By Alicia Roache, Staff Reporter
DESIGNERS GAVE mixed reactions to the recently concluded 'Caribbean Fashionweek' (CFW) events held at the Hilton Kingston Hotel, New Kingston.
Renee Luke, a Barbadian designer, was ecstatic at her inclusion at CFW but felt that their was room for more improvement as far as organisation was concerned. Her views echoed those of many other designers present.
"It could be better in terms of the exhibition hall," says Luke. "More designers need to get more involved in having a booth," she continues. Indeed, for the two days that the display hall was open only a handful of booths were occupied, many of which were left unattended; bad business for people who want to have visibility in the fashion marketplace.
Whatever the cause for their absence, it left many people wanting more than they got from the exhibition. The only means of communication with a potential buyer was a business card or flyer. Perhaps next year, these should be a category included for best booth or best display, maybe then the trade floor section of the show will garner as much attention as the fashion show.
According to some designers, there was a lack of communication between the organisers of the event and the designers, and very little interaction among designers. At least one designer spoken to could not attend the impromptu marketing seminar that was announced at the end of the first day's fashion show. "That is disadvantageous to the designers, that information is key to making it in this business and yet it was not on the schedule," she said.
Robert Young from Trinidad believes that interaction between designers is important to their development and to the integration that Caribbean Fashionweek suggests. To the organisers he says: "Pull the designers together to meet and interact, maybe in a workshop." Renee Luke said that up until Saturday night, three days into the four-day event, she had only met two designers. "There weren't that many people to meet because the booths were empty," she reiterated.
Jamaican designer Gary Codner, one of the dynamic duo responsible for 'Cooyah' designs, observed that many designers take a 'laid-back' attitude to promoting and marketing their products. "Sixty per cent of your budget is marketing," he says, "nobody markets for you like you can market your products," he continues. That is why, he claims he has discount cards, surveys, and shows to help build the clientele for 'Cooyah'. Pat Wright of 'Wright Style' in Kingston concurs with Codner. She is concerned that the designers are not 'thinking big'. "We should be filling up the free zone," she says. "Those of us who do think like business people should make a change," she concludes.
However, some designers were pleased with the promise of CFW. Wayne Smith says he has grown closer to the designers from Barbados at last week's CFW. Also from Barbados, Smith has become acquainted with these designers for the first time and says he is inspired by their work. Harold Davis, also from Barbados, says he feels an 'excitement in the air, the feeling as though we are going places'.