Port of Spain Fashion Week to help micro, small and medium businesses

Port of Spain Fashion Week PR and sponsosrhip manager Brian Matthew, left, and project manager Crystal Cunningham at the launch of POSFW at the Hilton, Trinidad, Port of Spain on Wednesday. - Angelo Marcelle
Port of Spain Fashion Week PR and sponsosrhip manager Brian Matthew, left, and project manager Crystal Cunningham at the launch of POSFW at the Hilton, Trinidad, Port of Spain on Wednesday. - Angelo Marcelle

The Port of Spain Fashion (POSFW) was launched yesterday at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Lady Young Road, Port of Spain and will run until November 28.

In its third year, its organisers hope that the fashion week will provide many micro, small and medium businesses who operate in Trinidad and Tobago's fashion and cottage industries with a chance to not only share their products but to have a meaningful source of income.

POSFW's project manager Crystal Cunningham said that the last year and a half had been a "super-human challenge" for many businesses to stay afloat.

Cunningham said many of the designers and artisans who participate in fashion week are small businesses who employ smaller factions of society.

Battling the covid19 pandemic affected these businesses supply chains not only in terms of human resource but also by access to raw materials.

"Creating a fashion week provides an opportunity for them to not only earn a living but to also express their creativity..."

A model wears a creation by Sarah Jane Waddell at the launch of Port of Spain Fashion Week. - Melissa Doughty

She added in the absence of Carnival – which many people don't seem to understand has been one of Trinidad and Tobago's major forms of export tourism – events like these help to build Trinidad and Tobago's export tourism.

The organisation's hope is to have Port of Spain Fashion week become the official fashion week of Trinidad and Tobago, Cunningham said.

The fashion week provides capacity building to help small businesses so that the fashion and cottage industries can become viable and further diversify TT's economy, she added.

Cunningham said it was clear that supporting micro, small and medium enterprises was the direction for TT's economic diversification.

"POSFW – in our aim to help diversify the economy – is supporting the small business and designers and artisans, that is one of our major thrusts..."

It also hopes to provide opportunities for young women as well since the fashion industry is supported a lot by young women and girls.

She said Sunday's designer showcase Bloom event is going to be a combination of virtual and in-person, limited presentations and all covid19 protocols will be observed.

As the global fashion industry gallops toward the metaverse and there is the rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Cunningham said – when asked about its place in local fashion – POSFW has partnered with Caribbean Export for a second part of the fashion week project which it hopes to launch in December.

Isabel Farah wears a design by Neha Karina at the launch of Port of Spian fashion at the Hilton, Trindad, Port of Spain on Wednesday. - Angelo Marcelle

Usatoday.com says the metaverse is, “a combination of multiple elements of technology, including virtual reality, augmented reality and video where users ‘live’ within a digital universe.”

Cunningham said this project will focus on the production of virtual lookbooks for a small business or designers.

She added that the lookbooks will also be interactive where people will be able to click on several pictures or links of photos and be able to interact with the designers.

Even as the wider world moves toward digital fashion and the metaverse, Cunningham said there were not many companies in TT that specialises in that kind of technology. She added it takes a special skill-set to map out clothing.

Model Richard King in a Mark Eastman design at the launch of Port of Spain Fashion Week. - Angelo Marcelle

She said it is something that is very costly and deserves a conversation on a governmental or regional level.

Cunningham said at the moment the average designer could not afford that as the technology is very expensive and it was being done by a few companies.

Shea added however that the rise of NFTs could be economically profitable for designers in TT and the region but it required the right partners.

One of POSFW’s sponsors, the Unit Trust Corporation, said partnering with the organisation was very timely.

Its vice president of sales and service Dr Karrian Hepburn-Malcolm said the corporation was born out of a need to ensure that every citizen had access to wealth, savings and investments.

Model Alysha Wilson wears a Zadd & Eastman design at the launch of Port of Spain Fashion Week at Hilton Trinidad, St Ann's on Wednesday. - Angelo Marcelle

"So as time evolved we realised that in order for us to fulfil that mandate, we need to work very closely with entrepreneurs and the creative industry is one of the biggest employers of entrepreneurs..."

Hepburn-Malcolm said this year the corporation was keen on finding ways to support, facilitate and create an environment where entrepreneurs can thrive.

Some of the ways it is doing this is through sponsorships, seminars and workshops, she added.

"We were keen on being a part of the fashion week because I believe that the fashion and creative industry is one of the industries that actually permeates all facets of life.

"Every citizen is affected by the fashion industry or creative industry in some way, shape or form and what fashion week does is create a platform for designers and creative people to showcase their talent not only in TT but internationally."

She said fashion week was a global showcase of the talent that resides in TT and it would have been negligent of the corporation not to become a partner of something that she thinks will become very explosive for the economy and the region.

In the lead up to the launch of fashion week, the POSFW organisers also held virtual challenges to find some of TT’s newest modelling stars.

The organisers held a T-shirt challenge; a Playtex Sport challenge, where participants had to create an ad using a box of tampons; a go-see challenge (a go-see is where a model goes to see a potential client for booking) and the Slim Fast challenge, where they asked to create a commercial ad.

In its T-shirt challenge participants were asked to show their personal style and creativity using a simple white T-shirt.

The challenge ran from October 5-8 via Instagram.

The winner of that challenge was Alysha Wilson who automatically advanced to the finals of Bloom.

There are going to be 25 models chosen for Bloom.

Bloom will take place on November 28 at MovieTowne, Port of Spain.

Winners in the challenges will receive over $5,000 in cash and prizes as well as the chance to be signed with 28 Models.

28 Models is an international model management boutique and was founded in 2014, its website says.

One goal of this year’s fashion week is to assist in streamlining the local modelling industry and to implement best practices and basic standards that are in line with the international market, it said.

It added that the challenges simulated international experiences such as castings, photo shoots and commercial advertising.

“There is a huge misconception in the local market about the requirements, look and attitude to modelling internationally and through working with reputable international model agencies like 28 Models, we are able to help guide these young models in the right direction and foster the right environment for them to develop and access international markets,” POSFW said in e-mail responses to Newsday.

Prior to its launch, the POSFW also hosted its pop-up festival (back-to-back artisan markets) which ran from November 5-6, 12-13, 19-20 and 26-27 and its emerging designer showcase on November 20.

It described the market as being “super successful” and thanked all those who supported local artisans.

It will host two more markets in partnership with Trincity Mall on November 27 and 28 with locally made items such as body oils, soaps, body butters, jewellery, leather goods, swimwear and hand bags.

For further info visit: posfashionweek.com

POSFW’s 2021 itinerary:-

November 24 – Media launch and fashion trade show

November 25 – Business development workshop

November 26 – Virtual career day

November 27 – Model workshop

November 28 – Bloom

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