Tanya Marie (designer, brand consultant and founding creative director of Designer Island) interviews Trinidadian designer Meiling Esau in her home and studio in Woodbrook, Port of Spain, Trinidad. Here are a few excerpts [read the full interview at Designer Island].

I first met Meiling in 2009, while creating her folkloric wonderland of a website. It was a crazy and ambitious project with beautifully dressed douens and dainty la diablesses that slid across a full screen of changing Trinidad scenes. This was a dream job for an aspiring creative who recalled wandering through Meiling’s store, located then at the Kapok hotel, peeking through racks as a child with my fashionable aunt.

Now, almost a decade later, we meet again at her home and studio, which share the same space at 6 Carlos Street, Woodbrook. [. . .]

Di: Can we talk about what you think a Caribbean Designer is, and what that means to you?

MEILING: I think Robert Young of The Cloth is the designer of the Caribbean. He’s a genius and he’s the only Caribbean designer I wear besides my own.

I think of myself first, as a designer; second, as a designer who happens to live in the Caribbean, not designing Caribbean fashion. I am very much influenced by the Caribbean and I always want to work in cottons or linens because of where we live. But if a visitor or tourist bought my garments and returned to their city, it shouldn’t scream like a Hawaiian shirt that it’s from Trinidad & Tobago. It must be able to stand up on its own in any city – in Europe, wherever – and be admired for what it is.

They may then ask, “So, who are you wearing?” And the person would say, “Oh, it’s a Caribbean designer and all the detailing is done by hand and it’s cotton or linen because of where she works.” [. . .]

Di: But are you influenced by the Caribbean?

MEILING: There’s no doubt about it! I’m influenced by the Caribbean, by Trinidad…

Every artist is influenced by his or her environment, to a certain extent. And when I think Caribbean, I don’t only think Carnival and bright colours, I love the flora of Trinidad – I have to have anthuriums in my home and leaves! I love leaves! – I’m also so inspired by the architecture of Trinidad!  [. . .]

For full interview, see http://designerisland.com/stories/a-caribbean-fashion-legacy-di-chats-with-meiling-esau

[Photo by Kibwe Brathwaite.]

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