I can’t count the amount of times I’ve read or heard the statement “there’s really no creativity in bikini + beads mas”, and it always ruffles my…...... feathers. This is my attempt to set the record straight. According to Google ‘creativity’ is the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. So, with this refresher in mind, what I think people really mean to proclaim is that there’s little complexity in bikini + beads mas (still false in my opinion but certainly a more bearable argument).
So, I decided to sort of document my design process this year as I truly believe that this popular thinking comes from a place of not actually knowing what goes into the production of a costume; whether it be rhinestones patterned on fabric or a swan floating seamlessly on stilts.
For me it all starts with a feeling. I really wanted to create a piece that made the wearer feel both provocative + powerful. Maintaining this feeling I flew to NYC and visited Hai’s Trimming – let me tell you, this store is like gem/ trimming/ appliqué/ feather HEAVEN. Here I spent hours searching for THE gem that would understand my vibe!! Many full-time designers actually have Hai's produce a gem specifically for their costume and after 5 hours of searching I felt as though I was going to have to go down that path.
I literally was about to leave the store when my eyes fell on this pearl trimming, talk about YASS! It was perfect (..$38.00 USD per yard, which is out of control expensive when designing for mass production- but perfect). It was both shimmer + lace and provocative + powerful. From there I restarted my search, found a corner on a display table in Hai’s and basically camped out until I found a combination that made sense to me. A few days later I was back in Trinidad with a suitcase of gems (and one or two or three personal items from Zara, Aldo + Toyshop.... + Sephora) and a sketch which captured this vibe that I’d been working off of.
Red is notorious for being a hard sell within the industry and I quickly realised why. It was the only colour that would truly take me to an intensely provocative level. It overshadowed all of the other gems, no matter the ratio/arrangement but I just couldn’t shake my pull to it.
RED is a D I V A! - Hello!
It demands attention and really doesn’t want to be complimented or competed with.
I always start with the bra, it’s the nucleus of my design. I redid this bra from wire go down several times because of that damn RED DIVA! She got her way in the end and I was able to stay true my sketch + feeling. Once the bra was complete everything else feel into place and IncREDible was born.
I would argue that though my costume designs are full of gems and feathers they do not lack imagination; the complexity comes in expressing an emotion within today’s extreme parameters. It takes me approximately 2 months to finally bring a design that I have sketched to life (this is not typical/standard; some full time designers can work something out in a couple of days but full time I’m an architect). Many hands are involved in this process from fabric and gem manufacturers in New York to the wire benders and seamstresses here at home.
I am totally + fully aware that Carnival has changed drastically over the years. In my opinion it is no longer a parade and therefore no longer a spectator event. It is now an enormous fete in the streets of Port of Spain where the costume to many is of little importance and the focus on enjoyment of one’s self is priority. The majority of costumes are in fact gems and feathers because it is literally the coolest type of costume to party in. We’ve seen men wear short pants alone (like my husband- ah shame). I can only speak for myself of course, but my designs are very conscious of the desires of today’s masquerader who loves both glamour and fashion.
I think it is because we are still struggling as a culture with the stark difference between traditional mas and the mas of today. We’re victims of circumstance. I think that once we realize the difference between the two types and separate them into two categories of traditional and popular, today’s mas can properly be appreciated.
Yes, some ‘popular’ costumes are genuinely just feathers and beads, but there are many costumes that show true workmanship, complexity and beautiful collaboration.
This is sort of awks but is the rhyme "red red yuh pee yuh bed" now stuck in your head as well? Damn RED.