Caribbean designers to tap into $ trillion fashion market with metaverse training

Models wear designs from Naballah Chi, Vivre by Chelsea, Mark Eastman, Yelena Jan and Bikini Coves at the launch of the Port of Spain Fashion Week at Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port of Spain, on November 16.
 - Photo by Angelo Marcelle
Models wear designs from Naballah Chi, Vivre by Chelsea, Mark Eastman, Yelena Jan and Bikini Coves at the launch of the Port of Spain Fashion Week at Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port of Spain, on November 16. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle

WHILE TT and Caribbean fashion abound with imagination, exploring the digital space has become increasingly necessary for the region's talent to claim a share of the trillion-dollar-and-growing US sector.

The metaverse – a virtual world for shopping, gaming, working, socialising and other everyday activities – will feature prominently at this year's Port of Spain Fashion Week (POSFW), organisers say, because of the commercial opportunities it presents to designers.

The fourth annual instalment – POSFW with 2022 in URL – was launched on Wednesday, at Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, one of its key sponsors and the main venue for its events.

Port of Spain Fashion Week managing director Crystal Cunnigham, centre, Laura Benjamin, left, and former Miss World TT Athaliah Samuel at the launch of the Port of Spain Fashion Week at Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port of Spain, on November 16.- Photo by Angelo Marcelle

Crystal Cunningham, managing director of POSFW, said designers and other stakeholders have the opportunity, not only to spotlight their creations, but also benefit from workshops and other activities designed to help them market their brands. They will be guided through the metaverse experience with the help of experts.

"It's all about creating new market access for our Caribbean fashion designers and artisans, so what the metaverse experience will do is allow our designers to tap into previously uncharted markets, so to speak, internationally and regionally.

One of the first items on POSFW's agenda was a metaverse workshop, on Thursday, hosted in partnership with the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) Cultural and Creative Industries Innovation Fund (CIIF), and Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services (CTCS).

A model wears a design from Vivre by Chelsea, at the launch of the Port of Spain Fashion Week at Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port of Spain, on November 16. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle

About 20 medium, small and micro enterprises in the industry were guided on the creation and marketing of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), and to transition their fashion brand onto a digital platform.

"The growing number of large, international fashion brands entering the 'fashionverse' platform, the rising popularity of virtual tokens and NFTs in gaming such as Roblux, and the growing importance of AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) are some of the major factors propelling market growth," Cunningham said.

"Of course, covid19 (posed) a great challenge, not just for fashion but every sector and transitioning online to the digital landscape is where new business opportunities are... We felt the need to take fashion in that direction."

Cunningham referred to the ever-growing US fashion market, which rallied through the covid19 pandemic in far better shape than most other industries.

"We hope to be able to capitalise on this because, as you know, it has been a challenge for our Caribbean brands and designers to really make a mark internationally.

"The entire industry, from mid-tier brands to established fashion houses across the globe have been and are still reassessing how to market, display and sell apparel given the impact of the covid19 pandemic.

She said, using blockchain technology, the POSFW fashionverse will feature 20 designers from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, Haiti and members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, in a metaverse fashion experience, scheduled for December 27.

Additionally, POSFW 2022 will feature the Face of POSFW Model Search, and a fashion party on November 18, and two fashion shows: Next in Fashion and a Resort Showcase, both on November 19.

A model wears a design from Naballah Chi, at the launch of the Port of Spain Fashion Week at Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port of Spain, on November 16. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle

Among the featured designers are Naballah Chi, Stephen Bassano, Yelena Jan, Vivre by Chelsea, Aaron Moneer, Photosynthesis Designs and Cornelius Hector, University of Trinidad and Tobago's (UTT) top fashion student this year.

Familiar brands on show include, Bikini Cove, Okera Designs, Mark Eastman and Richard Noel.

Other than the CDB and CIIF, POSFW's sponsors include, Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Peardrax, Shine Distributors, Carefree, Stayfree, Playtex Sport, Schick, Revlon, Aperol Spritz, Courts Optical, KFC, Media 21, 10 Caribbean, Perrier and Arnim’s Art Gallery.

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