HOT Couture and the N.S.A: When two stories collide!

Left to right, SLTB Events Manager Dahlia Guard, Director of Tourism Louis Lewis, Runway Coach Richard Young and Co-Producer and SHE Caribbean publisher Mae Wayne at Wednesday’s HOT Couture launch.

Left to right, SLTB Events Manager Dahlia Guard, Director of Tourism Louis Lewis, Runway Coach Richard Young and Co-Producer and SHE Caribbean publisher Mae Wayne at Wednesday’s HOT Couture launch.

So it’s been a long day in a short week, and not every column can feature a reggae megastar. But these Dee’s Days, assignments come thick and fast while time is always at a premium, so I’ll take the chance that my publisher will shelve his disdain for the term “multi-tasking,” and see the rationale behind my desire to combine this week’s assignments into one cohesive, if somewhat inscrutably-titled commentary.

Story number one, the poetically well-deserved Pulitzer Prize awarded to the Washington Post and Guardian USA for the Edward Snowden / N.S.A. coverage that rocked the free world, unleashing a politically pummeling backlash against the Obama administration at home, and substantially undermining relationships with some of the USA’s supposedly close friends in Europe, including Germany’s stoically insulted Angela Merkel.

I happen to agree with New Yorker contributor Amy Davidson, that the award was a no-brainer: “This was a defining case of the press doing what it is supposed to do. The President was held accountable; he had to answer questions that he would rather not have and, when his replies proved unsatisfying to the public—and, in some cases, just rang false—his Administration had to change its policies.

“Congress had to confront its own failures of oversight; private companies had to rethink their obligations to their customers and to law enforcement; and people had conversations at home and at school and pretty much everywhere about what they, themselves, would be willing to let the N.S.A. do to them.”

Story number two, the Press Launch for Saint Lucia HOT Couture 2014, held on Wednesday morning at the St. James Club Resort, to which the island’s media were invited, one and all, to cover the latest on the Tourist Board’s sophomore venture into high fashion during the rebranded Jazz and Arts Festival. And turn up they did, eventually, a good half hour after the published time, but I suppose the organisers allowed for that.

I’ll lay my credentials on the table at this point, if only where HOT Couture is concerned. Last year as a freelance writer for the STAR and SHE Caribbean I covered the event—honestly in my honest opinion—and found the inaugural HOT Couture to be a wonderfully entertaining, professionally executed event, desperately stressful for all concerned but an utter triumph of tenacious creativity on the night.

Heading to the Press Launch on Wednesday, I had recently assumed the stylish new hat of SHE Caribbean Editor, and was pretty excited to hear more about the May 7th event from the key players. We’d read the SLTB press release, we’d heard it on the grapevine, but at 11.30am on April 16 it was the opportunity for Saint Lucia’s media to climb aboard the HOT train and help promote the sophomore fashion extravaganza as part of the Jazz & Arts Festival. After all, you don’t shell out for a delicious hot buffet and copious amounts of (admittedly non-alcoholic) beverages without some reciprocal reward in mind.

First up were SLTB, with Dahlia Guard welcoming and thanking the various sponsors and participants, and introducing the production team of Mae Wayne, Adrian Augier and Dahlia Francois, whose collaborative tender was selected out of six proposals submittted. Louis Lewis explained some of the selection process, and placed the confirdence of the Tourist Board firmly behind the local industry “gurus.”

And there was much more to be excited about. Even with my inside information, I was thrilled to hear Richard Young talk about his “Caribbeanist” point of view, how HOT Couture could be the next signature fashion event in the Caribbean, how he was training 55 models to show a real Saint Lucian attitude and taking two to Tobago Fashion Week shortly after.

Also exciting is the designer line-up, a diverse combination of fresh new talent from Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Guadeloupe, alongside veteran brands like Trinidad’s Meiling and Claudia Pegus; a strong contingent of Saint Lucian designers have been signed up, headed by “queen of fashion” Queen Esther, whose controversial withdrawal from last year’s event was all but forgotten, given that the Ku’umba designer herself was all smiles at the launch. Shazi Chalon also represented the local design talent, enthusiastically reporting that discussions with buyers from Martinique are in the works, thereby potentially opening market channels into Europe.

Perhaps the most gorgeous creatures in the room were the two “Faces of HOT Couture” for 2014: statuesque waif Ayana Whitehead and Herculeanly handsome Gibson Charles, who were selected via thousands of photos to represent the best of local modelling talent from last year’s show. Mae Wayne lauded the pair for their professionalism and ramped up the practical support to the industry with the announcement that two models will be sponsored by SHE Caribbean to appear in CFW, Caribbean Fashion Week in Jamaica.

Back to the event on May 7th, and the show’s format will change this year to feature two runway shows—Resort Essentials, representing the sun, sea, sand and sexy attitude of the island, followed by After Dark, focusing on couture, evening- and party-wear. The Island Vibe theme is a celebration of everything we love about Saint Lucia and the Caribbean—our eclectic, ethnic, artistic and characteristic uniqueness contributing to a brand made up of many diverse and beautiful parts. From romance to bacchanal, from swimsuits to elegant gowns, the HOT runway will bring to life the essence of Caribbean fashion philosophy as it continues to draw global attention to Saint Lucia as a world class destination.

From a practical perspective, Richard Young is the perfect choice to develop the HOT Couture brand this crucial second year: his understanding of the fashion industry and hands on knowledge of show production in the region and worldwide give him a pragmatic but passionate perspective, not in the least bit inhibited by the size of the fragmented Caribbean market. He sees creativity, character, flair and individuality in every “space” contributing to the Caribbean brand, with customers coming to us precisely because of our unique lifestyle.

He also considers relationship-building within the industry to be crucial to its future development. Along with Adrian Augier, Young pointed out that the opportunities offered to aspiring designers by the tourism industry across the region represent a more achievable aspiration than the mass market metropolis so far removed from our island lifestyle. Why try to be Paris, London or New York when we are the Caribbean?

Sounds like a simple, but compelling vision for a HOT future, right?

Co-producer Adrian Augier tells the media in  straight terms how challenging a career in the creative arts can be.

Co-producer Adrian Augier tells the media in
straight terms how challenging a career
in the creative arts can be.


NEW! HOTBlog 758 by SHE Caribbean has all the news. views and who’s whos for HOT Couture ‘14! 


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