TT now has 27 new, highly-trained tailors, specialising in the ultra-bespoke style of Savile Row in London, the pinnacle of craftsmanship. Taught by Trinidad-born master tailor Andrew Ramroop, owner of Maurice Sedwell and the first Savile Row artisan to be awarded an OBE for his craft, they have been given the best instruction in the industry.
Now, they need to find a way to market these skills and commercialise their product.
That’s where FashionTT, a state company specialising in the business of fashion and design and charged with developing the industry, comes in.
FashionTT CEO Lisa Daniel told Business Day, “This project (the certificate in ultra-bespoke tailoring) is very important for FashionTT. It’s a milestone event that enables tailors to produce premium products that are up to international quality standards and (as an export product) can only increase foreign exchange in the country. We are creating commercial opportunities for tailors.”
For example, at the programme’s graduation ceremony earlier this month at Stollmeyer’s Castle, Port of Spain, after showing pieces from their collections, the new tailors were able to set up meetings then and there with potential clients, facilitated by FashionTT. Sales have already exceeded $100,000.
“It is extremely important to them to get that buy-in from customers. The graduates are so excited. It’s a chance of a lifetime. I would say they are appreciative for the opportunity and we will continue to work with them,” Daniel said.
Technical training and expertise are just the first part of the process, she added.
“They need to have the skills before they can market, whether it’s locally or internationally. Now they have that, what we will do is enrol them into our value chain investment programme (VCIP) which will support them in identifying the export market based on their niche.”
This targeted training will help them build skills directly related to business development in the fashion industry.
“They can see their business go to the next level in terms of expansion, no longer just a trade or skill but a premium business that can reach regional and international markets.”
It’s also the launch pad for a whole new dimension to the fashion industry in TT.
Calvin Bijou, chairman of CreativeTT, the umbrella company for the creative industries, said, “We have been able to attract student from all over – Barbados, Colombia, India. If we can establish here as the design centre for the Caribbean and even leverage that with international orders we have fulfilled our mandate.”
International trends suggest that fashion in 2019 is a US$2.3 trillion industry, with the potential to increase. If TT could capture just a fraction of that – even half a per cent – it would be substantial, he said.
“The grads showed the different elements of design. Now our mandate is to position them for success and give them a platform to build on and capitalise on local, regional and international opportunities and yes, they are ready,” he said.
It’s hard to say what the local market or reach is, but the range is versatile, and not limited to just formal wear or even tropical wear. The Caribbean then, is not expected to be the market that will sustain this product, but rather, the opportunities will come from outside.
“In conjunction with the Savile Row brand, we are not limiting our market to TT, so these tailors need to be able to outfit to (international) standards if they hope to capitalise on the Europe and North American markets,” he said.
Having Ramroop and his brands, Maurice Sedwell and the Savile Row Academy, involved gives an added lustre to the marketing potential.
Ramroop thinks there is potential here to grow from a zero-export market in bespoke tailoring.
"I could, with my company, in the first year of production take $1 million worth of business – a small amount, only £100,000 – and turnover $10 million a year. We can have ten per cent of production in this first year happening here.
"But the skill has to be sustainable. They can’t be falling back into old habits,” Ramroop said.