Anya Ayoung-Chee: A chance for fashion to flourish in T&T

Young designer Anya Ayoung-Chee has been rightly commended not only for winning the Project Runway competition, but also for keeping the Trinidad and Tobago flag flying as she did so. But as well as raising this country’s international profile, fashion also represents a source of revenue and of sustainable employment, T&T’s Express reports.

So after Ms Ayoung-Chee’s victory, Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Cadiz not only offered his congratulations, but went on to say that the Government intended to transform the fashion industry.

“We are committed,” he said, “to creating a suitable environment which will foster, nurture and harness the creativity of our people to ensure its transformation into a booming industry.”

Fashion designers themselves have laid a solid foundation, through the work of pioneers such as Meiling, Heather Jones and Claudia Pegus.

But what was a growth sector in the 1980s suffered a near-crippling blow when globalisation and the removal of the negative list led to the importation of cheap, ready-made clothes.

The industry fought back, however, and in the past few years has successfully staged an annual Fashion Week to promote locally designed and made garments throughout the region and beyond.

Recognising that fashion is a business, and that it requires more than creativity alone, the University of Trinidad and Tobago set up a Caribbean Academy of Fashion and Design which offers degree and diploma courses in fashion design and fashion management.

The industry received a fillip last year when Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar walked down a runway at one of the gala events at Fashion Week. Later in the year she spoke at the launch of the Fashion Association, an umbrella body for the industry.

Promising the Government’s support, the Prime Minister said she wanted to see the “Made in T & T” label become dominant on the international fashion circuit.

“We will nurture the fashion industry, which has the potential to become a major industry,” she said.

Until Ms Ayoung-Chee’s victory, however, little further had been heard about this initiative since last October. No Fashion Week was held this year, owing to lack of sponsorship from either the private sector or the Government. It came as a surprise last week when Mr Cadiz described the industry as a key pillar of the Government’s diversification plan.

Ms Ayoung-Chee’s win shows how far local designers can go, given the right opportunities.

Not many will achieve television fame or overnight success. Fashion is rarely about gowns and glamour, and for every moment on the catwalk there are hours of hard work behind the scenes.

But the local fashion sector, which has already proved itself, can quietly flourish, if the Government fulfills its promises and commits to helping over the long haul.

For the original report go to

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