Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Tony Deyal | Fame is the name of the game

Published:Saturday | December 2, 2017 | 12:41 AMTony Deyal

Trinidad and Tobago always wanted a model prime minister, and now it has one. This was one of the comments after the prime minister of the country, Dr Keith Rowley, hit the runway like Air Force One in an event held in Trinidad last Saturday that supposedly showcased Caribbean fashion talent and was hyped as “designed to rock the fashion world”.

FAME was the name of that particular game, and stood for Foundation for Fashion Apparel Manufacturing Entrepreneurship, which the organisers said was crafted in a theatrical production in which the prime minister was the star attraction.

Given his tendency to pronounce the word ‘cat’ with a ‘k’, a few commentators were so busy commenting on the ‘kyatwalk’ on which the prime minister sauntered that they missed another important first. The prime minister was accompanied on stage by his wife, Sharon, a legal luminary who also brightened the stage as one of the models. This combination, as one of my friends said, was even more potent.

“They are true roll models,” he commented. “They roll on and roll off stage with such grace and style that instead of the acronym ‘ro-ro’, we should use ‘row-row’ for the Rowleys.” In fact, a sort of row developed about the prime minister’s participation in the fashion show. It was not his appearance, besuited and behatted, it is said, by bespoke tailor Andrew Ramroop of Savile Row, but the fact that given the crime and financial situation in the country, he would devote any time at all to what one irate critic said was “parading like a clothes horse in a donkey derby”.

Despite the fact that previous prime ministers never tried to ramp up their declining popularity by actually going on the fashion circuit, I understand that the people who attended the event, about 60 in all, it is said, and the prime minister’s supporters did not see his participation as beneath the dignity of the office. They think the couple actually came up Trumps on the runway. One of the lesser informed angrily remarked, “They say he set a bad president. But he is prime minister, and the president was set by the previous government.”

In like manner, I see Dr Rowley strutting his stuff dressed to the nines as a horse of a different colour. Some people are still angry over a remark by Dr Rowley that preceded FAME. What happened was that the people of the Beetham Gardens, one of the crime hot spots in Trinidad, something along the lines of Tivoli Gardens in Jamaica, blocked the highway in protest and attacked the stacked-up vehicles, their frightened owners and, some say, the even more frightened police.

Dr Rowley was in the town of Couva at the time and, because of that, it is reported, refused to speak about a place in which he was not standing - to wit, Beetham Gardens, despite the mayhem taking place there. Some people ask, in the light of this, whether the Parliament would issue new Standing Orders and if, from the safety of the catwalk, the prime minister would just grab his few seconds of FAME, state that what happens on the catwalk stays on the catwalk, and seek to use the catwalk to improve his political standing. He could also make more off-the-cuff remarks and get Mr Ramroop to make some additional lawsuits as distractions for his attorney general. His ministers will quickly follow suit and measure up to his sartorial standards.

MISSED THE HYPE

What many people missed, including those who bought only 60 of the 2,000 tickets printed, was the hype which I plan to use as a no-no in my next workshop on Plain English: “FAME will harness signature brands and incorporate them into the inaugural showcase. The objective is to ensure the presence of trademark style arbiters in this compendium, to express the multifaceted and outstanding nature and the compelling brand identity of the Caribbean aesthetic. The dynamic of the event is to infuse sustainable development action, by promoting the nontraditional creative industries, in a substantive way so as to engage economic diversification mandates. Give back to socioeconomic development and address youth empowerment so as ensure more holistic life chance for future generations.

“The presentation will showcase 30 designer capsule presentations coursed with suitable talent highlights to effect a winning Creative Arts spectacular to kick off the FAME initiative. FAME aims to brand Caribbean style and present it internationally through select local and regional designers, while positioning T&T as the epicentre of the regional fashion industry.”

No wonder so few people went. The show was not just beyond their means, but also their comprehension. The good news, hidden in the hyperbole, was that part proceeds would go to support paediatric HIV/AIDS care by the Hibiscus Foundation. I believe this is why the prime minister and Mrs Rowley might have broken prime ministerial protocol - that, and support for Mr Ramroop, who will head a new certificate course in Ultra Bespoke Tailoring.

Mr Ramroop is not the first ‘bespoke’ tailor from Trinidad. The late Fitz Blackman, former mayor of Port-of-Spain, had his ‘bespoke’ business on Abercromby Street in Port-of-Spain. However, Mr Ramroop is the first to receive both the Order of the British Empire and the Chaconia Medal of Trinidad and Tobago.

Former Prime Minister Patrick Manning, was one of his clients and now Dr Rowley joins the list, which includes Brian Lara, Samuel Jackson and former British Prime Minister David Cameron. He is, of course, as Dr Rowley, a Tobagonian, will know, not our best or most famous in the bespoke business. That special honour goes to a gentleman whose fame was due to Lord Nelson, the calypsonian (not the Admiral).

“Rolfy is his name/ Cutting cloth, making suit is his game/ Doh show him de man, my tailor is class/Just show him de corner whey de fella pass/ And he go make a suit, dat is tailor.”

- Tony Deyal was last seen quoting magnate Richard Branson: “To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself, your ideas and focusing on