We are a country filled with talented designers.
The list of TT figures whose fashions have graced runways around the world includes: Meiling, Heather Jones, Claudia Pegus, Robert Young, Anthony Reid and more. Anya Ayoung-Chee won US reality series Project Runway in 2011.
And more recently, a design by Aisling Camps was sported by Michelle Obama in a high-profile magazine photoshoot.
Yet despite all of this, the challenges local designers face – particularly upcoming ones – remain daunting.
Fashion is a fast-paced, merciless and highly competitive arena where economics matter as much as, if not more than, talent. Emerging designers wishing to make a mark or establish a brand face an uphill struggle to gain financing, secure distribution and access markets.
They also face stiff competition from already-established brands, many of which are backed by large multinational operations able to produce at a faster rate and at lower costs per unit.
These entities also have, through sheer economies of scale, better prospects of breaking even and of accessing the kind of expertise, such as those relating to marketing, required to sustain a business over time.
The new Made868 facility, which is based at UTT's John S Donaldson Campus on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, aims to address some of these problems.
The facility, which was established by Sandra Carr, a senior lecturer at the UTT’s Academy of Caribbean Fashion and Design, was set up earlier this year. It is potentially a game-changer for anyone needing that extra push to take a stab at pursuing their dreams.
The facility is basically a manufacturing hub that can be used by designers who might not yet have access to production facilities. It was initially geared towards UTT graduates but has widened its target sector.
Designers who use the facility may have small or large orders to fulfil, and the cost is fluid, as it depends on the material, style and quantity, according to the administrators of the facility. While it is currently booked up until next March, there’s hope that it will be expanded. It should be.
In a sign of just how vital the facility can be, many designers have reportedly already used it, both new and upcoming. Even Rosalind Gabriel, a stalwart in the mas industry, is using it ahead of Carnival 2023.
Untethering the local economy from its traditional revenue sources such as energy requires a concerted effort to stimulate a range of manufacturing activities and the services that traditionally support them.
Fashion designers are not alone in needing access to better infrastructure and support. Other forms of manufacturing stand to gain from projects such as Made868, which is already expanding its reach to go beyond fashion designers.
There’s a clear entrepreneurial spirit out there, as exemplified by the activities of young businesswoman Samantha Rajkumar or woodcrafter Cyrus Ageemoolar.
Facilities such as the one offered by the Made868 team might be the kind of thing best suited to help make the most of that spirit.