The entire country has Anya Ayoung-Chee Fever; God knows I have it. The symptoms: the nagging urge to shave the sides of one’s head and an unrelenting propensity towards massive, dangling earrings. It’s disarming how effortlessly Anya pulls off the statement earring look, inspiring a nation of trend-hunters (because let’s face it, Trinidad & Tobago is a trend-savy place) to go in search of the perfect monumental earlobe adornments. However, as fantastic an example of what I’m about to talk about Anya is…this blog post is not primarily about her.
This is about the uprising of local designers and artisans of my generation and a little before…and the attitude towards it. I admit off the bat that I’ve not always been an avid supporter of local products, whether it be out of sheer ignorance, disinterest or a philosophy that prompted me to believe that local meant lesser, no exceptions.
4 years ago, give me TT$3000 to spend on any clothing and jewellery I wanted and I’d immediately run to the computer to select one of the many mass-produced items available from stores like Forever 21, Zara, H&M, etc. Ask me to pay $150 for a pair of completely unique, hand-crafted statement earrings from a local jewellery designer and I’d balk. Ask me to pay $350 for a pair of custom, one-of-a-kind high-waisted shorts from a local fashion designer and I’d look at you like you’d gone mad.
Now, after spending 3 years away from home, and then returning to my island, full of vibrant, creative and wholly enterprising people…I see that locally produced goods carry much more value than I could ever get from my (still) beloved clothing chains of ‘foreign’.
Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to purchase two pairs of statement earrings (again, on my Anya Ayoung-Chee beat) from two local jewellery designers, Nakita Hyatali and Shereece McKenzie. Gorgeous, stunning conversation pieces if I say so myself (and I love a good ice-breaker). Last month, I was taken to local artist and designer Keegan Simon’s 1ndividualAesthetic pop-up shoppe at #6 Carlos Street and was impressed by the funky, imaginative, often graffiti-inspired pieces by this young entrepreneur.
In this same locale -evidently a breeding ground for up and coming designers- Shannon Alonzo held her much-anticipated pop-up shoppe of her line Shorts Are E.V.I.L. and items sold out within a day or two.
Now I would never advocate the purchase of anything that 1) is of poor quality 2) you don’t like simply because it is local. In fact, even while the country waited with bated breath for Anya’s premier on Project Runway, tongues wagging and voting fingers twitching, I was concerned with only one thing…that she was good. I won’t support a designer or an artist whose work I think is poor…the rules still apply. However, I won’t readily write-off any local artist or designer until I’ve seen their work and can make a fair assessment of their products.
I’m thrilled with my earrings, and in the market for more. Shereece is making me a custom piece inspired by one of Anya’s apparently favoured accessories, and Miss Hyatali is soon going to get a request from me as well for another pair.
Why blend in when you can stand out? Why wear the same old mass-produced items that hundreds (maybe thousands) also have, when you can own a much more exclusive piece of clothing or jewellery. Buying generic stuff is great and easy on the pocket, I’d never say no, God knows I am online-shopping-banton, but don’t put local out of your thoughts.
If Anya has taught us anything, it’s that anything they can do, we can do better (or at least just as well).
Shereece McKenzie (Left) Nakita Hyatali (Right)
ps. Sorry for the horrible pic…taken with camera phone, better ones to follow 🙂