Some aspects of the January 26 showcase of local designers for respected fashion magazine Vogue Italia and local VIPs were “beautifully done,” says fashion veteran Richard Young. But the clandestine way it was organised may have been the reason other aspects fell short of expectation, he added. The showcase, dubbed Masquerade, was the event debut of the controversial Creative TT (T&T Creative Industries Company Ltd), an umbrella company that is supposed to administer the State’s involvement in music, film and fashion. It was formed last year, despite the objections of many in these industries.
Ten designers, including some of the country’s most celebrated, were showcased, as well as costumes from a handful of popular Carnival bands, including Tribe, D’Krewe and Island People. Young, who has organised many major fashion events here and throughout the Caribbean, praised the set, which had been built “under the trees” at The Normandie, a showroom where guests could interact with designers and their product. There was also a cocktail event before the show which was “set up beautifully for networking and dialogue,” he said. But he felt the models fell short, and that there were some designers that were missing if the showcase was supposed to be the cream of local fashion. And while he found the inclusion of Carnival costumes “laudatory,” he said section of the show did not adequately represent the annual festival.
‘Show organised in a secretive way’
Young joined his brother Robert, a designer, who also commented about the secretive way the show was organised, with participating designers being made to sign non-disclosure agreements, and few people knowing who were going to participate and on what criteria they were chosen. Even one member of the Creative TT board said he had not known which designers were going to be in the show. It was mainly organised, he said, by interim board chair Donna Chin Lee and director Calvin French. He was concerned that Chin Lee and French were overstepping their authority by doing the job of a CEO in organising the event, and that Chin Lee being the managing director of The Normandie represented a conflict of interest. “I’m happy for those selected and the opportunities they got,” said Young, “but I certainly think a more rigorous system of selection should have been engaged in to pull [off] what would be considered our chance to show Europe not only our designs, but our possible model candidates and our Carnival. “I know of other models who would have executed better,” he said of that aspect of the show.
Kudos for Lush Kingdom, Rhion Romany
He said veteran designers Meiling, Claudia Pegus and Heather Jones “were expected to be there.” Young praised fashion house Lush Kingdom for its “colour palette,” and said swimwear designer Rhion Romany had a “strong look.” But he added, “Some of the others, I just didn’t think were powerful enough to be on what might be considered a first rate show that is showing the nation’s talent.” The costume presentation “didn’t reflect T&T Carnival at all,” he said. “If I were a foreigner, not knowing anything about Trinidad Carnival, they look like they came from one band,” he said. “The silhouettes were very similar, the texture was very similar, the details were very similar. There was no effort to play up on diversity and the eclectic nature of what we represent in the arts.” Young traced all the problems back to the way the show was organised, which left “a bad taste in the mouth of many,” he said. “If it has been planned for months but not inviting participation from stakeholders and practitioners, it is very easy that it would have that sort of limited reach.”
Elias: All seemed very well
Peter Elias, one of the designers who participated in the event, escorting Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on stage as she showed off an outfit by fashion house CLD, was more positive in his assessment of Masquerade. “For me, it's similar to that intangible promotion we get at the Miss Universe and Miss World international arena…just great PR and the world gets an opinion of us,” Elias said in an e-mail exchange, suggesting possible benefits of the event. “I also think when we see ourselves presented as such, it acts as an inspiration for all to try to be even better and develop.” About the criticisms of how Masquerade was organised, Elias said, “Sadly, there will always be those with concerns. Who knows what's correct/best? Nothing to date has yet seemingly worked, and I always support efforts. From my point of view, all seemed very well at Masquerade.”