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Why The Bahamas Needs “Bahamas Fashion Week”

If you ask me, Bahamas Fashion Week has been a long time coming. Since I knew what New York Fashion Week was, I always wondered why The Bahamas has never had an official fashion week when we have so many talented persons in the fashion industry. Trinidad has a fashion week, Jamaica hosts Caribbean Fashion Week every year, Suriname has a fashion week, and the list goes on.

Well, The Bahamas is having its first ever fashion week from Thursday, October 26, 2017 to Saturday, October 28, and to say I’m excited is a gross understatement. My birthday is on October 27, and I believe I will be off from work that weekend. #comethroughmidterm. Therefore, I will be “posted up” at The Melia Hotel, where it’s being held, dripping in fashion. #snapsfingers.

Bahamas Fashion Week is the brainchild of Joe Stubbs of the Joe Stubbs Style Agency Ltd. He is supported by his board of Directors, Cardell McClam, Co-Producer, Conesha Knowles, Director of Models & Style Team Relations, Javano Stubbs, Director of Events & Volunteer Relations, Deovano Davis and Brendly Alexander Young, Co-Directors of Productions & Operations, Vernique Henfield, Director of Public Relations & Social Media, and Anissa Lopez, Executive Assistant.

The Caribbean has been making waves in the fashion industry for many years now, a remarkable “wave” being Anya Young-Chee‘s victory in season 9 of Project Runway in 2011. Young-Chee, a Trinidad & Tobago native, was also crowned Miss Universe Trinidad & Tobago in 2007.

The Bahamas has produced many notable designers including Theodore Elyett, David Rolle, Navado Dawkins, Cardell McClam, Alicia Seymour, Gillian Curry-Williams, Kristen Cartwright, Kedar Clarke, and Phylicia Ellis. There is also Bahari, a ready to wear line that has become synonymous with Bahamian independence.

With the growing popularity of red carpet events such as the Bahamian Icon Awards, designers have had the opportunity to showcase their designs to The Bahamas, and the world due to social media’s prolific effect. On the Bahamian Icon Awards’ red carpet, Elyett’s work has been seen on Aneka Stewart of Island Luck TV‘s “The Stew”, Rolle’s design was worn by Chantel O’brien, Miss World Bahamas 2015, Dawkins’ work was worn by Tomacina “Tomii” Culmer, Miss Universe Bahamas 2014, Curry-Williams’ work was worn by Beverly Curry, award-winning journalist, and Seymour’s work was seen on Cherell Williamson, Miss Universe Bahamas 2016.

Rolle and Seymour’s designs have also been featured on contestants in the Miss Universe Bahamas and Miss World Bahamas who have won best costume competitions.

Further, McClam has showcased at Full Figured Fashion Week New York, and one of Cartwright’s swimsuits has been worn by Angela Simmons, co-producer of reality TV show, Growing Up Hip-Hop.

Tomii Culmer in Navado Dawkins and Chantel O’Brien in My Raphelita at the 2017 Bahamian Icon Awards

Both David Rolle and Theodore Elyett have competed in Mission Catwalk, the Caribbean’s version of Project Runway, set in Kingston, Jamaica. Elyett beat Rolle in season three of the reality tv show, Rolle being named first-runner up. Rolle competed again in season 5, which featured Mission Catwalk “all-stars”, and won first place.

To hear Rolle’s designs being lauded by the judges was astounding. His final collection was referred to by judge Matthew “Mateo” Harris of Mateo New York, as a “world-class collection” that “could easily” be seen on New York and Paris runways. Harris was blown away and so was I.

Elyett was awarded a contract to create a 16 piece wardrobe for the Miss Universe Bahamas organization. One of Elyett’s designs was worn by Miss Universe Bahamas 2016, Cherell Williamson, in the evening gown competition at the 2016/2017 Miss Universe pageant in the Philippines. It subsequently made Cosmopolitan Philippines top 20 dresses list and was featured on the Miss Universe Instagram page.

Cherell Williamson, Miss Universe Bahamas 2016, wearing Theodore Elyett at Miss Universe pageant

It seems as if Elyett has the “midas touch” because Geena Thompson, who was recently crowned Miss World Bahamas 2017, wore Elyett’s design in the evening gown competition and won.

Hoping to become a beauty queen, Miss Universe Bahamas 2017 contestant, Danielle Gaitor, has worn Elyett’s designs at all of the official pageant events and activities so far.

Geena Thompson, Miss World Bahamas 2017, wearing Theodore Elyett in the Debonair Evening Gown Competition, and Danielle Gaitor Miss Universe Bahamas 2017 hopeful, wearing Theodore Elyett at The Miss Universe Contestants Boat Excursion.

Elyett has applied for Project Runway twice and shared his video audition with the world.

In the video above, you hear Elyett mention a $100,000 prize that would propel his career. Hearing him say that makes me sad because I feel as though the Bahamas government could give him and other notable designers that easily. They could host a competition of some sort and give the winners $20,000 each.

A similar initiative was taken with the Music Masters competition at Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, and I believe it has served as a great boost to the music industry in The Bahamas. The arts, whether it be traditional art, fashion design, or music, need to be supported. Point. Blank. Period.

Maybe I’m being too brassy, (and I’m not one to hold the government responsible for creating all opportunities), but I feel like they could “sneeze that out” if they wanted to. Designers like Elyett and Rolle have put The Bahamas on the map and it must hurt to see the lack of support.

To be fair, The Bahamas Government, through The Bahamas Embassy in China, invited Elyett to represent the Bahamas at a Cultural Fashion Event organized by Ellen Baron, Chinese designer. He created a 10-piece collection inspired by Junkanoo, the most popular and original festival in The Bahamas. This was also an opportunity for Bahamian models, Ashley Hamilton (Miss World Bahamas 2015), Shanae Strachan (Miss Universe Bahamas 2013 3rd Runner Up), Tomii Culmer (Miss Universe Bahamas 2014), Erika Adderley (Miss Universe Bahamas 2016 2nd Runner Up), and Kamela Forbes, to gain international exposure.

But the fashion industry needs more.

Theodore Elyett with Models in China

Therefore, I’m happy to hear that The Ministry of Tourism will be a sponsor for Bahamas Fashion Week because the fashion industry is a 1.2 trillion dollar industry and fashion tourism could really help to bring in much needed revenue to The Bahamas. As Cardell McClam stated at a press conference, “Not only do we want to go to the world, we want the world to come to” The Bahamas.

I guess the powers that be needed to something to rally behind.

Bahamas Fashion Week will have three features. “There is an initiative for emerging junior designers” from ages 12 to 17, said McClam. He also noted that it is a pivotal time to reach young designers in order to begin promoting them at an early age. As Conesha Knowles stated, “There seems to be a gap or lack of support in terms of education and jobs in terms of the fashion industry. Students are not taught to pursue a career as a fashion stylist…or a fashion designer. That’s still a bit taboo in The Bahamas, and that’s why platforms like Bahamas Fashion Week are so important.” The emerging junior designers showcase will take place on October 26.

I believe that if high schools can offer cosmetology classes, then they can offer fashion design and styling classes.

The second showcase will feature emerging designers who according to McClam, “have not introduced themselves publicly”, and the third will feature established designers who, “have presented in previous years [and] have a larger clientele.” They will be judged on their “productivity over the years, the standard of excellence executed in their clothing as far as tailoring and their ability to” reach more people. “We want everyone to be ready and prepared for this expansion in the area of fashion design.”

Not only will Bahamas Fashion Week expose Bahamian designers, but also models. Knowles stated, “We are looking for [male and female] models ages 15 to 35”, from size 0 to 3X, females standing at 5’9 and males standing at 5’10. “We are calling for experienced models and aspiring models” as they will be trained and mentored.

Bahamas Fashion Week will also feature a “Fashion Museum” that will showcase designs of older Bahamians. The purpose according to Joe Stubbs is to “show the transformation of fashion art in The Bahamas, and also pay homage to persons who have paved the way.”

A “Cultural Village” featuring booths where various vendors can showcase their wares will also be featured and local artists will be invited to perform.

When asked about Bahamian support of local fashion designers, McClam stated that while Bahamians have supported fashion shows, they are not vocal about it. He does believe though, that “the opportunity is there to grow and expand.”

Not only will Bahamas Fashion Week expose designers, models and stylists, but it will also provide jobs for makeup artists, hair stylists, and photographers. Faces need to be “beat”, hair needs to be “laid”, and someone has to capture it all! The fabric stores will make money, the telecommunications companies will make money (because people need data to put on for #dagram). The list goes on.

Bahamians, listen to me well. Now is not the time to be unsupportive because you didn’t think of Bahamas Fashion Week first or because you were trying to do it, but “nobody was on your run.” Now is not the time to be unsupportive because Joe Stubbs didn’t ask you to be on his board. It simply isn’t your time to be on the board. Send an email and ask how you can be apart of Bahamas Fashion Week as a volunteer. Be helpful, not a hinderance.

It is important that Bahamians support Bahamas Fashion Week to show the Government and corporate Bahamas that there is money to be made.

Let’s work together. #doitfortheculture

For more information, visit the Bahamas Fashion Week website.

 

 

 

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