Saturday, December 25, 2010

Fashionably Late

There is a thinking that life in the Caribbean moves at a slower pace. Not wanting to buck that trend-of-thought, it is some months later that I get around to writing on Fashion Week Trinidad and Tobago 2010.

The five day event, held at the end of May presented hot looks and equally hot controversy, all indicative of the state of the industry.

Before the curtain raised on FWTT, Meiling had declared what was described as a boycott.

Meiling, who got her formal training at the Lucie Clayton School of Design in the 60’s, and two of her protégés were announced as showing at a precursor event to the collective FWTT.

Her collection, Noir, was part of a night hosted by Tyson Beckford which was part of a weekend of activities dubbed “Be” held at the recently built boutique Carlton Savannah Hotel which was home to Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Trinidad and Tobago in 2009 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference.

Not much local coverage of the showing was seen but Au Courant Daily said of Noir “…the origami-inspired collection in black organdy fell short, and the pieces seemed safe and predictable.”

FWTT 2010 was themed “Magenta” which had some designers seeing red, rumored to be among them, Meiling.

No mention was made of her menswear collection by Anthony Reid, which usually sells out within days, or Anya Ayoung Chee’s, debut of Rogue.

Anya, Miss Trinidad and Tobgao 2008 came back from the Miss Universe pageant in Vietnam, uncrowned, but with connections, fans and a sex tape that made its way to the internet. It featured Anya allegedly with another delegate of the pageant and Anya’s then boyfriend, photographer Wyatt Gallery.

Her Pilar line was among the highlights of FWTT 2010.

Inspired by military and school uniforms, Miz Ayoung Chee, a trained graphic and interior designer, in her own words, set out to change the approach of young women to dressing.

It may have suffered slightly for styling but her sophomore collection, provided options for daring females wanting substance, at least in concept.

More controversy came as the industry, which usually caters to graduates seeking gowns and those on the Christmas in to Carnival party circuit, for the first time had live bloggers reacting as fast as they registered their disgust to its offerings. Not wholly true but there was a feeling that much of the commentary, albeit negative, was reactionary, uniformed and without merit.

Fashion in Trinidad and Tobago has been dominated by the same names for the last three decades. What my friend Chuck Amos would call the RSTLN and E’s, think Wheel of Fortune.

Among the ususal suspects, Robert Young of The Cloth, Claudia Pegus and Heather Jones. While known for amazing work they were in the main this year seen as doing more of the same.

I say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, while some say it reflected a lack of creativity.

Not true though, Young showed his now signature appliqué pieces interspersed with enough novelty to catch the open eye. In his usual palette he did one piece jumpsuits that would be a welcomed addition to the wardrobes of his faithful clientele.

He further departed from his men’s looks with collared shirts that married, shotgun-wedding style, tropical decals and African prints and a section of washed out silk-screened tee shirts which were obscure but worth having.

Miz Pegus, in her CPFS collection, created for life between the beach and the pool with her usual flair that distinguished her be-sequined silk tunics and kaftans accessorized with over sized sunglasses and flowing head-wraps.

Also noted for her glamorous resort looks was, Sandra Hordatt with her bath-suits that again spoke to that woman with anytime access to an infinity-pool and a yacht.

Ms Pegus would close the week of presentations with her signature collection again heavily embellished and ultra glamorous. Accessories this time too strengthened her message, what she is made of was evident.

Heather Jones gave more of the unmistakable floral prints that have aided in defining her Miami-cum-Caribbean looks and earned her much acclaim and reward.

The collections of Saleem and Mario Lewis were also strong.

Saleem branded his line in the colors of the country’s flag, Red, White and Black with enough of a twist to take it beyond a nationalist statement.

Christian Boucaud must also be applauded for repping Brand T & T with such style that it excited even the likes of this disenchanted soul.

Mr Lewis showed a very wearable collection in eco-conscious fabrics. There was nothing evidently intrinsically or inherently indigenous about the design but it is now an option for those wanting to buy local conscientiously.

A small but strong menswear line from Ecliff Elie put him alongside Millhouse, this year again quite strong with a villainous collection tailored and designed with stealth and inspired by the 1973 film The Day of the Jackal.

Suits and formalwear in considered shapes in hues that harked to another era while transcending tradition.

I was told the shin-length black hooded jumpsuit that punctuated sections of the presentation could be taken to production.

Elie, inspired by our Amerindian heritage showed a contemporary collection which considered consumers in temperate climates.

Imagine Crocodile Dundee in a Caribbean located Arizona.

Reptilian vertebrae graphics on silk shirts and wide-waist, light tan, leather pants held up by suspenders tapering at the leg. This was not where it ended.

Brown Sugar out of St Kitts was universally elegant.

Trained as an architect Judith Rawlins brings her commitment to all that she is to bare in an aptly named line, a sweet, conscious and enjoyable accent.

Avark of Barbados showed memorable accessories.

Based in organic philosophy the creations use natural materials juxtaposed with decidedly symmetrical designs which never lose locale.

One of my favorites, First Chapter Adam, made a comeback after almost two decades of dormancy.

Matte black accented by Rastafarian colors in avant-garde shapes in a nod to fundamentalism made for a whimsical but edgy presentation that coupled with nostalgia excited and disturbed.

My memories of what was then a design duo comprising the late Junior Assevero and Gregory Singh moved me to tears as I sat watching the delightful pieces making their way down the catwalk.

New York based Donna Dove and Francis Hendy showcased their brand of ‘new world meets first world’ designs, not that it’s a bad thing but different enough to acknowledge that working outside of the region can influence work and perception.

Writing from memory does not do justice to the parade of albeit, myriad expression. It is important for me to note though that while many of the looks would never see the pages of publications from elsewhere or even those that appeal to an International market, Fashion Week TT represents the expression of local and regional artists and designers.

There was a litany of complaints about poor organization and seating but for those wanting to see the beauty and ingenuity of local designers that din drowned, hopefully not in the same way for those responsible for the event, the noisy wheel gets the grease.

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