10 October 2018


If there is one thing that Caribbean designers seem to love, it is contradiction. The push and pull of opposites that creates a tension via color, pattern or preconceived connotations about clothing is where Caribbean fashion thrives. The 'Mango Chow' Fashion Gala, on Sunday evening at the Torenia Hall, Centre of Excellence, clearly reiterated this fact.

Pretty classic silhouettes, lean skirts, boxy jackets, ruffle-hemmed dresses, clean shapes cut from vibrant graphic-patterned fabrics or sheer materials to make the familiar designs look edgy were all seen on the runway. Next came the layering. Another of the designers' favorite instrument of distortion, which saw different patterns, clashing colors and fabrics crash up against eachother that has now become a signature style. And while the shear ruffled nightgown-style dresses may be a hard sell, I'm quite sure most of the designs featured in the show will have a large fan base. The buzz around the show was that fashion designer Renee Grant was making her debut, so I didn’t want to miss this event. As I entered the venue area, there was huge banner which was hanging by the wall and boldly stated the name of the event as ‘Mango Chow Fashion Gala’.

The fashion show atmosphere was filled with soca music. The room was strategically arranged with labels on each seat. Decoration elements were all over the stage. The ambience was kept very artistic, designed with vivid colors. There was almost a fifty foot long, elevated runway extending through the heart of the room with seats surrounding each side. In attendance were patrons as well as professionals from the fashion industry who were socialising and finding their seats. I was fortunate enough to get a front row seat and my view of the stage was clear. There were some photographers and media personnel who were still adjusting the setup so that they do not miss any angle of the models walking down the ramp. No sooner than I opened by phone to check my messages, the lights suddenly dimmed and the noise among the crowd faded. It was time for the show to begin! The host, Leondon Wiggins - Prince Aelandel, took over the stage and announced the entry of the first collection. It was none other than the brand RJ Mango presenting an introduction to the show entitled 'MANGO CHOW'.  Every good Mango Chow has all the right ingredients  and RJ Mango has her own version of her Mango Chow where the ingredients are models, designers, photographers,  a great Emcee, a grand catwalk, a lit DJ and a supportive crowd. The introductory collection featured vibrant swimwear  infused with Egyptian elements.

The range of women on the catwalk was unlike anything else you see in a classic fashion show. Not only was the show racially diverse, but also hugely body positive with women of all sizes walking the show.

The collections flowed one after the other keeping the audience's attention and preventing anyone from getting restless. Up next was Bold Apparel. This brand stands as a voice that highlights different topics and issues that the average Joe faces on a day to day basis. The messages incorporate unity, love, social justice and individuality as they strive to empower their customers.

Then came the collection Décolleté by Natalie Howe. Entitled "INSPIRE" this collection featured Afrocentric neck accessories and statement jewelry pieces made from blends of Ankara printed fabric. Only 12 months in existence, this brand's vision is to empower women to be bold and fierce. I was not very much aware of her, but the applause and hooting from the crowd made it clear about her brand. She retained African tradition in her collection which included a range of African hues with interesting patterns and shapes making it just a perfect ethnic wear with a refreshing touch. 

The next collection was De La Cult-ure, a brand that defines the cosmopolitan spirit of the modern Caribbean woman. From casual to elegant,  combining their love for art into their garments. This was personally one of my favorite collections from the show. The line featured clothes in bright colors, innovative fabrics and preppy patterns. This designer’s collection contained an urban yet modern vibe  featuring bold graphics, punched up with pops of color.

Dani Luvz Kouture presented a sexy and sophisticated collection which showcased the brand's versatility in swimwear. Baroque Designs presented a collection entitled 'Raucous', an edgy, street wear vibe that is comfortable with a unique suave.  This unconventional brand is wrangled by Rachel Ryan,  a designer passionate about creating functional fashion that creates a statement. Her talents are not limited to clothing but extends to interior design as well. Uniquely U presented it's collection of garments that embodied glitz and glam derived from the ornate detailing of French and European fabrications. One of my most highly anticipated collections was Okera Designs,  inspired by the black mamba.

Another one of my favourites was Pulchritude Designs. With a collection entitled 'Cool Runnings' this design house creates clothing for women of  all beautiful shapes and sizes who want to be daring and different. The designers love working with color and a variety of textures to create a truly unique design. Crochet by SASS featured crochet clothing suited to the Caribbean cultured individual. With unique patterns and a concept that is on stream to set a trend, the brand says that each design is made to mirror the individual wearing it.
Also presenting was Individual 8, a design company that specialises in swimwear, resort and Monday wear. Their collection "Island Life" portrayed pieces that any active socialite should have in their closet.
Meg's Jewelry Creations also made an appearance at the show with her beaded and linked jewelry entitled "The Modern Trini". Finally KIPT Apparel Designs presented their ready to wear collection "Pride", an abstract representation of patriotism, a tribute to Trinidad and Tobago.

This was a solid show. It gave the brand's devoted clientele more of what they love so much about this house – desirable, unique and wearable designs. To determine if I love a collection and would purchase I usually consider: Where can I wear it? How can I incorporate it into my wardrobe and wear it with existing pieces? I have found that in order to evaluate, if I find a collection successful, I look mainly at three things: if the collection feels fresh and relevant, if it’s well coordinated and makes sense, and if there are any 'ugly Bettys' (the styles or outfits that make no sense, and have a very damaging effect on the overall collection). Many new designers make daring designs, and when done skillfully, it’s very strong and appealing. An ‘ugly Betty’ in the mix make you loose faith and credibility in the designer, and few customers want to wear foolish designs. It’s always a shame to see, how an ‘ugly Betty’ can ruin otherwise great work, and it doesn’t take more than one bad outfit to make the project fall apart.

Doing a coordinated collection means that there’s a flow between the various outfits, and perhaps the collection start with daywear, and ends in something more dramatic for the evening. Sometimes it’s not divided in use but rather has a colour scheme that changes with the exits. It can also be a change in shapes, materials or details, but the important thing is that it feels like one joint collection, and not like opening a suitcase of random outfits with no connection between them. It’s a balance of not being too repetitive, but at the same time also not being too diverse. A strong and recognizable theme must be kept throughout.
Sometimes you see collections existing mainly of dresses or denim, and sometimes you see a more even variety of garments. This is linked to the collection range/merchandising mix, and depends on the brand. What is important is that shops and other retail outlets will find it easy to buy the collection due to a well-balanced choice of garments as well as colours, prints and materials. The retail appeal is something that upcoming designers should take into careful consideration, and getting feedback from buyers from the very beginning can be very valuable. The fresh and relevant feel is fundamental, because if it’s not, then the rest doesn’t matter at all. Great styling, coordination and rich materials can’t save a project that feels old or out-of-place. Pinpointing the designs of tomorrow is perhaps the finest skill of a good designer, and it’s about understanding trends and where fashion is coming from. It’s also something that’s very hard to learn, if you don’t already have an eye for it, and therefore it’s where the real talent shows. What I like the most is that several garments were made from some unique material that is not evident to the eye, whilst others were made of simple fabric that was manipulated to create something beyond imagaintion.

Last but not the least, it was time for declaring the fashion show as closed. Renee Grant the designer behind 'MANGO CHOW' walked the catwalk at the end of the show to rapturous applause.  After which I slipped away to say congrats and goodbyes. To end my report I must say that it was a delightful show and the audience had an enjoyable evening.

Photos courtesy: Luis Young @luilink & Adande Piggott @a.k.p.photography 

22 June 2017


Known for its creativity and playfulness,  UTT Fashion Week always leaves us with serious style envy, and this year's showcase was no different. On the runway we saw models boldly showing off their unique senses of style, starting fun new trends we can’t wait to test out for ourselves. While some of the trends we saw are definitely not for the sartorially faint of heart, most looks are more than approachable. From folklore-inspired designs to the paper folding techniques of Origami these looks are guaranteed to earn a place in your heart (and your wardrobe).

"UTT Fashion Week 2017, a fixture on the local fashion circuit, showcases the creative ideas of young designers in garment designing, fashion illustrations, textile techniques, digital technologies as well as fashion accessories design. The annual Art and Design Exhibition has become one of the more popular events as guests can visit the week-long installation and engage with students and staff at CAFD. As a collaborative and unique experience, UTT Fashion Week 2017 saw students and staff at CAFD engage with notable fashion industry stakeholders. Designers, Shaun Griffith Perez and Dianne Hunt have mentored UTT’s students during this year’s Designer Critic project while international wardrobe stylist and image consultant, Crystal Ivy London, will took an active role styling for the Senior Thesis Fashion Show."

 The theme of this year’s event, Eclectic, was chosen as the designs are derived from ideas, styles and tastes from a broad and diverse range of sources. Decent and creative clothing aside, the presentations were lovely. Instead of being held outside for hours, as some events do, all guests were allowed to be seated and patiently waited for the presentation to begin. After dinner, the runway show began. The collections were sultry and sophisticated. What was different than in the past UTT Fashion Show was that the clothes didn’t seem to be trying so hard; they were more in service to the individuals wearing them than the cinematic runway moment. There was drama in the designs, a backless black and gold dress was pure ecstasy, shapes and structures were the order of most designers' pieces. Many of the garments were appropriate for pieces that were not necessarily  intended to be consumer facing, which made me think about success strategies in FASHION... Retail Fashion to be specific.

"CORAL CHIC" by Helena Williams

CAFD’s graduating class of 2017 comprised of young, eclectic designers who collectively are a diverse mix of ages, backgrounds, personalities and nationalities and so much more. Thus, they have created a collage of creative themes so eclectic, that it exhibits a fresh, new and vibrant perspective for the Caribbean Fashion industry. A Caribbean Fashion showcase featuring cutting-edge fashion, “Eclectic” highlighted two segments.  The first part featured the Designer Critic Show displaying designs by CAFD’s third-year students, while the second part comprised of  the Senior Thesis Fashion Show.

                                   "JUICE IT SEASON" by Nedra Waldron

The Junior Designer Critic Fashion Show was a collaborative academic exercise between CAFD’s 3rd year BFA in Fashion Design students and T&T’s leading fashion designers. This year's selected designers, Dianne Hunt and Shaun Griffith Perez were responsible for setting a project and then lending their expertise and help to a group of six to seven students. The most successful student designer of each group  received the Designer’s namesake Award. At the Senior Fashion Show, the CAFD  presented the work from the final year BFA students’ “Thesis Collections.” This was representation or collection of each student’s design philosophies that they created capsule collections of six to eight garments from a basic concept to the completion.

The Caribbean Academy of Fashion Design (CAFD), Designer Critic Show was a collaborative academic exercise between CAFD’s 3rd year BFA in Fashion Design students and T&T’s leading fashion designers. The designer was responsible for setting a project and then lending their expertise and help to a group of 6-7 students. The most successful student designer of each group received the Designer’s namesake Award. Names of 2017 collaborating DesignersDIANNE HUNT & SHAUN GRIFFITH PEREZ


Fashion Mentor: Shaun Griffith Perez
Theme:  "Evening Illusions" 
2nd Place: Marcia Joseph 
WINNER:    Tonielle Williams 

Fashion Mentor: Dianne Hunt
Theme:    "Tea Party in the Forest" 
2nd place: Stacy Riley   
WINNER:  Scharron Bain  


Fashion Management Editorial Styling Award
Won by Shari Patrick

For the sixth time in 2017 the Caribbean Academy of Fashion Design (CAFD) presented the work from the final year BFA students’ “Thesis Collections.” This was a representation or collection of each student’s design philosophies as they created capsule collections of 6 to 8 garments from a basic concept to the completion. 

Designers explored the lightness and colorfulness of Caribbean attire in their collections whilst others collections offered a zen moment in the confines of the Art. Under the white tents faces surveyed the serene proceedings with just as much aloof detachment as the models who ambled forth on the  runway. Levity was expressed through layers in ivory hues, yellows, greens, blues and teals. Patterned and crinkled skirts generously swirled around the legs, while textured wardrobe dressed the upper body in their nubbly expanses, revealing tantalizing slivers of skin. This purported the prudent sensuality that animates many of these designs. Later on, designers played with construction. These silhouettes hinted at outside-the-box possibilities that not been touched upon recently. In using summer weight fabrics and the finest drapery, designers made their creations look like a breeze on a stultifying day.

Award for Fashion Design - Most Creative Designer 
won by Gabriella Mc Millian for her thesis collection entitled, 'Bamboo Echoes'. 

Award for Fashion Design - Most Promising Designer 
Won by Keri Bazzey for her thesis collection, 'Planet Origami'

My favorite collection of the night was "Color Me Caribbean ", designed by Ian La Roche. His inspiration for this collection came from Bascoe Holder, an acclaimed artist who prevailed in defining and redefining the Caribbean woman of color through art and artistic expressions.


A special prize was awarded to Jody Akal and her 'La Diablesse A La Mode' thesis collection of a TT$5,000 retail contract courtesy Simply Runway. 

At the conclusion of the show, the “Student of the Year” award (voted on by the programme professionals) was won by Adrian Wilson. On interviewing Adrian about his inspirations behind his collection he stated:
"As a student at Cafd it was quite challenging when I now started the programme with no knowledge about fashion and fitting in with students that had knowledge or background within the  industry was very difficult. What help me throughout my 4years was doing plenty research, working hard and of course being humble and listening.  For my final year thesis I wanted to do something that represent me as an individual strong edgy and confident. My theme for my collection is Apocalypse and I was inspired by a number of influences like  Mad max, steam punk and apocalyptic fashion and pulling certain key elements and twisting it and putting it in my own style and vision for my collection. This collection would include simple silhouettes focusing on line detailing texture and volume."

Congratulations to Adrian Wilson and the Class of 2017. I had a fantastic time at this event.  Lots of laughs and gorgeous Caribbean fashion.