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South Fashion Week to promote positive T&T

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Deron Attzs is a trusted name in the local fashion industry. So it’s not strange that his annual San Fernando Fashion Week has grown over the last 14 years since the designer put the vision to work.

This year he brings together once again the creative minds of fashion, music and art at the Kaiso Blues Café, Wooford Street, and Port-of-Spain.

The event themed ‘The Power of Black Evolve is carded for tomorrow, April 8, and will welcome designers like Mek Designs, The Cloth and of course Deron Attzs Design Label (DADL).

But Attzs tells the T&T Guardian, San Fernando Fashion Week is not just about fashion, but the message sent through the fashion. He says this year the runway hopes to appeal to patrons, the need for social consciousness in T&T.

The designer and founder of the San Fernando Fashion Week shared with the T&T Guardian his plans for and about fashion on the local circuit and more on San Fernando Fashion Week.

Share with us the genesis of San Fernando Fashion Week. How and why it was started?

On a trip to New York many years ago, I had the opportunity to be a part of the New York Fashion Week. The memory of what it felt like to witness a festivity for fashion completely blew me away. It was amazing, the importance they placed on this fashion event. Seeing firsthand the business community gelling with the creative community and the wave of support by the patrons coming into New York was a different kind of experience and really inspired me. When I returned home, I was simply driven to begin something in the city of San Fernando and by extension Trinidad and Tobago.

What’s the story of this year’s theme?

I chose this theme coming out of my observations of the denigration of our society and the need for our young people to be positively influenced and guided. The job of the songwriters is to write positive songs about change and empowerment. Our medium is fashion and we are using it to empower and signal to a positive direction.

This year we chose to help change the way society looks at black and tends to associate it with darkness and death and destruction. There is a power to black and our theme is in celebration of that. We want to see black evolved so we are speaking to its historical aspects and the powerful aspects of our culture. The evolution is in recognising the collection of ethnicities and races and finding the positive messages that that conversation has to offer a forward thinking people seeking positive change.

Can you say if the creative sector and the wider public are fully understanding of the intention of San Fernando Fashion Week?

After 14 years and through our consistency, we have been able to develop an anticipation, an expectation and an understanding of the equitable brand that is San Fernando Fashion Week. We have continued to expose, to inspire and to present designers and other creatives into a creative consumer market so that they can further develop. San Fernando Fashion Week is an alternative platform for showcasing products to the consumers. We provide a sensory opportunity for our audience to see themselves represented in the selection of our models and to engage with the products in a manner that makes them ready to buy.

Our audience is always full of anticipation for the main reason that we have been very particular over the years to exhibit fashion that is accessible, in colours and designs that are as appealing as they are functional and at a price they can afford.

How is the event funded?
For the past four years or so we have made the effort to steer away from external, especially government funding and gradually shift toward having our designers take financial stake in the event since they are the direct benefactors of products sales and marketing thrusts. We want to move away from the culture of dependence on government assistance and strengthen the bonds of our value chain. We have gotten better at managing our expenditure and practicing a more minimalist approach as opposed to the typical fluff usually found in fashion exhibitions. We have reconceptualised the show into a clean and clear cut presentation of content. The parallel benefit to our audience is a more focused and engaging brand experience.

What’s in store for the event’s programme this time around?

We have restructured our San Fernando Fashion Week programme and it is now split into two highlight events, the first of which is our show on Sunday, April 8, at the Kaiso Blues Cafe in Woodbrook and the second will take place later in the year. The launch will feature pieces suited for Easter, jazz, graduation and summer events; whereas our later showcase will feature designs for the Christmas into carnival seasons.

What have been the achievements over the years?

Over the years we have been consistently sustainable. We have always been able to create a production that would generate business for our designers and opportunities for local, regional and foreign designers to engage each other in collaborations and product exchanges.

We now have the San Fernando Fashion Week store which provides access to designs off the runway within two weeks, once pre-ordered.

Our store facilitates designers with good products, a space for their completed work to be displayed and purchased. We are aiming to expand to other locations. We are gradually developing into a hub for creatively constructed, locally produced garments not only for individuals but retail boutiques and wholesalers who are more frequently coming to us for supplies.

Our brand is now visible internationally on the tourism catalogues and on itineraries. We have had local fashion icons such as Meiling, Peter Elias, Heather Jones as well as regional designers from Guadeloupe, Antigua and international designers from as far as Paris grace our stages.

Our cultural exchanges even extends to our models who get to travel and gain work.

Has the event been affected at all by the current economy?

In the past, we would have had the event spanning a few days. The state of the economy being what it is forced us to focus on the main attraction to San Fernando Fashion Week and we had to make the decision to cut away everything that was an accessory to that core focus. Our duty is presenting on our platform products the audience would be inspired by, appreciate, want to wear and be ready and able to purchase.

Long plan?

After 16 years, 14 of those as a production, the vision remains the same.

We plan to remain a platform for emerging and established designers to showcase their products and grow into a source for entrepreneurs and business investors to find a consistent supply of quality local design. We intend to keep expanding the store within the region and even franchising our model to the other islands where there may be young producers with the same desires and interests to network around our Caribbean culture and creativity to attract international markets.

What are your thoughts on the local fashion industry?

I believe what we have is a fashion sector and not a fashion industry. I have observed that we have a degree of division that keeps us from understanding that we are all together in the business of inspiring a consumer to purchase. The fashion sector is a fluid exchange market and consumers should not and do not belong to any particular group of us exclusively. We need to realise that now more than ever and find more mediums to come together and put out good products, quality products. We need to create spaces that people see the mixing of the brands outside of when they do it themselves. Why not have spaces where you can find a Heather Jones pants paired with a Meiling top as opposed to having to visit two stores?

Why Kaiso Blues Café for the showcase?

At first there was a toss-up between two venues. The deciding factor came down to the historical significance of Kaiso Blues Cafe as a home of calypso and storytelling and how it continues to situate our Trinidad and Tobago culture with emerging talent.

The feeling of the space, the atmosphere and rustic environment lends to the vision we have for the event evening. What better venue for The Power of Black Evolve collection than one already established as a space known for the coming together of creatives to express, expose, share, connect, integrate! Kaiso Blues Cafe celebrates creativity and talent in an intimate setting. With their collective understanding and passion, Carl and Carol Jacobs evoke our culture even through this space.


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