Fete with the Victress - Anna Guthrie
Serial Singer Mr Killa expressed it best when he encouraged fêters of 2019 to pick up something, anything, and run with it. That is exactly how artistic talent Anna Guthrie emerged on the soca scene as a designer for Xaymaca Carnival 2018. This year, she plans to unite and conquer on the road with Victress.
The 23-year-old has been designing professionally for almost two years, but got personally involved in the field five years ago. “Designing was something I always wanted to do. From I was in grade six, I realised that I could draw, but for some reason, I liked to draw clothes, I don’t know why,” Guthrie revealed with a laugh. She followed strong styling pursuit in high school and achieved her degree in the sassy area of expertise from university.
Last year, this rising star was approached by Xaymaca’s management team. They were introducing two new sections and wanted someone who could produce. They made a seemingly impossible offer. After inviting her to jump on board their soca ship to create a one-of-a-kind costume line for revellers, this special operation levelled up from doable to difficult when she was asked if she had a design ready. They requested that she present a design the following day for a photoshoot and generate a complete line within a month before carnival day. The young designer had never explored anything of this magnitude before. But recounting a time when her mother once told her to say yes now and find out how you’re going to do it later, Guthrie accepted the challenge. Her costume line, Royce, had sold out within a week of premiering.
Because she worked assiduously up until the morning of carnival day, she arrived on the streets by lunch time, with all eyes on her. She admitted that this attention tapped into past insecurities, but to her surprise, spectators were blown away by her adorned costume. She was immediately aligned to her design and many approached her, requesting selfies and conveying gratitude for the amazing costume design. Seeing them mix and match and styling them up in their own way was a beautiful sight for her.
Guthrie described seeing Royce on the road for the first time as a truly emotional experience. “Last year, carnival day was the happiest day of my life. There is absolutely no feeling that has ever amounted to that day.”
She returned for Xaymaca, this year, with Victress and declared that the difference lies within the creative incorporation of colour. “Even though, I still kept it monochromatic, I tend to go with solids, black or white. If I’m going with a colour, it is usually remains that colour throughout, adding slight variation to that colour throughout. This time around, I focused on contrasting elements, so Victress is the first of its kind.”
A major obstacle she faces within the fashion and design industry is access to materials. She disclosed that there is currently a feather ban in the country and confessed that it is really counterproductive because Jamaica has the fastest growing carnival in the Caribbean and now, the world, “It is a tedious process to certify the health of the feathers through the Ministry of Agriculture: this makes designing exceptionally difficult. And the young entrepreneurs, without capital suffer as a result. I don’t think we even have 10 local carnival designers. We’re constantly being compared to Trinidad designers, with people saying they are better because of aesthetic experience. But if we’re not given the tools to work with in order to expand our horizons, even for others to learn the trade, there’s no way we can grow, there’s no way we can compete on an international scale, I’m one of the few who are lucky, but it is really a hard industry.”
On a positive note, she is very grateful to Xaymaca for the remarkable experience and the great exposure, “Working with Xaymaca has given me a huge step through the door when it comes to me marketing myself and my credibility as a designer. They were the first I ever mass produced for. And a lot of people had seen my work before and they liked my designs, but it was when I worked with Xaymaca that people really started paying attention.”
Additionally, she designed set wardrobe, catering to anything in the costume realm. It is her desire to branch out abroad and live the dream of creating pieces for award shows, like Met Gala. Her heart is in carnival, so she would love to branch off. She has already set sails in Cayman recently and is looking to voyage her way to Barbados and Miami. “I love soca. I love the spirit of carnival. I love the idea of so many people coming together, going down the road, violence free, and having a good time,” she added.
This adoration has greatly influenced her designs. Women, she says, should feel confident no matter their size. Many believe women should look one way and she does not subscribe to that philosophy. Instilling this confidence on the road inspires her designs. And as far her actual creative process goes, in order to keep her motivated, she designs with soca on the mind, blazing in her work space.
What’s next? For Guthrie, carnival day April 28. She has other opportunities in store on the road that she plans to maximise on, so be on the lookout. And be sure to Fete for Victress for Xaymaca Road March 2019.