I love food and fashion. I have been, I would say, on the periphery of both worlds since my years in New York but never fully immersed – I worked at trendy restaurants that attracted the fashion crowds and most of my good friends worked directly in the fashion industry.
I used to know how to pronounce the designer’s names, what they were up to professionally, know who the models were and know some of the models. I have grown away from my loves in some ways. Now I eat as a matter of necessity and not so much as a foodie, too I make little effort to keep up with the world of fashion. It has been a growing estrangement.
The fact is that I am good friends with one of the best designers I know, Robert Young of The Cloth and we eat a lot and we enjoy what we eat. This is not to say that all that I said before is not true but it speaks to how we view ourselves here in Trinidad and Tobago. Too, how I view myself in relation to my own life.
Robert is a major talent but he doesn't get the respect he would if he operated in another space. His company has been around for 26 years, he has dressed the best of society and entertainment, his aesthetic is strong and unmistakable – these are among the markers of his success. He’s an ordinary man though even while being extraordinary and that may be why we don’t view him in the same way we’d view a foreign designer despite the similarities in the stories of their labels.
I sometimes write for The Cloth and so I write for one of the region's and yes the world’s best design houses. We don’t view it like that though, he’d call and say he needs me to do some writing for him, I’d go over, spend some time on it , run it by him and he usually approves it and sends it off, press releases, interviews, biographies, stuff like that.
If you’re not familiar with Robert’s work it’s not my fault though as I am not his publicist and maybe if he had one you would hear more about The Cloth. That’s the thing; few things operate like industries in Trinidad and Tobago – with the supporting players that get fame and mileage for the work that many do daily.
This is Trinidad and Tobago, though, and it’s more problematic than I have made it out to be. It can be very vicious, perhaps in ways we only see playing out in the world of politics. I mean to be fair there is sport and it’s silent politics, silent in the sense that the back room race and class considerations that determine who makes National Teams rarely if ever makes it to the Sport pages of our free press. Similarly, the dirt of many industries is never part of our public discourse, we accept things as they are and rarely ask why...perhaps in Soca Monarch we hear of a certain amount of discontent and in Calypso about the politics of association and how that affects the success of bards.
The First World is not immune from these issues but there is more it seems, room for dissenting voices, the Black Girls Coalition being an example, the Super Model amalgam often speaks out about the color bias of many designers. Recently, too, I have heard individuals venting about race and fashion, yet those who complain still worship at the altar of this seductive industry. Perhaps they too don’t realize that they represent that black element they seem to think is missing. Much like me I guess, who misses good food and fashion despite having access to the best of both.