CFSTYLE.com would like to extend best wishes to all our fans, supporters and the style conscious. We wish you a productive 2010and hope you welcome the new year in style. We look back at 2009 and all the best moments in Caribbean Fashion with a guest post from Kathryn Nurse.
by Kathryn Nurse
Fashion is all about looking back on the past, and looking forward to the future to create the style of today. No better time is there to do that than at the end of a year, nay decade, to observe the high points of the past twelve months in Caribbean fashion. Much has changed in our small fashion landscape and we can only hope that in looking forward to the next year that the progress will continue.
I fully believe that fashion must be put into context in order for it to be relevant. Part of that context requires criticism and commentary. In the years before the internet, Caribbean fashion commentary was limited to inches of newspaper articles, though while descriptive, were highly uncritical. Those days are far behind us. This year the number of Caribbean fashion blogs which popped up, which not only brought Caribbean fashion into the homes and, admit it, offices of many Island fashionistas, by way of pictures and video, they also brought with them a variety of opinion. Some of it may have been biased, some overly laudatory, but all of it was important, because more of a discerning eye was being applied to fashion at home and abroad. Blogs such as Islandista, put the fashion choices of celebrities with Caribbean heritage on display, while Trini Fashionista does an impressive daily roundup of the most interesting stories in the global fashion scene. Au Courant in the Caribbean, a blog as well as e-magazine, combines intelligent commentary about regional as well as international fashion. Not to mention, the work that goes into www.cfstyle.com to bring you as much up to the minute information about the latest in the industry. Even an attempt at street style blogging cropped up! We hope to see the attempts to make Caribbean fashion more relevant continue into 2010!
9. Sandhurst Tacama-Miggins
Though still relatively unknown in International modeling circles, Sandhurst’s name is very well recognized in his home island of Tobago. He had a whirlwind 2009, trying out and making the cast of Bravo’s modelling reality show “Make Me a Supermodel” where he blew away the competition week after week to take a second place title. He followed that with a special appearance at Trinidad & Tobago Fashion Week and rounded his year off nicely by co-hosting and co-ordinating his first major fashion show, the Carnival Costume stage presentation at the annual Carnival event produced by Antilia Events in New York City. Sandhurst hopes to pursue a career in showbusiness, specifically in hosting or acting, arenas in which he can showcase his hilarious and singular personality. We look forward to him doing huge things in the coming year as well.
8. Miss T&T Universe
We are a region in which the spirit and excitement of pageantry is alive and well. We are fiercely proud of the beauty of our island’s women and intensely competitive in the international arena. So when we discovered that there would be NO delegate from Trinidad & Tobago to represent us at the 2009 Miss Universe pageant, the outraged outcry was considerable. Thankfully, a new group of directors took the reins of the challenge and in October, screening for 2010’s beauty began. Immediately there were complaints: the faces of the delegates seemed oddly familiar, this one too short, that one can’t speak, but when the names of the final two were called at the Pageant in November, there was no question that these two women were the right choices. New face Danille Prime left with the title of First Runner Up, and a legion of loyal supporters, but it was seasoned model, La Toya Woods who took the crown and will begin months of training, appearances and engagements as our Miss T&T Universe for 2010.
7. Fashion Evolution
Slowly but surely, Fashion is beginning to be acknowledged as having serious economic potential within the Caribbean region. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the advent of educational programs with regards to fashion. The University of Trinidad and Tobago has added degrees and diplomas in Fashion Design and Management and Marketing. And this year, the first Fashion Evolution Caribbean was held, a planned annual event, to facilitate discussion about fashion in the region and to display the work of Fashion students from different Caribbean island to the established fashion fraternity. The event was co-sponsored by Heather Jones Designs, and started out small, but we are hoping that 2010’s event will be bigger and better and appeal to a larger audience.
6. Pilar by Anya Ayoung Chee
When Anya Ayoung Chee, former Miss Trinidad and Tobago announced that she would be showing a collection for Trinidad Fashion Week, many were dubious. In addition, her company, The Fuse Agency, was also producing the advertising and heavily involved in the production of Fashion Week TT! How was it all going to work out? Sure, Anya was known for her personal style and her past graphic design work, but could she transfer that into looks that people wanted to wear? The answer, in June was a resounding yes. Pilar’s looks were young, cute, and immediately attracted lots of attention from its Facebook Page. Furthermore, inspired by the culture of Bobo Shanti Rastafarians, the collection was cohesive and made sense, but Caribbean women could also see themselves wearing them. The aforementioned Caribbean fashion bloggers went crazy, profiling the line, putting up pictures, trying to find out prices and interviewing the designer. Pilar pieces are currently available by appointment only, but according to their Facebook page, an e-retail solution is in the works as well.
5. Social Networking
Without a doubt the advent of social networking websites has changed the way we live our lives. While a supportive comment on our Facebook wall can fill us with joy, being ‘tagged’ in an unflattering picture can fill us with embarrassment equally as quickly. Twitter has given us an even easier way to update each other on the latest events, interesting articles, and our current mood instantly (in 140 characters or less, that is). It hasn’t taken Caribbean designers long at all to recognize the power of these social networking devices and their use in marketing their products and building their brands. Furthermore, feedback is instant! All you have to do is count your comments, or how many people have “Liked” a picture to know what mass appeal your collection will have. Furthermore, what better way to communicate with existing and potential customers, in the region and overseas. One message is instantly seen by thousands of people. Next time you see a design by a Caribbean designer that interests you, simply type their name into Facebook and see what you find….
Caribbean women love a fashion show, boy! There, I said it! And no year was that truer than in 2009 when designers from all across the region had their chances to show in a variety of locations to a variety of different audiences. Trinidad & Tobago Fashion Week in June was attended by newcomers and Caribbean style icons from a variety of countries. It was immediately followed by Caribbean Fashion Week in Jamaica, where everything from evening wear to swimwear was showcased. The year was rounded out with Ocean Style Fashion Showcase, again in Jamaica, ACF Fashion Weekend in Barbados and Islands of the World Fashion Week in the Bahamas. Some of these events showcased other international designers, like guest designer, Project Runway’s Leanne Marshall who presented a collection at Islands of the World Fashion Week. The themes of green fashion, environment, and sustainability were stressed at varying points in the shows during the year. Whether the collections were successes with their audience, or not as popular, all the shows clearly shared the objective of promoting new Caribbean talent to increase international exposure.
Whether you love her or hate her you cannot deny, that all eyes the world over were trained on Bajan pop singer Rihanna all year long. Her unfortunate personal dramas in the early part of the year caused the paparazzi lens to be permanently angled in her direction, and Rihanna definitely used it to her advantage. Who can forget her avant-garde “all black everything” looks at Paris Fashion Week in September? Or her first huge event, after the Chris Brown incident, at the Met Costume Gala in May? While everyone else wore sequinned backless gowns, Rih Rih hit the red carpet in a cropped leg tuxedo suit with hugely exaggerated shoulders and electric blue eyeliner, all but stealing the show. Her switch from jet black short hair to a shocking blonde to promote her new album had many fashionistas running to the hairstylist, bottles of peroxide clutched in their pointy-nailed hands! Clearly there were some missteps as well, but her unapologetic attitude about her wardrobe is inspirational to us all, especially those of us insistent upon cultivating a distinct personal style in environments that seem to encourage “sameness”. A Caribbean woman is considered one of the world’s hugest trendsetters. Will the Caribbean fashion aesthetic soon be as influential on the global stage?
2. Claudia Pegus
Claudia Pegus has certainly made us sit up and take notice in 2009. She started the year with a bang winning the Best Female Designer Award at the Caribbean Fashion Awards, and also the best Trinidadian designer at the same ceremony. Then she quickly followed that triumph with two collections at Trinidad Fashion Week, one more avant garde and provocative, and one delightfully wearable collection of dresses dubbed the “Michelle Obama” collection because they were based on the campaign wear of the current First Lady, which she continued to remain in the public eye by showing again at the Fifth Summit of the Americas and at CHOGM. She ended her year with a final fashion show which, while not being as strong as her earlier two, succeeded in keeping her name on everybody’s lips for 2009.
Designer Meiling Esau gets it. She understands that in order to stay relevant (and keep cash flow up) in a business even in one as dependent upon creativity as fashion design, you need to stay in the public eye. And in 2009 she did just that. She was one of a handful of designers to show not one but two collections at Trinidad & Tobago Fashion Week in June, not only a gorgeous and wearable minimalist collection from her Meiling line, but a variety of comfortable, young, easy to wear and most importantly affordable looks from her diffusion line, M2 which is sold at Micles. Yes, Meiling has adapted the highly successful marketing move of many international designers by creating a strategic partnership with lower end retailers (Think Jimmy Choo or Matthew Williamson at H&M, probably the diffusion lines with the most buzz this year). Not only that, directly after the catwalk showings she debuted a fantastic new website showcasing her work as a designer. The website is a feast for the eyes, with a Trinidadian folklore theme, and truthfully is worth visiting even if you have no interest whatsoever in fashion. Add to this blend a couple of important sales during the year which brought new customers into her studio doors, who were able to experience the luxury of owning a designer piece at a lower price point, and which were excellent tools for finding aspirational customers and potential clients. She rounded off 2009 with a fashion show previewing her 2010 collection, “The Secret Life of Plants”, which has onlookers even more excited about what she has to present in the coming year. Clearly Meiling looks at fashion like a business, and her company as a brand and its already translating into a successful 2010 for her.
It is clear that in 2009 the Caribbean’s men and women became increasingly attuned to global fashion. Looking ahead to 2010 I’m anxious to see how the new awareness of celebrity and high fashion will sneak its way into the personal style choices of Caribbean women. Will we be rocking Rihanna’s pasties and blazer combos to Carnival fetes? Or will we go pantsless like Gaga? Will the forecasted trends of 2010: sheer fabrics, daytrime sequins or cutout dresses be arresting us on the streets of Kingston, Port of Spain, and Bridgetown? Whatever it is, I hope it’s adventurous and exciting!