Regional fashion designers who participated in the Caribbean Fashion Accelerator pt2 programme had nothing but praise for the intense training they received.
They shared their thoughts at the recently concluded International Fashion Festival (IFF), held at the Hilton Barbados Resort, where they showcased runway grabbing designs. Collectively, they said the experience helped to sharpen their technical skills and exposed them to international standards.
The workshop was organized by the Caribbean Export Development Agency, in cooperation with the European Union and the Caribbean Market Center and was the follow-up to an initial accelerator workshop held in May 2019. It was facilitated by Sandra Carr, one of the pioneers of the Caribbean Academy of Fashion and Design at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. She has also worked with global brands, Calvin Klein and Valentino.
Sixteen designers from Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago participated. The two-week workshop focused on brand development and refining the designersâ€™ products for the export market. Designers were required to collaborate and develop a collection to premiere at the IFF. Ahead of their runway show the designers received feedback and critique from fashion industry experts Sharifa Murdock, co-founder and owner of Liberty Fairs; Ouigi Theodore, founder of the Brooklyn Circus; Danielle Cooper, a fashion influencer and Channing Hargrove, a Fashion writer for Refinery 29.
Barbadian Carla Gittens and Jamaican Moses Fenell, former reality stars of the television show Mission Catwalk, produced a line called Maison de Lori et Moses. According to Carla, â€œIt is classy chic with an essence of swag, that could fit ladies from 18 to 35 years.â€
During the two weeks, they learnt about mood boards, colour, fabric and international finishing techniques. Describing the programme as â€œvery hands-onâ€, they also cut patterns, sewed and created brand packaging.
Moses believed the training will help with his goal to export limited edition pieces of his personal brand, House of Fenell, throughout the Commonwealth. For Carla, the Fashion Accelerator confirmed that if she wanted her brand â€˜Killuh Piecesâ€™ to go global, she needed put a team in place.
â€œI learnt a few tricks. The workshop helped me in getting my brand up to international standards in finishing and creating designs for individual customers and retail outlet buyers. But the most important thing I learnt is you canâ€™t do everything by yourself if you are moving into the international market. For 2020 I am looking into small scale manufacturing and I definitely need a team,â€ she noted.
Haitian designer David Andre said although he has been in the industry for 21 years, he eagerly said yes to participating in the Caribbean Fashion Accelerator programme. He believed there was always something new to learn and likened the workshop to the television show, Project Runway. â€œWe were a bunch of designers who didnâ€™t know each other, and we had to share ideas to build a collection, so it was very profitable in terms of what we learnt,â€ he said.
David described Ms. Carr as a â€œvery talented woman with a big heartâ€ from whom he picked up several clues on garment finishes for international markets. He thanked Caribbean Export for continuing to support the regional fashion. He added that Caribbean Export helped to opened new markets for his ready-to-wear and resort lines.
Vincentian fashion designer, Kimon Baptiste-St. Rose of Kimmysticclo, referred to the Caribbean Fashion Accelerator Programme as a â€œvery intense two-week bootcampâ€. Stressing she gained tremendously from the experience, she explained: â€œIt helped me to be more aware about the steps I need to take in becoming export ready. I sell throughout the Caribbean, but I would like for my brand to be international.â€ Thanking Caribbean Export, she called for greater emphasis going forward to be placed on helping regional designers locate manufacturing facilities for small scale production.
Designer Laurette Pierre, known for bridal wear and accessories, was invited to the programme by Invest SVG, the investment promotions agency of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Not expecting to do an entire collection and to learn such a wide variety of things, Laurette admitted the workshop was hectic but worth it.
â€œI am going take everything I learnt and apply it to my work. I learnt a lot from the instructor and things I never really knew. It is hard especially where finishing the product is concerned because it takes a lot of time but it was worth it. I enjoyed the experience, it was very educational,â€ she said.
Laurette collaborated with Barbadian Alyssa Goddard to produce a structured yet chic semi-casual collection. Alyssa, owner of Cambria Costumes and Designs, disclosed it was her first time working so closely with another designer but said her partner was fun.
Alyssa, who dreams of making costumes for movies, found out about the Fashion Accelerator while working at the 4th CARIFORUM EU-Business Forum in Germany. Having completed the two-week session, she said: â€œIt was very informative, but it was difficult given that the time frame was shorter than any time I ever had to work with before. But I learnt a lot, Ms. Carr is an amazing teacher. I mainly learnt construction techniques that I didnâ€™t know before and that helps in getting my garments to an international standard, something that was very important to me.â€