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CreativeTT debuts with controversy

Monday, January 27, 2014

The umbrella company to administer the State’s involvement in the creative sector, formed last year over objections of many in the sector, made its debut yesterday. It took the form of a showcase of local fashion for invitation-only guests and representatives from iconic fashion magazine Vogue Italia.



But, mirroring its birth, the T&T Creative Industries Company (CreativeTT) is taking its first step laden in controversy, with some in the fashion industry—and even one member of the company’s board of directors—complaining about how the showcase was organised and questioning if it will benefit the industry.


The company—whose creation, many charged, was done in secrecy and with a lack of consultation—has not been transparent with information. The company’s only online presence is its Facebook page, which last week gave few details about it, not even a phone number or the names of people in charge. A link on the page,, led nowhere. Communicating with the T&T Guardian only through e-mail, the company refused to even say which designers were participating in yesterday’s event, dubbed Masquerade. 


“We are saving this as a surprise,” the e-mail said. Veteran designer Claudia Pegus confirmed her participation, but said she couldn’t say more because of a confidentiality agreement. The company ignored most of the questions sent in multiple e-mails. The location of the showcase was found out through sources. It was at the Hotel Normandie, the managing director of which is Donna Chin Lee, who is interim chair of the board of CreativeTT.


The board is without a permanent chair, after businessman Derek Chin stepped down amidst objections that he had a conflict of interest. A board member said Masquerade’s location also represented a conflict of interest and complained that he and other board members have been kept in the dark about details of yesterday’s event.


The event, he said, was spearheaded by Chin Lee and board member Calvin French. Organising it took them outside their purview, he said, as the board of directors was in charge of policy and oversight and was not allowed to be “operational.” A CEO and administrative staff should be in charge of implementing projects, he said, and they were still in the process of being appointed.


Robert Young, founder of fashion house The Cloth, said the secrecy surrounding Masquerade has caused friction among designers, with a handful being chosen for the honour of participating and compelled to not talk about it with their colleagues. He said while he thinks it was unintentional, CreativeTT’s actions have sown mistrust in the fraternity.


Personal invitations to participate were given since last year, said Young. Other designers, including Young, were invited to apply for a spot less than two weeks before the event. Young said he e-mailed an application then retracted it because he had misgivings about many aspects of the event. Up to last week, he said, he had not got responses from the company to either e-mail.


“I don’t particularly agree with bringing people (from abroad) to solve our problems...We have done this before,” he said, pointing to fashion showcases in the 80s and 90s that he felt had dubious impact. 


A call for submissions was announced on the CreativeTT Facebook page on January 14—coincidentally after the T&T Guardian started making inquiries about the show—and 25 emerging clothing and jewelry designers responded. Only one, knitwear designer Aisling Camps, who studied abroad and worked with design icon Meiling, was chosen.



French responds
CreativeTT board director Calvin French, an internationally known fashion photographer and expert, told the T&T Guardian: “It’s normal in every procedure, and I don’t want the newspapers to ask me why it is. It’s something that I want the audience to see [and respond], ’Wow. This is great. This is beautiful.’” 



The Vogue Italia visit, which is led by editor Marilena Borgna and would see the magazine conduct fashion shoots at various locations in T&T, was the result of connections French made over the course of more than two decades living in Italy. The showcase, which sources said would include a runway show and exhibition, would give the Vogue contingent an opportunity to assess local fashion but it does not necessarily mean local designs will be chosen to appear in the magazine.


French insisted that using the Hotel Normandie to stage the event was not a conflict of interest. He had considered the Hilton and the Hyatt but decided against them. “I want it to be Caribbean. I want it to have bush. I want it to be in the open,” he said. “There’s a huge tree that’s going to be lit like the sun was setting on the tree. That is what I want. Chin Lee declined an interview when contacted by phone. She suggested that questions be sent to her via e-mail but did not respond to questions about the potential conflict of interest.


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