The glitz, the glamour, the gowns, the fawning hangers-on . . . there was nothing parochial about Saint Lucia HOT Couture, the Jazz & Arts Festival’s first foray into fashion. Unlike the roro-and-rhetoric that for weeks had permeated the airwaves and Facebook, not to mention the pitiful sole protest outside the event by a designer scorned, the venue and runway show were beautiful, classy and professional, a stellar inaugural that surely has the potential to become a Jazz and Arts Festival staple.
All day Tuesday, the Audi Showroom at Meridian Place was a hive of industry as Adrian Augier and his design team completed last-minute adjustments to the set while Mae Wayne and the SHE Production team laid out 15 collections in the dressing room, started 42 model make-up and hair sessions with Sacha Cosmetics and Emile Willams in the holding tent, and welcomed the designers to confirm their line-up and tweak the final details. Although a stunning piece of architecture, the Audi Showroom offered tough challenges in terms of backstage space. But there was more than artistic creativity on display at HOT Couture, as all concerned got down to pulling together a tight plan to achieve the speed and flow that was central to the vision of the show.
Walking 42 models in 222 designs down a 47-foot runway in under two hours was the brief— approximately 60 short seconds for the models to change outfits and get back onstage. At the final production meeting around 5pm, the room was filled with tension, adrenaline and a team determined to pull off this night regardless of the challenges. An outstanding group of dressers expertly cross-referenced models with outfits, using a master running order and a wall of photos portraying the show. This was a highly complex plan executed by a knowledgeable and dedicated team, with a strong and confident leader in Mae Wayne. And now the results are in the book of St Lucia’s fashion history.
Interestingly, Vincent Mc Doom seemed to be missing in action until an hour or so before start time, apparently having found it appropriate to do a little last minute PR of his own in the local media.
As the doors opened at 6.45 p.m. and the island’s dignitaries, glitterati, fashion mavens and media poured into the Audi Showroom (the audience had clearly received the message that HOT Couture was all about fashion), everyone was dressed to the nines. The excitement was palpable. The Governor General arrived on schedule at 7.30 and on the final note of the National Anthem the cue was given.
With DJ Lancelot in charge of the music, and Barbara Jacobs-Small as MC, Saint Lucia HOT Couture exploded onto the stage as St Lucian supermodel Mala Bryan hit the runway in sexy shorts and coat by local designer Luciana Maxwell. The crowd roared in approval as the models strutted down the centre of the room, fresh talent as confident as the other St Lucian modelling pros Portia Chery, Denise Lay and Annaliese Daye. Luciana presented a crowd pleaser, getting HOT off to a proud Looshan start.
Expect the Unexpected!
Shazi International: Male models in linen, cotton and bright red lipstick. Yes! Lipstick on male lips. In Saint Lucia. A ripple of audience approval, and a huge reception for Shazi.
Heather Jones Designs: White dresses and separates, tropical pastel tie-dyes, jewel-toned solids and floral prints—a sumptuous range and a real inspiration.
Shelniel: Ubersexy and cute swimwear line by Cassandra Mottley in neon pink, orange and yellow colour-blocked with black, modern floral prints and lots of angles in the detail.
Local designer Lyn Bristol’s flowing resortwear, paired with dramatic statement jewellery from Finola Prescott / Island Effect in a rainbow of ombre pastels, tie-dye, hand-painted motifs and appliquéd textures.
Perry Martial’s funky but wearable line of Perry Bags worn by hot guys in sexy cotton Kuumba pants, each bag a work of art in sisal fabric with appliquéd textures, leather and beads.
A pair of sequinned pants by Claudia Pegus—and that was all she wore! Effortlessly chic couture and resortwear, daytime and cocktail separates, an awesome collection for the HOT Couture runway.
If Sharleen Lagon’s fans expected to see her J’aeylu signature madras, they might have been surprised by the edgy, urban but very wearable, tailored collection that confidently put the newcomer on the fashion map as one to watch.
Delia Isaac’s evening-wear designs in metallic silks, embroidery and appliqué, lace and chiffon were a huge hit with the crowd. Chic but wearable, and very popular at the next day’s Trunk Show.
Layered in threes and fours on rippling bare male chests, local designer Tracy Betts’ Caribbean-inspired semi-precious Azziza Jewels looked incredible. The smiles and cheers of local fashionistas and friends were bittersweet. Alas the remarkably courageous and resilient Tracy, who has been battling cancer, was finally unable to attend. Tianah Monplaisir-Foster did her proud as a standin-in on the runway!
Syryzya from Martinique’s Mickaelle Merlin was a dramatic line of resort and evening wear with an undeniably French point of view and Creole-influences—a welcome debut in St Lucia.
Using leather and fabric, Taribba Do Nascimento’s Même Bête designs have a unique chic but handcrafted style, and fans flocked to pick them up at the Trunk Show at Bay Gardens Beach Resort.
Shazi International’s women line was next to hit the runway. His signature style was another crowd-pleaser, as model after model sashayed in billowing silk and cotton dresses in sunset hues.
With fresh-faced local beauty Nandi Paul opening in a stunning leather and khaki suit, Francis Hendy’s signature chic, urban, metrosexual collection was infused with colour and looked sharp on the guys.
The glorious Indian-inspired designs of Sushma Patel, in a blaze of red, white, gold, silver and crystals, satin, organza, lace and pleats brought the first HOT Couture to a sumptuous climax, providing more international inspiration to our developing local talent.
Since hindsight is 20/20. Perhaps a little karma was in store for Vincent McDoom as he stepped on the runway to soak up the cheers of an adoring crowd and bask in the glory of a brilliant first. Just four strides into the biggest walk of his professional career, and reminiscent of Naomi Campbell, he stumbled out of his 8” hot pink metallic Louboutin. Ironic after the much maligned 47 feet had been strutted on 220 plus times during the show with nary a slip-up. A sympathetic crowd encouraged a quick recovery. His second walk down the runway with Denise Lay went without incident.
The real HOT Couture Heroes
Perhaps the night’s biggest cheer went to Mae Wayne and the SHE Production team, as they hit the stage smiling and running in their HOT t-shirts that at the last minute had been specially coutured-up with safety pins, slashes and knots. With deep breaths exhaled and flowers presented to Mae, the show closed on the adrenaline rush uniquely felt by a team that had worked their butts off and achieved a milestone.