I have come to realise that it was no accident that I was positioned, last year, in the fall, at New York’s iconic Fashion Institute of Technology when the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange (CFE) display was showcased at the Pomerantz Art and Design Center, for the first time outside of the UK. There, I proudly witnessed the wondrous ‘Moth’, an intelligent design by Meiling using the principles of sustainable excellence. For this ambitious CFE initiative, partnered with the sustainability consultancy, Eco-Age, the formidable designer was paired with Dominican artisan Vanessa Winston whose corset belt, intricately decorated with hammered butterflies, matched organically with her coconut-fibre woven gown. I remember observing the guests, from the world of art and fashion, becoming enamoured by the hand-embroidered gown of organdie, silk and leather, transparently sheathing a pair of trousers made from up-cycled Indian fabric. In addition to my own landmark inroad at FIT, I was further consumed with national pride and besotted with regional prestige.
Fast forward to last Sunday evening, where I was directing the Hot Couture installment at the 4th Annual Officers’ Ball, a charity fundraiser of the Make It Happen Foundation, under the distinguished patronage of the First Lady of St Lucia, Raquel Duboulay-Chastanet. There I was, ushering onto the runway stellar model Denise Lay, in this same-said exquisite creation to open Meiling’s impeccable collection en noir. My producer, Mae Wayne, was already exhilarated by the seamless run of the show, and then we were about to climax the event, with the Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, and his daughter, Ryan, with the black classic Meiling silhouettes, noteworthy of which was her new kite 2020, from her UNRAVELLED collection. Such effortless style imbued with Caribbean presence and invested with global appeal. For me, it was a nostalgic flash-back to that signal moment in time which coincided with my signature turning-point opportunity to celebrate the Caribbean Aesthetic at FIT.
To paraphrase a comment from the ubiquitous arbiter of taste, senior associate editor at the Jamaica Observer, and style guru herself, Novia McDonald-Whyte, who sat among the illustrious beau monde at this phenomenal social responsibility platform, “Our designers can present reputably alongside and match unequivocally with, the best of designers at any given international exposition” referencing the work of Meiling and the Cloth who had been selected to be at this hallmark, milestone event. Also featured at this distinctive défilé de mode were St Lucian fashion designers Esther Joseph of Kuumba Designs, Lyn Bristol of LBM Designs and Trinidadian premier fashion houses—Ecliffe Elie, DAWW Creations and Anthony Reid Menswear at Meiling.
Meiling’s presentation was indeed a collection of her favourite less-is-more style. Her understated elegance smacks of minimalist sophistication and chic aplomb. No overdone affectation, but simply referencing classic shapes—in cool, carefree babydolls; novel, airy kites; lazy, slinky palazzo jumpsuits—with deconstructed cording or faux-Shakespearean collar—just for conversation-starter indulgence; fifties swing skirts; sensual Bohemian accents in peasant-like bodices and lace-trimmed hemlines, all of which attest to masterful fashion imaging through regional story-telling yet within an international narrative. It’s sheer nostalgia, evidenced, no doubt, by contemporary fashions coursed down a memory lane of style and coloured by a nocturnal palette. For all intents and purposes, isn’t inimitable style cyclical?
MODELS| Denise Lay, Bernella Albertson -Velinor, Aliyel Fontenelle, Tangie Marla, Hermina Nestor, Kena Foster