KIERAN ANDREW KHAN
Lisa-Marie Daniel has much to celebrate as she observes her fourth year as general manager of FashionTT, one of the three arms under Creative TT, the state company responsible for developing the music, film and fashion industries locally. Daniel has been diligently tending to her mandate which requires near superwoman dedication as the head of a small but dynamic team.
Coming from a strong business and finance background, Daniel brings a wealth of knowledge to this role which is essentially to drive the business development and export activity for the local fashion industry. The first thing Daniel noted is that her background has positively complimented the company as it marries the hard business elements with the softer creativity of fashion.
“I’ve always had an inclination towards fashion and I especially love local fashion. But my position does not require that I know how to construct a garment, but rather how to develop the brand and person behind it, market it, develop business plans and promote the industry to a level where it can become globally viable.”
Daniel was immersed in business financing at local and international banks based in TT before going on to serve as financial comptroller at the National Lotteries Control Board.
“When I saw the opportunity to serve as one of the GM’s at CreativeTT, I jumped at the opportunity – it was a new company so I was excited to take the opportunity in this start-up environment and bring my passion for being innovative to the challenges here,” she said.
Her central role is to implement the strategic plan for the local fashion industry, which was envisioned in 2015 by international consultants who researched and collaborated extensively with stakeholders before presenting the final document to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
“The overall intention is the development of the industry by way of developing designers as brands and driving commercialisation locally and internationally,” she pointed out. “It’s about looking at an industry that is in its embryonic stage and moving it to aggressive expansion – from the small independent designer just starting out to the larger more established brands that we have here,” she pointed out.
She explained that the plan calls for four levels to meet the designers who are at various stages in their development. “The value chain investment programme (VCIP) has a total of 100 designers from our open call for designers in 2018, and these are then interviewed and allocated to one of four tiers in the programme. Tier four designers are currently in a series of workshops for most of the year that look at business plan development, cash flow management, taxation, quality control, social media marketing for small and medium enterprises and lots more. These courses take place every Saturday – so that it doesn’t detract from their ability to also run their businesses.”
Daniel said, “Tier three designers are in the business advisory and financing bracket, so there is less business training as they are further along the value chain and involves more direct assessments and mentoring at this level. We’re also in partnership with Nedco (National Entrepreneurship Development Co Ltd) on this, as we are both state agencies we see great value in leveraging those partnerships so that every one benefits for co-operation instead of competition." Tier two, she said, "is the non-global value chain tier and these ten designers work very closely with Professor Vincent Quan of the Fashion Institute of Technology of New York, who has had extensive experience in working with designers to build brands and industries in Jakarta and Singapore and other places globally.” She explained that tier one is the most advanced tier, which is "looking to penetrate foreign markets regionally and internationally and therefore just need the support that we offer to move into markets globally that best suit them.”
This means that in her GM role, Daniel and her team are regularly in touch with these 100 VCIP designers. And with a new intake expected this year, there is not much in the way of downtime. “I do work six days a week, considering that most workshops are held on Saturdays. And generally I do have those 12-hour days more as a rule than an exception. But what we are doing here is creating genuine impact and changing people’s lives while also working to change an industry. Designers on average have reported an increase in sales to the tune of 32 per cent since starting with us but some have seen that figure go as high as 162 per cent. We’ve seen talent emerge in Sangre Grande and go on to supply markets in far flung places like Samoa – so it’s work that I enjoy,” she said.
But as hard as Daniel works, she is also a big advocate of self care. “Once I get home, I take a few moments then I start on my yoga practice for the day which allows me to disconnect from work and reconnect at home. I really enjoy spending time with my family and my better half and once I am home I look forward to spending time with my dog Rocky, who’s now 13 years old. So it’s key to disconnect. I also try to stay healthy – I haven’t consumed added sugar in a couple years, I eat as cleanly as possible and keep to a healthy and balanced lifestyle.”
As Daniel sees it – the future is bright. “TT is essentially the mecca of the Caribbean when it comes to economic development and in many ways, to fashion too. We are not short on innovation or creativity so we simply have to ensure that we get the work done in the way of the marketing, promotion and support for the industry to see it grow,” she advised. “We have already seen the end result and the impact it has on other economies, so that’s what we want to see here as well. And I do intend to see that plan through. I’m here for it and we, as a country are ready.”
Fashion TT will issue its 2019/2020 open call for designers to join the programme later this year.