MICHELLLE A ENG LEANG
Local fashion brand, ShopShari first popped on my radar about four years ago, digitally at first and then in the flesh at UpMarket, a monthly market that brings together local artisans and entrepreneurs from around the country. Cue to me meeting the beauty and brains behind the brand, Shari Cumberbatch. It didn’t take long for a friendship in business to blossom as we encountered each other at many an event when it came to all things local here in TT. So it was only natural that I swooned on so many levels when a little birdie told me that ShopShari and a consortium of local artisans were trekking to London (my old stomping ground), to strut their stuff.
ShopShari in LDN ’19 is a pop-up activation centred around the collaborative presence of five local fashion brands namely, Anya Ayoung Chee, Bene Caribe, Human Form Apparel, Sanianitos, Sew Lisa, Studio Angelique and Wrap Crush. The retail collaboration will take place in Shoreditch, London from June 27 and run for a week. Shoreditch is a trendy area in East London and from my memory, the perfect place for ShopShari and her chosen brands to leave an impression on behalf of the TT artisan community. This isn’t the first time that ShopShari has crossed the Atlantic Ocean and popped up in Londontown. It’s the brand’s third London-based pop-up, having participated at the Caribbean Pop Up at Whitechapel at Notting Hill and Bloomsbury in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
Cumberbatch believes that Shoreditch is the perfect area in London for the pop-up. “This area offers opportunities for just anyone bringing creativity, culture and quality, regardless of your background, location or history. The demographic currently working and living in Shoreditch has a wide appreciation for talent and art in any form.”
This is the first time Cumberbatch will be taking other local brands with her to an international pop-up. When asked about the curation process, her answer was simple. “I chatted with brands who I felt were the strongest in quality, consistency and their brand awareness.” And the why? “I wanted to share the market with other local brands, especially since sales are slow here. I feel like we all can do so well, both in and outside of TT.” Making it happen wasn’t easy as Cumberbatch had to pound the pavement for financial support, as the trek to London certainly isn’t cheap, and with the current exchange rate, help was certainly needed. “We eventually got the support from the TTMA, FashionTT and exporTT,” said Cumberbatch.
“We’re aiming to create a space for the people of London to truly fall in love with our country and all its splendour. We want to take TT to them in the form of our fashion and Carnival. We are committed to enacting the belief of sharing our opportunities, experience, and knowledge to uplift not only our brand, but also those of our peers in the local fashion industry,” Cumberbatch said, adding, “We intend to place TT at the forefront of the image of this pop up. This will include information on our Carnival history and its current place along with all our local fashion links, encouraging continued support. We also intend to create a space for our local musicians and some of the most respected artistes by having their music fill the shop and catch the ear of the crowd coming in to share with us.”
So now that London is a go, and the time is drawing near, Cumberbatch is taking advantage of the partnerships she has forged in London, to create that marketing and social media buzz to ensure that the brands are well received. Cumberbatch’s London-based brand partners include Frolic Nation, Island Girls Rock and a few other TT focussed associations who together will conduct email, social media and SMS campaigns, targeting the TT diaspora in the UK, as well as that of the other Caribbean islands, the various embassies and high commissions and more.
ShopShari’s collaboration with the Notting Hill Carnival band, Frolic Nation, isn’t just for the marketing of the pop up but also for this year’s Carnival instalment. The brand is designing its first London Carnival costume entitled, Leia. Frolic Nation has subsequently named ShopShari as a premium designer within their Carnival, and the brand will design costumes for the band, for the next three years. “We are so happy to be able to share with the world, this time in London, our rich history and culture particularly melting our creativity with fresh fashion to bring them costumes that speak to who we are as a people.” Carnival is no stranger to Cumberbatch who has been designing a section for The Lost Tribe for the past three years here in TT. “My involvement in TT’s Carnival scene has truly encouraged me to push beyond our borders and share this with the world, starting at our most frequent points.”
Cumberbatch began the ShopShari journey in 2014 when she bought a sewing machine and discovered that she enjoyed working with prints mixed in many ways. “After working with various design studios, advertising agencies and departments as a graphic designer, I decided to devote more time to my self-made brand.” Five years on, ShopShari has grown into a fashion brand that Cumberbatch describes as “inspired by prints as imaginative, colourful, and diverse as the cultural landscape from which they emerge.” She believes the essence of the brand reflects the beauty and creativity of our people through the use of bold colours, prints, and, specifically, the combination of a variety of prints that mirror our cosmopolitan mix.