Twin sisters Kathy and Karen Norman–the core of the company K2K Alliance–are New York-based investment bankers and fashion designers who have become best known for their medium-sized Carnival band, which since 2011 has offered fantastical, thoughtfully-designed costumes to a base of devoted masqueraders that includes former Miss Universe Janelle Penny Commissiong.
K2K launched their 2016 presentation–Searching for Shangri-La–on Saturday, at a gala event at the Hyatt before guests who included the Prime Minister's wife Sharon Rowley, Minister of Communications Maxie Cuffie, other ministers, masman Peter Minshall, designer Claudia Pegus and other members of T&T's who's who.
The event launched other new K2K projects that would see the company change their motto from "where fashion meets mas" to ""where fashion meets mas with a purpose."
Internationally acclaimed designer Amsale Aberra gave what is intended to be the first in a series of speeches K2K is calling The Colour of Courage. The intention of the initiative is to introduce local audiences to successful and inspiring personalities whose stories could have a positive impact on listeners.
Aberra, the daughter of an Ethiopian government minister, came to the US when she was 19 to study. After social and political upheaval in her home country, she could not return and she had to find a way to survive in the US on her own. That's when she decided to use her talent as a dressmaker. Today Aberra is renowned for her bridal and evening gowns. She's dressed a long list of celebrities including Halle Berry and Salma Hayek and one of her wedding dresses was used in the season finale of the hit TV show Grey's Anatomy in 2007.
"I knew that I had to survive. I had to find my way," Aberra told the audience at the Hyatt.
"The Colour of Courage is a power-talk series that seeks to inspire professionals through insightful discussions led by industry ambassadors, change the way that professionals think about stumbling blocks and find coping mechanisms to address professional challenges," K2K explained in a digital book on its website.
In addition to the talk series and the band, the K2K brand now also includes the K2K Audible Experience, a book series that was launched last year.
The twins' novella Growing Black Orchids inspired Searching for Shangri-la and was also launched on Saturday.
The book's protagonist, Kathryn M Fern, who is mute, strives to overcome fear and insecurity.
"Kathryn's story takes you on a journey through a meadow filled with an assortment of perfectly imperfect flowerbeds where each flower represents a new experience," reads a description on the K2K website. "The flaws of each flower symbolizes her capacity to make mistakes, while the flowers' visual appeal represents her ability to correct and grow from those mistakes."
The K2K Carnival 2016 collection was initially going to be called Meadowlands (In Bloom). The name didn't sit well with their mother and friends. Their mother suggested Shangri-La.
Searching for Shangri-la reflects the floral theme of the novella and continues K2K haute couture approach to mas. The designs are glittering, flowing gowns that would not look out of place on a fashion week runway anywhere in the world. The headpieces frame the entire face and have petal-like protrusions.
"We think that at some point in everyone's lives he/she is searching for something," the twins write, "whether it is happiness, peace or a silent place where the noise of the socio-political environment dissipates. Shangri-La is a meadowland in full bloom, a place we go to find our centre."
K2K fans so far seem excited.
"Costumes are riveting and extraordinary," media consultant Judette Coward gushed on Twitter. "Presentation of florals, flowers, trees, butterflies like a magic garden of some sorts that has come alive."
?For more about K2K and their 2016 presentation, visit k2k-carnival.com