SLTB clears air on Hot Couture!


From left: Public Relations Manager of the St Lucia Tourist Board John Emmanuel, Deputy Tourism director Tracey Warner Arnold and SLTB Director Louis Lewis.

From left: Public Relations Manager of the St Lucia Tourist Board John Emmanuel, Deputy Tourism director Tracey Warner Arnold and SLTB Director Louis Lewis.

In a way, some who seemed hell-bent on icing “Hot Couture” merely ended up making it the main focus of the local tourist board’s rebranded Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, more talked about online and on the ground than even R. Kelly’s out-of-this-world performance. More proof that there’s no such thing as bad publicity when it comes to showbiz.

The inescapable irony is that there is no disagreement when it comes to the quality of the production, the first of its kind in Saint Lucia. So what does it matter that there were the inevitable artistic disagreements? It happens whenever talents come together for a project. That is why even the most spectacularly successful events always hold post-mortems in the best interests of future productions. Too bad, judging by what is now common knowledge, Hot Couture suffered tongue lashings from the most unexpected quarter—even before the first model audition. As for what followed the most successful event, clearly the problem was an insatiable ego that sought to demean everyone else involved, from Adrian Augier to the Tourist Board (collectively and individually!) to the show’s producer Mae Wayne.

Rightly, they ignored most of the comments or dismissed them as the rantings of an ego maniac and fodder for Facebook losers for whom there is only one side to a story: the one that appeals to them most.

For the first time, the Saint Lucia Tourist Board on Wednesday last week addressed some of the unnecessary and counterproductive comments, largely because of questions at what was referred to as the festival’s “wrap-up.”

Asked why the board had not addressed the negative comments from the get-go, SLTB director Louis Lewis agreed there was “need to clarify or clear the air on some of those issues.”  He invited attendant media personnel to step back with him and for an cool analysis of the process leading to Hot Couture.

“In the design of this Hot Couture fashion show within the Jazz & Arts Festival,” he said, “the board took a clear decision that it wanted to have an all-Saint Lucian involved production. From the very start we thought it important to have the expertise of Mr Mc. Doom.” The SLTB had also acknowledged that it did not have at its disposal the expertise to successfully produce the event and would have to depend on the experience of such individuals as the publisher of SHE Magazine who had much backstage experience of such shows in the region as well as being familiar with Saint Lucian models, both home based and abroad. “We ultimately decided on Mae Wayne as the event’s producer,” he said.

Specifically addressing Mc. Doom’s Facebook comments as well as statements issued locally, Louis Lewis said they went largely ignored. “I have to express appreciation for the restraint exercised on the part of some of the producers,” he said, “and I speak specifically of Adrian Augier and Mae Wayne, who played very critical roles in the whole design and organization of this event. We deliberately refrained from making any statements, because we did not want that dialogue to be the signature of the event, or what the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, especially in its first year, was best remembered for.”

“The bigger picture was that there were thirty models professionally trained by Mc. Doom, for which they are eternally grateful,” said Tracey Warner Arnold, the deputy tourism director. “The trunk show we held the next day, many of the local designers got to sell several of their pieces and all of them got contracts with a retailer in Martinique. We had thirty Saint Lucian models who displayed their art, their craft—all trained by Mr Mc. Doom.

As for feedback, Lewis said Hot Couture drew the most positive comments. “I heard only one dissenting voice. And from the most unexpected quarter. I mean, he gave a media interview and it is very strange that in a news item we saw a twelve-minute documentary inserted which took place the morning before the show and no attempt was made to get a balance or feedback from the Tourist Board. And so we have to question that intent. The second thing is that a lot of disparaging remarks were made about the organization and I think that after twenty-one or twenty-two years hosting the event, some of these things were so far from the truth as not to merit comment from the board.”

Nevertheless he considered Mr Mc. Doom “very creative, very passionate, with his heart in the right place. The unfortunate thing is that he sought to make himself the center of attention and, having failed, people’s characters were assassinated in the process. He made some statements about the integrity of the board that I will defend till there’s no life left in me.”

As for the allegation that people were overpaid, Lewis said the board has “a clear process of engaging contractors. There is a bidding process, quotes are received and a committee sits and deliberates over it. That is not to say that you do not find attempts by persons on the outside to overcharge us.”

He referred to the runway, about which Mc. Doom had taken its builder to task: “There were times when Mc. Doom’s expectations as artistic director could not be met, as much because of unavailability of certain materials locally as well as budgetary constraints. Even with our international acts for the festival there are the local limitations to be considered.

Where contracts were concerned, the SLTB says it had signed agreements with all of the models, as well as with Adrian Augier and Mae Wayne. In the case of Vincent Mc. Doom, his “special arrangements” were verbally agreed to or via e-mail exchanges. We agreed on what he would be responsible for.”

He revealed that Mc. Doom was provided with round-trip air tickets from France, hotel accommodation and a vehicle was placed by the SLTB at his disposal.

Asked whether the SLTB will engage the services of Vincent Mc. Doom in the future, the director said it was far too early to tell. The best Lewis could promise was: “All things will be tendered. There will be reviews of the initial production and the board will take into consideration as well some of the discussions before making any decisions for the future of Hot Couture!”

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