Charu Lochan Dass is an Indian-Trinidadian fashion designer, who I met at the recent BB Fashion Week showcase. Her designs were shown alongside fellow Trini designer Anthony Redd, under the name Anthony Redd Fashion House. However, she’s got her own self-entitled fashion line. I had the pleasure & honor of meeting Charu on the first night of BBFW during intermission & we went on to the official after-party at PRIVA Barbados nightclub where we got the chance to sit & chat more about her & her designs . Her genuine spirit, warm charm & obvious talent all caught my attention. Here’s a bit of what we discussed.
When did you first realize your interest in fashion & that you had this great talent?
- Well I have always been good at drawing/sketching & painting. As a teenager I was obsessed with fashion. I always had to be best dressed (laughs), but I only realized my passion for fashion & designing when I went to India to study, back in 1999. I also did a short course in fashion designing while pursuing my BBA there.
What was the first thing you ever designed, & how old were you?
- The first thing I ever designed was a waist coat for myself. Back then it was the ‘in thing’. My mother had a table runner (hand woven, with colored embroidery thread & mirror work, from India) so I incorporated that runner in my design. I had it made for me of course. I knew nothing about sewing back then!
As a designer from the Caribbean, what is/was the most difficult thing to overcome?
- I would have to say production…definitely production.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
- I draw inspiration from anything that is pretty! Beauty is everywhere! Of course we all have our own interpretation. Period films also inspire me.
Would you rather tell a specific story with your designs or leave them up to interpretation?
- Yes, I would definitely rather tell a story. After spending months on research, creating mood boards, designing etc I want to be able to transform all this into a story. A visual story. In fact, I feel it’s an integral part of the project. But I also feel it’s important to respect the interpretation of people.
Tell us all about your line CLD.
- My self entitled line/brand ‘CLD-Charu Lochan Dass’ is relatively new. In fact, we would be launching late November(2013). The brand encompasses the essence of an elegant, sophisticated & confident woman. CLD exudes class, brilliance, beauty, elegance, sophistication, poise & sensuality. Our designs are always sexy but in a subtle way so when a client wears a CLD garment you know she is an ultimate DIVA! We do not compromise with quality, fit & finish. It’s what we stand by.
I recently met you at this year’s BB Fashion Week in Barbados. Tell me about your experience, not just at BBFW, but in Barbados in general.
- BB Fashion Week was an awesome experience for me, since it was the first time I ever showcased my designs. It would always remain close to my heart. I met some really amazing folks. They were so warm & welcoming & just friendly by nature. I must mention the lovely beaches! White sand, blue water.. It’s paradise I tell you! I hope the next time I’m there it won’t rain that much (chuckles).
How would you compare the fashion communities in Barbados & Trinidad?
- Well I have to admit Barbadians are way more fashion forward but I think it’s because you guys have a strong British influence. But Trinidad is getting there, don’t you worry (giggles).
What are your plans from this point on as a designer?
- At this point we are very focused on creating brand awareness both in Trinidad & regionally. We want to build a strong client base here before we go global. I just want to focus on designing & creating garments that make a statement. A statement that every independent, confident & classy woman would make.
What is your highest goal as a fashion designer, besides making enough money to have a lucrative business?
- My highest goal is to take CLD globally & develop it into a luxury brand. With sheer hard work, God’s grace & support of clients, buyers, bloggers, writers & the public in general, it might be quite possible!
It was that time again, when fashionistas around Barbados were anticipating the island’s premier fashion event, BB Fashion Week! They battled through last week’s horrible weather with their excellent designer line-up & fresh model faces that were great additions to this year’s show.
My dear friend Jalicia Nightengale, a former Barbadian model who was based in Switzerland, was my date for the weekend. She & I mingled up a storm & met some great designers & fashionistas who I will later interview for my blog. During the days I attended, the highlight designs came from Kesia Estwick, Shanika Burnett, model-turn-designer Rhea Cummins-Jordan, Charu Lochan Dass, Anthony Redd & Kimon Baptiste.
Shanika Burnett of Shakad Designs started off the weekend with her fabulous designs. Her use of natural fibers & colorful hues come as no surprise, but her newest collection brought a more contemporary twist to her usual look. Shanika is known for her very afro-chic/afrocentric style & excellent tailoring. She did not disappoint.
As you all may know, I am slightly biased to Kesia Estwick due to my undying love for her impeccable taste as an artist. Kesia showcased both her popular KISS collection & her new SS2014 self-entitled collection. Her SS2014 Kesia collection, which features pieces that were used in one of Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model‘s couture photoshoots, gave the audience a eyeful of modern elegance. This collection is a testament to her versatility as a designer. Kesia is already known for her edgy/risqué urban looks of KISS but switched it up to show that she is no ‘one trick pony’. The collection comprised of black & white combos, wine reds & navy with a touch of luxury for the sassy, sophisticated woman. Elements of sheer & cut-outs were focal trends in the Kesia collection. When I asked her what inspired her, she said, “It was a spur of the moment collection. I just had the feeling one day to create something beautiful so I started sketching & didn’t stop until I had about 20-something sketches on paper. Just like that, with no solid inspiration. Just a feeling in the pit of my stomach. I used a mix of brocade, lace, silk chiffon, sequined fabric & quilts in the collection. The Kesia SS14 collection I would say is soft & ethereal yet bold & powerful.”
Rhea Cummins-Jordan is also no stranger to the local fashion scene. The Barbadian model & ‘it-girl’ showcased her first ever collection, entitled Aria. It was a huge hit!! The collection was filled with fun, funky, effortless style. Perfect for teens & young adults. Denim, stretch twill & jersey were all used in the making of the collection. When asked about what inspired her, Rhea said, “My line was fun & quirky. It was a reflection of my personality & everyday dress basically. I drew inspiration from shapes & lines so a fair amount of patchwork is on many of the pieces.” Rhea is definitely one of the newest designing talents to watch out for.
A dynamic duo of two Trinidadian designers, Charu Lochan Dass & Anthony Redd, made for a great combo. Jalicia & I actually met these two during the intermission on the first night. We all instantly clicked & started chatting away. They had mentioned that they both actually have their own lines, but decided to come together & showcase under the name Anthony Redd Fashion House. Charu’s line is self-entitled, whereas Anthony’s is called Island Urban. I was immediately a fan of both of them when I saw their designs on the second night. Charu’s designs had classic, tailored lines with sensual cuts & alluring patterns. She describes her aesthetic as poised, elegant & confident. “Fabrics used were mainly silk for that look of aristocracy. Sheer fabrics for movement & lace to add that sexy element,” said Charu. Her professional counterpart, Anthony Redd, designs the male aesthetic of the collection. His look is much more relaxed with a casual urban finish but does not stray too far from the aim of confidence & polished style.
Last but by no means least on my list is Kimon Baptiste. Baptiste’s refreshing take on the use of color & patterns served up an ambiance that was authentically Caribbean, but with a contemporary take. Her all female collection was also wide ranged, from casual chic to feminine glamour. Pieces shown could easily cater to the trendy woman looking for something one of a kind to wear to a cocktail party or lunch/dinner with friends, & even to Caribbean pageant queens looking for that eye catching dress that stands them apart. All in all, despite any discrepancies, BB Fashion Week has always got great fashion talent on showcase with dazzling designs. Producer Rodney Powers has been a constant supporter of the arts & I congratulate him on pulling off yet another BB Fashion Week. I look forward to next year’s showcase.
A Canadian native of Irish, Russian & Welsh decent, Coco Rocha is probably my favorite model of the 2000s. Born Mikhaila Rocha in Toronto, she put the global fashion industry in a tizzy when she landed on the scene. She was a breath of fresh air; with her signature strut, extraordinarily distinct yet chameleon-like abilities & an essence about her that wasn’t seen since the ‘Supermodel Era’ of the 80s & early 90s.
Model agent Charles Stuart discovered Rocha at an Irish square dancing competition where he had seen her perform. Her professional modeling career started in 2004 but didn’t really take off until 2006 when she met fashion photographer Steven Klein. After appearing in an editorial with Gemma Ward & Amanda Moore, she landed the cover of February 2006 Vogue Italia. Coco had unknowingly caused a hype in the industry. She then met supermodel Naomi Campbell, at New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2006, who told her that she was her favorite new model.
Coco’s career has been somewhat of a fairytale as she gained momentum of her popularity in the industry. She’s walked for designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Stella McCartney, Shiatzy Chen, Christian Lacroix, Emanuel Ungaro, Marc Jacobs & Anna Sui. She has also appeared on countless top fashion magazines such as American, Brazilian, Italian, Japanese, Korean AND Spanish Vogue, Flare, Fashion, Numéro, W, Harper’s Bazaar & i-D. She quickly became known as the ‘Queen of Posing’ due to her remarkably quick & expressive movement in front of the camera. She is featured in many online videos showing off her impressive posing skills in minimal time.
My most memorable images of Coco Rocha are of her during the footage of the praised docu-film ‘The September Issue’, which depicts how the world’s most revered fashion magazine (Vogue) & its Editor-In-Chief (the ‘Queen of Fashion’ herself) Anna Wintour go about putting together the most important issue of the fashion calendar. The September issue! Coco was chosen for two editorials in that issue; one showcasing the movement of different textures of fabric & another where she & fellow models were featured in a 1920s fashion homage entitled ‘Paris Je T’aime’, shot by Steven Meisel. Another great moment was that of Coco in a commercial for White House|Black Market, where she showed off her skills by tap dancing! Again proving that she is more than just a pretty face.
Rocha has also been quite vocal about her stance of pressures in the industry, including eating disorders that are prevalent amongst models. She said in an open letter to The New York Times, “How can any person justify an aesthetic that reduces a woman or child to an emaciated skeleton? Is it art? Surely fashion’s aesthetic should enhance and beautify the human form, not destroy it.” She caused a stir when she said to Associated Press, “I’ll never forget the piece of advice I got from people in the industry when they saw my new body. They said, ‘You need to lose more weight. The look this year is anorexia. We don’t want you to be anorexic but that’s what we want you to look like.” Again, showing that her stance was clear & unshakable. GO COCO!!
Coco is also a devout Jehovah’s Witness & still does the tradition of door to door preaching! She has said that due to her devout faith that she has always turned down jobs where she was asked to either pose nude, with cigarettes, guns, nationalistic emblems or any religious icons. She said, “I am a Christian first, and a model second.”
There’s been a longstanding debate on the difference between fashion modeling & beauty pageantry. Many argue it’s the same, but they couldn’t be any more wrong. Here’s my take on it.
Many pageant girls desire to be successful fashion models but very few would be. Fashion modeling requires a certain edge & skill that not many pageant girls possess. Though, some pageant girls do possess the ability to be great commercial models, posing for department store catalogs, advertising swimwear, appearing in commercials for beauty products & such like but rarely have what is required to do editorial/fashion runway modeling. And there’s nothing wrong with that because they have their own niche.
I’m sure you all may even notice a difference in the way pageant girls walk & they way fashion runway models walk. Pageant girls tend to have more sway & pizazz, for lack of better words, than fashion runway models do. Equipped with spins & twirls to dazzle the audience & judges. Partly because as a pageant girl the focus is on YOU, but as a fashion runway model the focus is on the clothing. Some fashion models do have a signature walk, but in recent times that practice has dwindled due to the end of the so-called ‘Supermodel Era’ (80s-90s) when pageant girls & supermodels had a very fine line between each other. This was a time where supermodels usually had a signature walk, usually smiled on the runways while displaying skillful spins & twirls to show off the clothing. Most importantly, they were not the stick figures we see today. They had curves & ‘meat on their bones’ as some would say. The demand on model size stipulations during the end of that era was what put an end to that. And as the demands from designers to hone their artistic integrity rose, all the spinning & twirling was also stopped. Designers have different styles & techniques & wanted to showcase that more on the runways by giving clear commands on how the model should walk (enter & exit), pose & even their overall mood on the runway. Clearly, the models are not in control, like pageant girls are, of themselves. Things have also changed as cultures & societies evolved over the decades.
Even the training in pageantry is different to that of fashion modeling. Contestants are taught to flirt & charm the audience in their favor. Some may say, much like the models of Victoria’s Secret (VS). VS seems to have crossed the aesthetics of the pageant girl & the fashion supermodel, but that is due to the sexual/flirtatious element to the product at hand. Their lingerie collection. A proven marketing success due to their over five BILLION dollars in sales each year. The VS Fashion Show is the one show where known fashion supermodels & the theatrics of pageantry are combined with the help of musical performances to create an extravaganza anticipated by millions each year. However, unless requested, a fashion model generally does not interact with the audience.
Now, femininity may be an asset in pageantry, but androgyny is welcomed in the fashion industry. Femininity can be a disadvantage in fashion editorial/fashion runway modeling. Pageants are mainly about the feminine beauty & glamour of the contestants. Though fashion editorial/fashion runway may have glamorous elements, the key focus is the details of the clothing; the theme, the fabrics, the cuts, the lines, the fit, the color palettes/patterns etc. In beauty pageants, contestants wear clothes that accent & make them look better. However, it is a fashion model’s job to make THE CLOTHES or WEARABLE ART(in cases of haute couture) look good & to convey whatever persona/look as requested by the designer/artist.
Another difference is physical criteria. In pageants, they usually look for the most perfect looking woman. The one whose feminine beauty is so commanding & poised that it stands apart from the rest of the pack. Fashion models do not have to be conventionally beautiful. In fact, sometimes it’s much better for their career if they are not. Clients are usually looking for the next fresh face. A unique face. A face that commands attention. Sometimes a bit weird looking, but one that photographs well. Taking into consideration the bone structure, angles of the face, the symmetry, the width of the eyes, the shape of the lips etc. Being a fashion model also has height restrictions, where pageantry does not.
Pageantry & fashion modeling may have their similarities but their differences have grown to outweigh those similarities since the turn of the 21st century. So don’t be left in dark. Pageantry & fashion modeling are two vastly different things.
It was around 2008, at the age of 17 when I foolishly pursued a career in modeling. The excitement of the industry; the glamour, the creativity, the imagery, THE MADNESS! It all allured me like a moth to a flame. So I sought training & representation from many locally. All turning out to be nothing more than fraudulent promises & dead ends. They were all just telling me what I wanted to hear. It was only when I went to a casting held by Gadal Models, headed by my former English teacher turned agency’s Managing Director (Mr. Graham Edwards), that I finally got the truth. The much needed truth that was the spark of something great. Edwards informed me that the international modeling industry was not for me due to my height. However, there were many slots to be filled in the industry.
I began helping out in the agency. He realized my keen eye for detail & my thirst for the industry. He suggested that I begin fashion writing, as there was no one in Barbados within that niche at the time. He said, “You should start a blog.” I gave it some thought & by a stroke of my luck & good contacts, I was invited to a closed fashion presentation held by Mr. Trevor Pretty, which was attended by international supermodel & one of the world’s first albino supermodels Stacey McKenzie. Filled with butterflies & stars in my eyes, I approached her. She was warm & approachable. We started chatting away. Chatting with McKenzie that evening was what gave me the extra push I needed. I told her about my interest in fashion & Edwards’ suggestion that I start a blog. She said, “DO IT!” And so I did! Barbados’ first fashion blogger was born the very next day, as I posted my review of the event. My very first article.
Not too long afterward, my first interview was with none other than Ms. Leah Marville, Barbadian international model & Miss Barbados World 2009. I was elated when she agreed to do the interview with me & it was very well received. The link to the interview is even featured first on the short list of references on her official Wikipedia page. As the blog began to take off, I got the honor & pleasure of interviewing many local & international fashion professionals, from models to executives. International fashion mogul Hilary Rowland, America’s Next Top Model’s McKey Sullivan, Lisa D’Amato, Camille McDonald & Annaliese Dayes, top international models such as Elodie Passelaigue, Jeneil Williams, Tennille Stoute, Cindy Wright & Melanie Ribbe are just a few interviews I’ve got under my belt.
I then decided to dabble in the industry of music. I started covering certain music events & interviewing performers. Hence, becoming a regular on the social scene. Through this I met the then manager of British-Barbadian Billboard chart-topper/songwriter Livvi Franc & current manager of internationally acclaimed Barbadian pop band Cover Drive, Mrs. Kerrie Armstrong. She then introduced me to both Amanda Reifer (lead singer of Cover Drive) & Livvi. During this time I had also become acquainted with Vita Chambers, who is now a Canadian dance/pop success. Vita & her family, who I met through photographer & close friend Logan Thomas, have always been great supporters of the blog. Subsequently, I interviewed both Livvi & Vita before local publication, The Nation Newspaper, could even get their hands on them.
The Barbadian rock band Threads Of Scarlet is another favorite of mine. A band comprised of four extremely talented guys; two Barbadian front-runners (Jesse Foster & Nicholas Ward), Stu Damm on drums & Mark Glinka on bass (both American). Interviewing Nick & Jesse resulted in not only riveting stories about their journey as friends & a band but also friendships between them & I that last til this day. However, I decided that the music industry wasn’t exactly where I wanted to keep my focus.
I was asked to be a part of a feature in the M People Barbados magazine in 2012. A magazine known to feature the best social events, thriving entrepreneurs & personalities of all kinds. This time around, they wanted to feature the best fashion bloggers in the island. Among us were Tesha Todd, Junior Sealey, Gigi Ma’at, myself & Barrio Dimirti (now deceased). An experience I treasure dear to my hear because it felt like a fraternity. It was a small group, but we had each other’s back. The spread was shot by photographer Khalil Goodman, who is also a brilliant dancer in his own right.
With the continued help & inspiration from persons like Rodney Powers, Logan Thomas, Kesia Estwick, Kari McCarthy & Chaconia Andrelle to name a few, I have also had the privilege of being included in some of the most thrilling fashion projects on the island. Working on photoshoot sets, assisting & critiquing to make sure things go well. I thank you all. My most recent experience on the sets of Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model as an assistant stylist & dresser was one of pure exhilaration when they came here to Barbados, under the flawless production of Mr. Rodney Powers. I thank Mr. Powers sincerely for such an amazing opportunity. I have gained invaluable knowledge & experience working alongside him & fellow stylist/blogger Natz Eastmond. I await my next fashion adventure eagerly.
Amidst of rumors that the telecommunications giant is readying an internet-connected wristwatch, Apple has made their second big hire from the fashion industry. Their first hire was former chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent, Paul Denevue. Now, they’ve hired former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts.
Burberry said in a statement, “Ms. Ahrendts’s role will be filled by the company’s chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey.” Prior to her involvement in Burberry, Ahrendts took on leadership roles in both Liz Clairbourne & Donna Karan International. Ahrendts & Bailey have worked together at Burberry for nearly a decade. Between the two they managed to revamp the image of Burberry to sexy & chic, making it more marketable to a younger, trendy bracket of consumers.
NY Times reported, “Ms. Ahrendts’s reign at the top of Burberry has been a rewarding one for shareholders. When she joined the company on July 1, 2006, the shares were trading around 4.30 pounds, or about $6.88 at current exchange rates. They closed London trading at 15.85 pounds, or about $25.32, on Monday, before the announcement of her departure.”
Apple’s first big fashion industry hire, Paul Denevue, held senior positions in top brands of fashion industry like Nina Ricci & Lanvin before taking on his new role in Apple. The word is that Devenue will be spearheading the launch of the Apple iWatch!