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 


  1. me too!! one of my fav is pulchritude design, so adorable

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