With the absence of fashion week in Trinidad & Tobago for yet another year, the way was paved for new events to make their mark and introduce previously unrecognized or first-time designers to the public by offering alternative avenues.
One such event was the Caribbean Fashion Plus+ Week, held in early November, which, in retrospect, should probably have happened a long time ago, especially considering the statistics pointing out the reality of just how many women throughout the Caribbean are in fact plus sized. If you were wondering, it’s a lot more than half the population. It was a pleasure to attend this event despite any flaws or shortcomings, due to the fact that it was evident that the objective of those on board was to bring to life the world of plus size in the realm of fashion, engage the audience in accepting the reality of being a plus-sized woman and also prove that it is indeed possible to look one’s best regardless of size. It was clear that the organizers had the right idea in designating funds to the objective rather than the frills, which is most often the case in many local fashion events. Thevenues – Sforzata Panyard and Cascadia Hotel Ballroom – were simple spaces that remained exempt from the over-the-top frivolities found at other events. Every bit of décor and every prop, though perhaps not the most expensive or sophisticated, had a reason for being there, which I fully appreciate.
To heighten the exposure of CFPS, regionally and internationally acclaimed plus-sized models were flown in to grace the runway. These included Ophilia Alleyne from Toronto, Canada; Ciuela Thomas and Katrina Hayes, both from New York, USA; Denetrice Stinson from Florida, USA; Jennifer Barreto-Leyva from Venezuela; Jessica Marie Rivera Albino, Rosalynn Minaya and Ana Marie Rodriguez, all from Puerto Rico; Leshia Mussington from St. Croix; and all the way from South Korea, Vivian Kim. The event also marked model Techla Nesbitt’s return to her homeland of Trinidad from the States.
|Ophilia Alleyne||Katrina Hayes||Denetrice Stinson|
|Jennifer Barreto Leyva||Jessica Marie River Albino||Ana Marie Rodriguez|
|Vivian Kim||Techla Nesbitt|
Perhaps to the ‘skinny bitch’ fashion industry, these names are somewhat unknown, but the addition of these international women who have more than proven their worth on the runway in the plus-sized industry only lent more credibility to this event. Furthermore, the branding, marketing and PR leading up to the actual runway shows is very deserving of applause and did not go unnoticed for its originality and attention-grabbing qualities. From Port-of-Spain to San Fernando, local models, including Trinbagonian regional award winner Sonja Pollonais, were seen in public venues for whimsical ‘pop-up’ photo shoots, which were open to photographers and Joe public alike. I personally thought this was a great way to increase the hype about the event without needing a ridiculous budget to do so. Social media was alive with images from photographers and passers-by that couldn’t resist stopping to see what it was all about. In that regard, well done CFPS.
caption: A model for the CFPS pop-up photoshoot in Port-of-Spain
Photography: Mwenda Robinson Multimedia
caption: Models in Sando Fernando pop-up shoot
Photography: Mwenda Robinson Multimedia
CFstyle.com was also privy to behind-the-scenes access to one of the many photo shoots organized by the CFPS team, photographed and directed by Sancho Francisco. The Paul Rubens-inspired shoot was designed to celebrate the female form in all of her full-figured glory. Having grown up and studied in Europe, where the battle with one’s weight and appearance is seemingly never-ending, it was refreshing to see that many women comfortable enough with – in fact, proud of – their voluptuous bodies to pose either nude or partially nude as they were draped in nothing but fabric in full view of others. May I also make small mention here of the knowledge and understanding of these females, not only as models but also as women, to have the correct undergarments to fit and flatter all that they already have going for them? Looking at the day-to-day style of many in the region, we’d do well to take a page out of the ‘wearing proper underwear/wearing underwear properly’ manual!
Photography: Sancho Francisco
I also applaud the organizers for maximizing on exposure of the models, designers and runway venues by setting up photo shoots throughout the journey to the runway and even thereafter, such as the Maracas Beach photo shoot, which appeared on the CFPS Facebook Page less than a week after the final runway.
On the downside, I was disappointed with the attendance to the runway events. And this, I feel, had little to do with the organizers’ efforts to publicize the weekend, but more to do with our own perceptions of what is plus-sized and willingness to actively participate in the movement, and refusing to acknowledge – for some strange reason – the possibility, or probability that, in a region like the West Indies, some of us may be considered ‘plus-sized’ ourselves. The negative connotations unfairly associated with the phrase have got to go; being shapely, curvy, voluptuous, having bigger breasts than average with smaller hips, or a tiny waist with full, rounded hips and buttocks… any and all of these things can make a woman plus-sized. It simply means that she does not fit into the same height/proportion category as those women seen on the runway. Actually, how many of us have the weight/height/shape of a runway model in the first place?
Another area that needs some work is the pageant quality of the event. Granted, the show itself has grown out of a pageant forum, but in order to really make a mark in the fashion industry, the runway commentary has got to go and also the walk and pose of some of the models need to be brought into the second decade of the 21st century. The unfortunate truth is that, in order to be recognized and able to stand among the regular fashion shows that take place, the plus-sized fashion world will have to try twice as hard to achieve the same recognition and capture a wider audience. That said, the majority of models did make an impact with their poise, confidence and complete ‘I am Woman’-ness. In short, they were fierce… exactly what was needed to carry off some of the designs on display.
Speaking of which, the majority of designers did not disappoint for the event. This included Jelesha Cunningham, the very first designer on show at the Sforzata Panyard on the opening Saturday night. By the end of the weekend, she was still my personal favourite, with many of her designs being fashionable, wearable and completely relevant to the Caribbean climate and aesthetic. Many of her pieces could easily be created for petite, regular and plus-sized women, which is wonderful news for both the designer and the plus-sized woman who desires certain styles of clothing that are often only fitted to ‘skinny bitch’ size. Actually, I’m secretly hoping to find a few Jelesha Cunningham pieces in smaller size, fingers crossed.
Editor Cam for Jelesha Cunningham showcase
Other designers that made an impact at CFPS included Anne Marie Alexis – a recent design graduate from the Caribbean Academy of Fashion and Design @UTT -whose red, white and black collection in tribute to the 50th anniversary of Independence of Trinidad & Tobago contained whimsical details that made reference to the variety of cultures found within the country. Mandarin collars, playfully attached sashes that could be tied as belts or made to look like saris, tunic tops with well-tailored trousers and asymmetry all lent to an interesting showcase, with the added textile work of tie-dye in the national colours. While this collection may only be suited to the more mature woman, I can definitely appreciate the talent and design thinking of this particular designer.
Andrea Brathwaite from Guyana also made a good impression with her artfully decorated clothing. With clean lines and bold colours, these hand-painted pieces were truly lovely to look at, and while work of this kind has most likely been seen before, the use of fresh colour combinations and good construction made these outfits that were wearable as well as beautiful.
In Collection Swimwear made a huge impact on the runway, as the models oozed confidence and playfulness in swimwear that was eye-catching and flattering. For women with larger busts or buttocks who want the control without sacrificing the style, this is definitely a brand to buy from. We particularly loved the tiger striped one-shoulder whole piece, as well as the finale ruched whole piece in neon yellow – what better way to grab attention?
Charter Designs came with a playful and colourful collection of patterned shorts with bright solid tops. The designs had a lot of potential and would be perfect for daywear, with the exception of slight construction issues in the crotch of the shorts, which did not go unnoticed.
Dexter Jennings and Concept Studios did a great job of bringing the drama to close the show. However, I was not a fan of the ‘ugly sexy’ animalistic runway walks all the way to the end of the runway; this made photographers’ jobs difficult in capturing the essence of the clothing without capturing models baring teeth, growling or snarling in their runway poses. It would have been much more sensible to play the part when appearing on the catwalk and then transitioning into a more attractively captured image at the end of the runway. That being said, I always see a higher quality of work from this designer than the last time, which is fantastic. His monochrome pieces that opened the show were eye-catching and wearable, with a definite Caribbean flair. This was dampened by the sequined looks that ended the showcase, which did not need to be included at all, but overall, the collection was memorable, which can only be a good sign.
We at CFstyle.com congratulate the CFPS team for their hard work and dedication in the process, and look forward to next year’s presentation of plus-sized fashion in the Caribbean. We also look forward to seeing more support for this event from the local and regional market, as it remains the only event of its kind in the Caribbean.
What’s your take on plus size in the Caribbean? Leave your comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org