Dr Safeeya Mohammed
As we approach the presidential inauguration 2023 that takes place tomorrow, WE puts the spotlight on our local fashion industry. For those who have made the list of invitees for this special national event and for others who may be preparing to attend other important functions, you know that looking your best when you step out is paramount. You should always strive for a good balance between being attractive, classic and powerful.
WE suggests that for every event you may have to attend, do not just consider local, but make the conscious decision to support our designers!
The wealth of talent that our beautiful country has produced extends over generations and hemispheres. Supporting local fashion is not just a design option, it is an economic decision with multiple layers of benefits. As you support a local fashion entrepreneur, you realise the opportunity of supporting someone you may know, while curating your own sense of style, and directly reinvigorating our national economy in doing so.
WE sought collaborative inputs from Lisa-Marie Daniel, a strategic innovator driving the fashion economy in her capacity as general manager of FashionTT. She shares, “It is important to note that not only are you supporting entrepreneurs within the fashion sector in purchasing their products but that you are also playing a key role in driving the economic growth of the local economy by driving wealth and opening up employment opportunities locally. Micro and SME businesses are known globally to be the key economic drivers in innovation and diversification.”
She said from the renowned veterans such Prof Andrew Ramroop, Claudia Pegus, Peter Elias, Meiling, The Cloth and Heather Jones to the young and amazing trailblazers Charu Lochan Dass, Ecliff Elie, Stacey Benjamin (Diane Carlton Caribbean), Neha Karina, J Anqelique, Andrew John Smith from Tobago, The Hideout Clothing, Shivonne Subero and many others, “there is so much richness in the aesthetic within this sector catering for all fashion needs, that there is no need to buy overseas when it is all made here in T&T.”
Fashion Trivia: Did you know?
Our designs are worn not only by locals but globally accepted by international celebrities as well. Many may not be aware, but at the famous Princess Diana’s Panorama interview in 1995 on BBC, she wore a jacket tailored by T&T’s finest, Andre Ramroop, OBE. In a recent interview, Ramroop shared, “I began working on London’s Savile Row at the age of 17 after leaving Trinidad and have since created suits for the likes of actor Samuel L Jackson and the Princess of Wales.”
As technology progressed, so did FashionTT, continuously optimising and staying abreast of all innovative opportunities available. Lisa-Marie Daniel said that in partnership with exporTT with the support of project consultant Cardinal Services LLC, they launched an immersive and dynamic “Fashion Metaverse” to drive engagement and commerce with international buyers and consumers for the top export-ready designers in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Within this Metaverse, each company has a customised exhibition booth showcasing their individual product offerings. This global project is ongoing and in 2023, we will be embarking on In-Market Trade Missions within the United States and the United Kingdom to engage in face-to-face meetings with buyers and key clientele to build industry linkages to drive sales generation, export and influx of foreign exchange within the sector.
Another milestone achievement for the industry was attained with the opening of the MADE868, a state-of-the-art Fashion Production Facility. This initiative led by the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) with the support of FashionTT caters to the production needs of all fashion companies.
“Annually, under the ambit of the annual Value Chain Investment Programme (VCIP), we collaborate with in excess of 170 entrepreneurs to develop and strengthen business skills, acumen, processes and procedures for the purpose of boosting revenues, exports and job employment which will all serve as drivers in building the industry’s resilience.
“We have executed this initiative alongside professors from the Fashion Institute of Technology, NY; the Arthur Lok Jack School of Global Business; the University of the West Indies and key business advisers from the National Entrepreneurial Development Company.
“The VCIP consists of mentorships which are specifically tailored to each company’s business developmental needs. Enterprises working alongside FashionTT have increased their revenues by as much as 135 per cent and have been penetrating new global markets such as France, Fiji, Oman, Switzerland, and the British Virgin Islands to name a few.”
Lisa-Marie admits that despite these astounding gains, our local fashion designers assert their desire for more local support from nationals. She would like to see the industry recognised more by locals, whereby everyone buys local and has an appreciation for our talent and culture.
Lisa-Marie wants our industry to stand out and be known on a vast regional and global scale for our unique and beautiful aesthetic which comes with premium quality and to ensure our industry meaningfully contributes to our country’s wealth and GDP.
WE spoke to our leading fashion designers
to get their top style advice:
1) Self-confidence is the most fashionable accessory you can wear.
2) What may work for one woman may not work for another. Know yourself. Know your strengths.
3) Be aware of what cut, colour and style allow you to embrace your best self. Only you will know this, but these personal choices develop over time by engaging different styles.
4) Invest in quality. In the long run, it will be less costly than inferior quality. Keep in mind that quality adds value to the finished look.
5) Less is more. Take a last look in the mirror before stepping out. Develop an honest relationship with a full-length mirror. It will always guide you in the right direction.
Most importantly, internalise that there is a huge difference between style and fashion. Fashion changes, but style endures!
“In your silhouettes, you should always strive for a good balance between being attractive, classic and powerful,” shared Lisa-Marie.