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Anya’s advice backfires

Sunday, February 23, 2014
Fashion produced by Team Nick

Armchair critics in the land of Carnival anticipated mentor Anya Ayoung-Chee’s Under the Gunn team would slam-dunk a challenge to construct wearable designs inspired by costumes in a Roman gladiator flick and the Greek ambience of a palatial villa. 


Anya’s foray into Carnival costume design, following her reality-TV show win in 2011, is useful in a challenge where a minimalist approach trumps design that is too literal. 


That might be the issue for Carnival enthusiasts who expect substance from bikini mas—they’re thinking too literally. 


“Where the design?” jabbed a New York-based, Trini-born designer at an after-party last week. “She is a designer, but what is that she calling mas? Look at K2K mas, I see more fashion from those untrained twins than in her bikini and feathers.” 


Such interrogation of design integrity and value has long shadowed Trinidad’s bikini mas movement. Surely, it wasn’t an oversight by Anya. In the age of the hustle for Twitter popularity, passion seldom precedes the quest for profit.


To steer her mentees toward the elusive prize, Anya acknowledged, “I recognise how morale can suffer from stagnation. It’s time to step it up.” During her workroom visit to guide garment construction, Anya attempted to nudge her team into kick-butt mode: “I feel you’re all holding back in effort to harmoniously get through this, I don’t think compromise is the right place to start, I think complementing is what you’re trying to do.”


Tim Gunn noted, “In my experiences, there are a lot of moving parts when you’re dealing with a team challenge, and you have to oversee all of those parts.” 


In the workroom, mentors scope the competition to compose their views. 


Anya had a mouthful: “Mondo’s group looks a bit costumey. [They] went a bit more literal. Perhaps the judges will see something that I’m not seeing.”


“Nick’s team seem to be very incongruent.” 


The harshest stinger was slung by Mr Gunn. “I’ll be honest, it was a pile of hot sticky diapers,” he said of Team Nick’s garments during construction.


Mentor Mondo Guerra assumed Anya’s team would be safe since their designs weren’t “conceptual or literal,” but safely translated to being picked for elimination. 


Team Nick stole the show. “Oscar became the king of my Pompeii,” cheered mentor Nick Verreos. Oscar Garcia pinned his imprint on each design in the three-look mini-collection and took the overall win for his modern Grecian goddess look. 


Judges lathered praise on Verreos’s motley crew: “The romper is on trend,” “Love how you layered a solid over the watery fabric,” and “The minute elements of the studs, are the things that bring it together.” 


The takeaway from Team Mondo: Avoid looking artsy-craftsy. The spirit of camaraderie is good, even among competing designers, and always aim to be sophisticated and dynamic. 


Sounding like a broken LP, Anya lamented, “Unfortunately, someone is going home from my team, that’s hard to wrap my mind around.” Mentees Shan Keith and Nicholas Komor got slammed for delivering “a resounding failure.” 


But Gunn threw Anya a lifeline—no one was eliminated. 


Perhaps Anya needed to bait her struggling mentees with the incentive of a trip to taste the VVVVIP life in Trinidad, and share that shuttle service she gets on Carnival Tuesday so she can airkiss cameras at judging points. We’ll be tuning in to see who gets drop-kicked from the A-List.



Sean Drakes is a travel and lifestyle photojournalist who toured Europe with the Princess of Brunei, her family and her extensive wardrobe. His work has been published in Essence magazine,,, and


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