HOT COUTURE: Our Song of Freedom

As I sat on my balcony overlooking the Castries harbour, songs of freedom filling the late February morning air, my thoughts drifted to HOT Couture and what might be a fitting theme for this year’s event.

With the nation marking its 36th year of Independence under the theme “The Journey Continues,” I thought back to the birth of HOT Couture, and the road since traveled. Before I knew it, I was reflecting on my own journey.


HOT Couture producer Mae Sabbagh Wayne: Borrowing from Bob Marley, she says this year’s production represents “our song of freedom!”

I am a multi-cultural woman. A Christian Arab, born in Baghdad of parents from Iraq and Lebanon. My personal journey has involved many twists and turns; many cultures; many religions. And sadly, too many wars. But that journey took me to my present home. And some may be wondering how it feels to have started life in the Middle East, to have grown up in Europe and the United States where I met my husband, and finally to become Looshan. I can answer with just one word. No, make that two words: Especially blessed. And lucky no longer to be living in zones of never-ending strife.

As I sat on my balcony on that February morning, I felt happy to be living in this indescribably beautiful, peaceful environment. True, it’s not perfect, but our problems are mostly economic, not fueled by hate.

As my hundreds of photographs taken at different periods in my journey prove, fashion has always played a major role in my life. The clothes I wore when the pictures were taken remind me of what was going on at the time, and how it affected me. There’s the military look that returns me to the Lebanese civil war; the keffiyeh symbolised my solidarity with the Palestine Liberation Organisation; the hot pants I wore to walk the souk remind me of my youthful defiance of tradition. I even wore the abaya, just to demonstrate empathy with my Muslim friends.

The truth is we express ourselves via the language of fashion. Fashion is history. Fashion is freedom! Fashion was closely associated with the hippie movement; with the war in Vietnam; with Women’s Lib, Punk Rock, and the decadent 80s. And fashion is at the heart of how we live today!

Fashion and freedom are inseparable. And so, what better theme for our third year of HOT Couture than Freedom as we celebrate 36 years of independence.

We embrace all cultures, despite so much political unrest in other parts of the world. We have invited to this year’s Hot Couture runway the most seasoned designers from and beyond the Caribbean; the team has brought together twenty leading designers from Saint Lucia, Guadeloupe, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. We have two lines from my native region, the Middle East, represented by Turkey.

We are especially excited to have with us the winner of Project Runway Season 9, Trinidad’s Anya Ayoung-Chee. This will be her first runway appearance in the Caribbean since her historic win.

I feel today a special excitement knowing HOT Couture is on trend; knowing HOT Couture has its finger on the pulse of what’s happening. Recently we witnessed what many described as a miracle. Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro shaking hands and warming up to each other after fifty years in the cold.

I am especially humbled, and altogether ecstatic, as I announce that Cuban designers and performers will be making their Saint Lucian debut on the HOT Couture runway.

Although Cuba and Saint Lucia have shared a great relationship for several years, few here have experienced the unique talents of our Cuban brothers and sisters.

This year’s HOT Couture will showcase this amazing culture, its art, its heritage, its beauty, its fashion. All of it symbolised by a special performance of Arte Y Moda (Art and Fashion).

I want now to thank the Saint Lucia Tourist Board for its continuing confidence in Team HOT Couture. Of course,
HOT Couture would not be possible without my partner Adrian Augier of Landmark Events; Denise Lay, Richard Young, Christa Cooper, Emile Williams of Phase One, Sasha Cosmetics, Bay Walk Mall, Berthia Parle of Bay Gardens and of course my friends and longtime sponsors, Sea Island Cotton Shop.

To paraphrase the great Bob Marley: Come one and all and join us as we sing the song of freedom that is this year’s HOT Couture!

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