst a brilliant idea, there were clouds of controversy.

The fashion and design extravaganza entitled Masquerade was set in a great ambiance Under the Trees at the Normandie Hotel, St. Ann’s Trinidad to specially invited guests, and carried an authentic Trini cultural tone, fusing fashion and carnival from the entrance all the way to the stage. Notable fashion and cultural heads were present including Meiling, Peter Elias, Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment Hon. Vasant Bharath, Peter Minshall, rising design stars like Christian Boucaud and Keegan Simon and even entertainer Destra Garcia took time out from the Carnival season to attend. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC made a fashionably grand entrance wearing a white peasant blouse and black floor-length skirt by one of the night’s featured designers, CLD. The PM even modeled the outfit on the runway much to the delight of the audience. Persad-Bissessar praised the initiative during her speech before the show, letting the audience know her view on the fashion industry of T&T: “The fashion industry and creative sectors of our country have the potential to assume an unprecedented level of leadership at home and abroad.”

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Peter Elias. Photo by Ronald Hosein

She also lamented on the fact the industry can one day sustain the local economy. Beautiful words from a political standpoint, but I was there primarily to view the creativity of the individuals chosen to showcase the country’s fashion talent and how serious Creative TT is about getting Trinidad and Tobago on the map. The show featured a mix of established designers – the ones who continuously represent the country-  and some recent graduates from the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s Fashion programme. However, noticeably, designers Adrian Foster and Aisling Camps who were both on the programme, were not showcased on the stage that night. Aisling won the designer submissions as announced by Creative TT and was expected to show. However, like Foster, her brand was a no-show which was a disappointment because most of the designers that were shown were a poor demonstration of the talent T&T has to offer. Admittedly, not everyone can be chosen but the ones that were did not give the flare and creativity T&T is known for and therefore did not represent well in my opinion

Asling’s current knitwear collection is the epitome of suave, a certain je ne sais quoi that cannot be seen in other designs here and showed another side to what T&T designers can do. Adrian Foster’s new Resort collection is heavenly and would have certainly added much-needed flavour to the show which desperately needed a fresh perspective away from the monotone silhouettes shown by almost all the designers. Of course, the group of designers featured wasn’t a total loss: Christian Boucaud, CLD and Rhion Romany represented well with their signature aesthetics.

Christian Boucaud Designs. Photo by Ronald Hosein

The general V-neck, halter back ‘flying’ fabric was overused by many of the other designers and showing varying aesthetics should have been the main focus of the show co-coordinator when selecting designers to present to one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world. Instead, the designer deck seemed like a line up of who’s who and let’s throw in some of the new ones for good measure. Claudia Pegus, who is almost always on the list of designers on deck to represent T&T when an international appeal is involved, was one of the most disappointing designers of the night. The mind-boggling pieces that were sent down the runway seemed like a fabric house explosion. Why was that random strip of lace slapped to the back of a silk and sequined mini box dress with sheer sleeves-in two colours? Why?

The Vogue Italia members in the front row seemed a lot more interested in the Carnival section of the showcase, which showed 2014 pieces from bands such as YUMA, Tribe, Passion and more. A few of the pieces caught their eyes, but the bare rare-end of the models seemed to create a lot more excitement leaving permanent smiles on the younger Vogue members faces. K2K, who was also on the programme but also did not show, was the perfect Carnival band for this showcase as their costumes are a perfect marriage of fashion and Carnival. Oh, how I wish the Vogue team could have seen their work on that stage. Without the bare butts!

This production did not demonstrate the very best designers the island has to offer. When asked if Vogue Italia will be willing to do this showcase again, “Maybe. Maybe,” was Vogue Italia senior fashion editor and stylist, Giulio Martinelli’s response after the show. Those maybes did not sound very reassuring, but hopefully, he was impressed enough to return to see a different set of designers who are able to demonstrate a wider range of styles. Congratulations nevertheless to the designers who were shown, as some of them will be featured in Vogue Italia’s upcoming Spring issue in May 2014. At the end of the day, that is a great achievement for all those involved. The shoot was set up by noted fashion photographer Calvin French, who has close ties to Vogue Italia. Also present with the Vogue team at the showcase was international model Nadia Giramata Mpangazima. Some of the local models should be in the Vogue shoot as well. Hopefully, they take time out to speak with the international models such as Mpangazima and expand their horizons

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