What intrigues me, ceaselessly, is the miscegenation, the melting pot of influences, which abounds in the Caribbean and more so in the southern Caribbean. It resonates through an unconditional appreciation of our plural biographies which impact on our fashion sensibilities.
With the recent celebrations of Eid-ul-Fitr, I muse on our Asiatic allure as outfitted by the Muslim inspired fashion of Naballah Chi. She captures an Islamic motif in dress style infused with her Caribbean assets to depict a mesmerising tableau of New World style. She not only caters to the five per cent Muslim national community but beckons a Dubai-like reverberation which must make us pause and take notice.
A designer for just over three years, she is relatively a newcomer but brings a vibrancy of personality and a lush colour palette to the regional fashion mosaic. “It’s getting to appreciate what the fashion world has to offer. I love the power of clothing and the transformative quality it has. It’s what I’m meant to do” she posits celebratorily. Naballah Chi is an eponymous label which speaks volumes for her brand identity. “I’m at the centre of my business and as the face of my own brand, I’m immediately recognised for my work. Any other name wouldn’t suitably capture the entire essence, vibe, and message of my brand. Nothing is more authentic to me as my own given name.”
Surprisingly, her influences have a Dutch origin. Enthralled by the Ghanaian brand Vlisco, with its Dutch colonial-era company stamp and encouraged by the work of Surinamese Meredith Joeroeja, she blends abstract print and bold colour to realise an unmistakable Naballah Chi Trinbagonian trademark. Additionally, her regard for local designers Marlon George of DAWW Creations and Shaun Griffith Perez is manifest in her stylized silhouettes and fastidious attention to detail.
“My biggest fashion inspiration is anyone who is comfortable in their own skin. I look at everything that’s going on in the world of fashion and integrate them into my own work” she quips convincingly for she believes in the potential and sustainability of creative entrepreneurship. “I would love to have my own brick and mortar store, a space that is a ‘total’ experience for customers. A place where you almost ‘inhale’ the brand and get a good feel for what I am trying to do, full immersion.”
With this hybrid backdrop to her contribution to our creative capital, I am heartened by her philosophy and commitment. “The role of a creative should be to enrich the quality of life, to promote empowerment, understanding and enhance the economic prosperity of communities. A creative’s work is usually seen as a by-product, but I believe it is the very medium in which we live our lives.”
Indeed, she connected with my advocacy of a Caribbean aesthetic, “I’m highly connected to my Afro Caribbean culture and heritage so my line of work as a fashion designer always reflects this. There are many Caribbean designers whose work fall into similar categories, yet each one of us has a unique narrative, offering a vivid exploration of Caribbean fashion.”
There is evidently an intelligence embedded in the work of some of our young creatives. I salute Naballah’s conviction in forging her version of an Asiatic allure within our Caribbean context.