A few weeks ago, the flu kept me home for an entire weekend, keeping me away from not one, but two MAJOR fashion events: the opening of the CLD Port-of-Spain boutique, and Runway Shift.
Runway Shift is a project aimed to bolster the Trinidadian Fashion Industry by encouraging the population to buy products from up-and-coming local fashion designers. The event was hosted by Simply Runway Accents, a boutique located in the Grand Bazaar Mall- and is the creative brainchild of boutique directors Candice Baccus and Isaac Ali.
The project spanned a course of nine months, during which selected designers worked to produce complete capsule collections to show at the culminating event- a runway show on April 13, 2014, held at NAPA (National Academy of the Performing Arts) in Port-of-Spain. Five finalists (Adrian Foster, Anicia Brooks, Mary April, Lisa See Tai and Meghan Charles) showed their collections and three were finally chosen to occupy a 3 month rent-free space in Simply Runway Accents. The winning designers can also expect great exposure to many exciting local and international opportunities which they can use to promote their brands.
Runway Shift was conceived in 2013, when Candice first experienced the local talent being shown at Tobago Fashion Weekend 2013. Inspired, she went on to view footage from Trinidad Lookbook’s 2013 Style Spirit Fashion Weekend and was thoroughly impressed by the work of the emerging designers that were featured in the event. From there she began meeting with a few of her favorite designers to discuss their ability to supply her boutique with items in a wholesale capacity.
Candice Baccus is a fighter- and thank goodness because making Runway Shift a reality was not an easy task. She was surprised to discover that many of the designers faced similar challenges in terms of being able to supply the demand for their products, particularly due to difficulties arising out of a lack of funding and technical support. From these concerns Runway Shift was created as a means to give these designers an opportunity to establish their brands and to provide them with the much-needed experience that is required to create a successful retail business.
Then, during the selection process, another problem arose. Runway Shift began with over 50 designers being involved in the initiative, but during the nine months of preparation, the majority exited the competition for various reasons (none were dismissed). Because of their exits, the featured finalists were the ones who were truly invested in the process and trusted the project to deliver exactly what was promised. However, based on the positive response of this year’s event, the directors are positive that this will change for Runway Shift 2015.
The three designers chosen to occupy the rent-free space in Simply Runway Accents are Adrian Foster, Megan Charles and Lisa See Tai. Adding to their collections, the directors also plan to carry other local designer collections at the boutique. They have been approached by several local jewelers and craftsmen and are working on a way to include them in future plans.
Currently, Candice and Isaac are focusing on the feedback they received from completing Runway Shift, and are concentrating on identifying any areas needing improvement.
This event is in its inaugural year, but the directors are hoping to make this an annual event that will not only strengthen and improve the T and T fashion industry, but will help to highlight emerging talents in fashion design. Based on the extensive coverage and praise that this event has received, I think that Runway Shift is well on its way to becoming a force in driving Trinidadian fashion to the forefront of the Caribbean market (maybe even the world? Fingers crossed).
I wrote this post with the help of a few questions I (a little bold facedly) sent to Candice. She most generously replied, and I’ve posted my whole mini- interview below. The Trinidad and Tobago Fashion Industry needs more people like Candice Baccus and Isaac Ali. Store owners need to realize the importance of supporting our talent and the fact that the local market is hungry for Trinbagonian designed luxury apparel.
I think opinions are changing, and this initiative has certainly helped things along. Runway Shift has opened many eyes to the financial possibilities of supporting local design, and shone a bright light on the amazing talent to be found on our own soil. Keep up the fantastic work Candice and Isaac!
You all are everything fab!
• What inspired you to host Runway Shift?
Candice Baccus: I attended Tobago Fashion Weekend 2013 as part of Simply Runway’s staff vacation plans for our managers and my eyes were opened to our local talent. I also got some footage from Style Spirit hosted by Trinidad Lookbook which featured upcoming designers and was totally inspired. I began meeting with a few of my favorites accompanied by Stephanie Ramlogan, personal and media fashion stylist, just to discuss their ability to supply in a wholesale capacity and to my surprise all of them faced the same challenges; funding and technical support. With that in mind I framed Runway Shift to give these upcoming designers a chance to follow their dreams and truly understand the hard work needed to establish a retail business.
• There are so many emerging talents in the T and T fashion industry, how did you choose the five finalists that showed in the event?
CB: To be quite frank, even though we had set criteria, for different phases in the project, selection sort of happened automatically because the featured designers were the only ones who didn’t drop out! They trusted the process which is super difficult to get people to do especially the first time around with a new company. We started off with a long list of over 50 designers and through the 9 months of preparation the majority dropped out for various reasons. We sacked no one. So for this first time around we were able to feature all who remained interested. I’m positive this will all change for Runway Shift 2015 having seen the response we got this year.
• Can you share a few of your plans with regard to local designers in your store?
CB: Further plans include being able to carry local collections at my clothing store, Simply Runway. That is the number one goal. At this point we’re focusing on the feedback we received on the execution of Runway Shift to identify which areas need improving. Several Local Jewelers and craftsmen have approached us as well so we’re taking that into consideration to figure out how we can include them.