For the last two years, fashion lovers have been deprived of a national showcase because the organisers of Fashion Week T&T have not been able to reach consensus on a common vision. Someone else is willing to take up the reins, however, and add some new blood, along with fresh creative ideas, in a new fashion event for T&T.
Style Spirit Fashion Weekend will be hosted from December 7 to 9. It is a project organised by Melissa Gabriel, founder and editor of Trinidad Lookbook Magazine. Gabriel started Lookbook in 2009 as a style blog, but the project evolved into a full web site one year later and the magazine was launched in January.
She took time from a hectic schedule last week to speak to the T&T Guardian exclusively about the event. Style Spirit Fashion weekend is the first event of its kind to be hosted by Gabriel and she sees it as an absolutely necessary initiative geared toward showcasing younger stakeholders in the local fashion industry. More than 20 fresh, young and creative people from five Caribbean countries will debut brand new collections. “We have identified a solid group of young people who are talented and serious about their brand and about the industry. This is an opportunity to focus on the younger designers.”
Gabriel said six of the designers will be making their fashion debuts during the weekend and her team had met with everyone to outline their expectations for quality and craftsmanship. She expects a high quality event as she has interacted with most of the designers through her portfolio as editor of Trinidad Lookbook.
Gabriel’s original idea was for a business of fashion seminar weekend but that evolved into something bigger when she received confirmation that T&T Fashion Week will not be staged this year. “The industry has been doing okay but there are so many opportunities that are not being shared equally,” Gabriel said. “For example, T&T Coalition of Service and Industry (TTCSI) funded Meiling and another designer to go to London to showcase but younger designers aren’t exposed to these opportunities. People often don’t know what’s out there until it is announced that someone has been chosen.” “We were hoping that TTFW would get it together but it didn’t. There are so many designers that want to get involved with fashion and are not being given the opportunity.”
That is the reason Gabriel and her team decided to expand their initial idea and host a fashion weekend. “We, as people involved in the industry, are fed up of not having a consistent fashion event or place to showcase their work. “We thought there must be a way to bring everybody together and really make this happen.”
They are vigorously preparing for an event that Gabriel says “will happen.” “We are keeping this event as simple as possible. We approached sponsors in a very specific way and we have gotten favourable responses so far.” “It is going to be an amazing event.”
The weekend will comprise two nightly fashion shows as well as style workshops and seminars on fashion marketing and merchandising. “On the Sunday we will have a show focusing on local accessory designers as well as a brunch meeting with designers with the goal of charting a way forward.”
Style Spirit, Gabriel said, is not meant to be just a weekend about fashion shows but will create opportunities in fashion across the region. “We’re looking at partnering with organisations so that we may showcase our Caribbean designers around the world, to get the younger designers, specifically, more exposure outside of the Caribbean.” “We are going to look at the issues affecting the industry’s growth. “For instance, we have a problem with manufacturing. We need to engage manufacturers and create opportunities for them to make fashion instead of just uniforms.”
Gabriel said the Lookbook team, together with the designers they are working with, are still working on that plan. She felt there was a huge interest in local fashion and said the first Fashion Week in this country proved this. Gabriel felt the local industry was becoming “a jokey, mud-slinging, ego-driven mess.” “People weren’t focusing on nurturing and loving the industry but letting other issues get in the way.”
She said one of the advantages of working with younger designers was that they didn’t have time for ego clashes. “I know a lot of young designers and they reach out to me and I always notice that they help each other and come together when they need to because they understand that it benefits the industry and themselves.” “They never see it as a competition but focus on doing their best and even though they may have challenges and difficult moments, they are not jaded.”
She said each designer involved in Style Spirit had a deep-rooted sense of patriotism and wanted their country and its fashion industry to succeed. “Everybody has a style spirit. It is easygoing and carefree but still conscious of the level of work needed for success,” Gabriel said. As for the spirit of the weekend, Gabriel said it was all about getting the fashion industry to a point where the entire country could push it and love it and really establish it as an international force.