COMPLEXDWOMAN: AWON GOLDING

COMPLEXDWOMAN: AWON GOLDINGAwon Golding photographed by Sabrina Sikora    

Excitement, pageantry, imaginative and fabulous – a few words used to describe Royal Ascot, the quintessential event on the Great British calendar where high fashion and millinery dominate. A strict dress code must be adhered to and the midriffs of prepubescent teens donning crop tops are nowhere to be seen on the racecourse grounds. We’ve been marveling at some of the stunning headpiece artistry so far, so we decided to have a chat with talented Milliner Awon Golding, who has been selected by the British Fashion Council and master milliner Stephen Jones to take part in Headonism this September at London Fashion Week.

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Name: Awon Golding
Occupation: Milliner
Place of birth: Hong Kong
Current residence: London
 
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My mother is from the Tangkhul Naga tribe of North-East India and my father hails from London, England. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, but did stints at a boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas, and university in Newcastle, England. Some of my happiest and most vivid memories are from the years I spent growing up on Lamma Island, a bohemian enclave in Hong Kong. We were one of the first non-chinese families to move there in 1980 when it was little more than a fishing village. I was a skinny, tanned tomboy that liked for nothing more than to run wild in the hills with my friends; I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those experiences.  

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I work from home so I have to try and be strict about my working hours. I generally try to get up before my boyfriend leaves for work at 7:30am (although he would argue against this I’m sure). As a side effect of working from home I seem to be have formed an addiction to tea so one of the first things I do is make myself a streamy cup. I wait until I start to feel hungry, usually a few hours after waking, before I attack the fridge. I’m very Asian with respects to what I’ll eat at what time of the day i.e. I have no hang ups about curry leftovers for breakfast.   As for what I wear I only dress up if I know I have a client coming, or if I’m going out into the civilised world. I love colour so I would slap on some bright trousers or skirt paired with a neutral top and gold jewellery. If I’m staying at home I go for comfort over style every time, so some trackie bottoms and a t-shirt. 

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I’m a milliner, which means I make and design hats. I embarked upon this career 6 years ago when I moved to London to study millinery. It was a long and winding road to get to where I am now; I’ve been everything from an art gallery assistant to a corporate event organiser, to a Barbie educational game designer. I knew the whole time that I wanted to learn a proper craft, something that I picked up from my fine artist father, it was just a matter of persevering to get to this point.

1045191_692592857437971_2082727190_nAwon Golding with master milliner Stephen Jones (L)

I’m inspired by people who make things happen, by this I mean their ability to turn what seems like unconnected ideas and things into incredibly complex, organic systems and objects.  This ability to see beyond problems translates into other aspects of life; ‘can-do’ people are generally optimists with really positive outlooks on life. It’s a confidence, drive and vision that I aspire to.

SS14-07-awon-golding-millinery-london-itaria-colori-gelato-hatSS14 – Colori Gelato Collection 

My ideas can come from anything tangible or abstract. I recently designed a collection inspired by the Queen of Bhutan and used everything from temple carvings to bird’s wings as a starting point for the pieces. This couldn’t be more different from the current collection I’m working on which is inspired by nostalgic memories of a holiday I went on to the Amalfi coast over 15 years ago. I find that I need a solid theme as a jumping off point, and then the ideas develop as I research around the subject. Sketching is an integral part of this creative development, and then progresses to making physical variants of the final pieces.

AwonGolding_AW14_5_Biscayne-Side_grandeAW 14/15 – Only Lovers Collection 

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I love being a woman because…we have so many facets. We can be tough and head strong, but also nurturing and loving. I enjoy being different things at different times.

The best piece of advice I would give to another woman is…you’re never too old to try something new. If you have passion and drive you can turn anything into a success.

My concerns about women are…the fact that we are continually held under the thumb of gender-stereotyping and society’s ideals of women-hood. I’m particularly disturbed by the ingrained sexualisation of women in the world, which further entrenches these set backs to our development as equal inhabitants of this world.

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I am a ComplexdWoman because my mixed-heritage, third culture upbringing is a big part of my identity. My relatively unique genetic background has given me the confidence to feel good about being different. I enjoy when people enquire about where I’m from or can’t quite place me within a normal ethnic category. I feel an instant camaraderie with other people of mixed heritage, regardless of whether it’s the same mix as mine; I’m part of a global community of people and yet I feel special.

Love
Awon Golding
www.awongolding.com | Twitter: @AwonGolding | Facebook: Awon Golding Millinery
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CARIBBEAN FASHION WEEK 2014

CARIBBEAN FASHION WEEK 2014 Photograph by Luca Khouri 

Although born and bred in the fashion capital of London, my first experience of runway fashion was in the Caribbean. When I did experience the trend churning European fashion scene, what it lacked for me was memorable connections that weren’t just based on prestige and pretentiousness. Fashion in the Caribbean has its ups and downs, but it’s gradually evolving. Even though this is more relative to the pace of a carousel ride, it gives you the opportunity to hop on and be a part of the development as it builds momentum.

This year, I’m particularly excited about Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW), which kicks off tomorrow, in Kingston, Jamaica. Not only because of the plethora of approachable talent it draws from the region and as far afield as Africa and Australia, but for the fact that Caribbean designs, will finally be made available to online shoppers around the world. And, of course our very own ComplexdWoman Aria Francis will be making her fashion week debut.

Caribbean Fashion Week founder Kingsley Cooper, announced the exciting launch of Shopcaribbeanfashion.com, an online Caribbean fashion ecommerce website designed to introduce and export the crème of the region’s fashion design talent to an international audience.

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Seen as I love supporting Caribbean designers and up-and-coming Grenadian talent I spoke to the brains behind ShopCaribbeanFashion.com Jessica Huie, Founder of London agency JH Public Relations and international branding expert Kubi Springer who are set to launch the site on the morning of June 15, prior to the evening’s fashion show. I also had a quick catch-up with aspiring Grenadian model Aria Francis to find out how she’s prepping for the shows.

Kubi Springer PhotoKubi Springer 

How did the idea for ShopCaribbeanFashion.com come about?

The idea came about during Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW) 2013. Jessica Huie and I were watching the show and we thought, wouldn’t it be fantastic if the public could purchase designs as they hit the runway. We wanted CFW to have a ‘shopping experience’ allowing consumers to not only enjoy the designers’ collection, but also have the opportunity to walk away with them. This idea evolved into the concept of an online shop that would celebrate all designers from the Caribbean and wider Diaspora; giving them a platform to commercialise their talents and exposed their brands to the world. We then pitched ShopCaribbeanFashion.com to Kingsley the founder of CFW and we’re so excited to launch it to the public at CFW 2014.

Why did JHPR and SheBuildsBrands decide to partner with Pulse Fashion? 

The three-way partnership is critical to the success of the project. Pulse have the access and relationships with the designers, JHPR has the global press contacts to ensure it reaches all media and my team and at SheBuildsBrands we specialise in turning brands into a commercial success. Collaboratively we bring a strength that will make ShopCaribbeanFashion.com an innovative and groundbreaking project.

Jessica Huie-press-shot-cropJessica Huie 

Will ShopCaribbeanFashion.com deliver worldwide?

Yes we will facilitate global orders and delivery. The key principle behind the brand is to present Caribbean designers to a global market. As someone from the UK with international experience I know that there is a huge market for Caribbean inspired designs and I think that ShopCaribbeanFashion.com will simply be feeding this hungry market on a global scale. When you think of ShopCaribbeanFashion.com – think of ASOS with a Caribbean twist!

306957_10151861571225451_1588114702_nPhotograph by Luca Khouri 

What’s the criteria if I’m a Caribbean designers wanting to sell my pieces on ShopCaribbeanFashion.com?

The criterion for designers is to have a minimum of a three piece collection. They can either be ‘ready-to-wear’, ‘premium’ or ‘luxury’ designs as the site will cater to a wide price point from designs that are under US$100 to designs over US$1,000. In addition, the designers need to have the capacity to deliver across sizes and within the specified order timeframe. For young designers this may mean working on a smaller collection with less numbers, but more of an impact. Whether it’s a young designer or seasoned professional; the core component is quality. We want to ensure that we are bringing the best of the Caribbean to the rest of the world.

Aria Francis 

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How did you feel when you heard the news you were invited to walk at Caribbean Fashion Week? 

With this being my first fashion week and quite a prestigious one in the Caribbean, when I heard the news I was delighted. Developing my modeling career means so much to me and to be given this opportunity is really a dream come true. To represent Grenada on the runway at one of Jamaica’s biggest fashion events, gives me and other Grenadian models hope for the future.

How have you been preparing for the show?

I’ve been exercising daily to remain toned and I’ve been drinking a lot of water. Most importantly, I keep practicing my runway walk and getting tips from former, professional model, Jelena Golub Habulan, who’s assisting me with perfecting my technique. She always has the best advice!

What are you looking forward to? 

Gaining experience and being in front of international designers, model scouts and photographers. Being blessed with this wonderful opportunity will allow me to meet successful Jamaican models like Jeneil Williams and Oraine Barrett. Jeneil Williams is such an inspiration so I would love to meet her!

Are you nervous?

At the moment I am not nervous, it’s an opportunity that I have been mentally preparing for. I can’t wait to show my confidence and fierceness on and off the runway. I feel even more encouraged by the fact that people in the Grenadian diaspora reached out to support me, namely Mr. Denison George. I would also like to thank my Grenadian sponsors Andall’s and Associates and Astral Travel & Tours who are providing me with the opportunity to go out there and represent Grenada well.

The ComplexdWoman team will be on the ground providing daily fashion reports so stay tuned on our blog. For more information visit CFW and ShopCaribbeanFashion.com 

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EDITOR’S DIARY: Grenada at Chelsea Flower Show 2014

EDITOR'S DIARY: A closer look at Grenada’s display at Chelsea Flower Show 2014Grenada stand exhibitor Suzanne Gaywood 

The Royal Horticultural society’s annual Chelsea Flower Show is always the hottest ticket in town. This year, tickets were sold out days before the show opened its doors to the general public on Tuesday, which always seems to leave unacquainted Londoners in a floral frenzy. Luckily, the only frantic dash I experienced was that of a patriotic Grenadian dodging the crowds for the tip of a Heliconia to point me in the right direction.

Oh and let me tell you, we did not disappoint. Among 100 other exhibitors, Grenada’s stand was all that and an Earl Grey tea with jam scones. Or should I say that full belly niceness of freshly baked bakes and saltfish with cocoa tea!

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Although awarded a commendable silver-gilt medal, just like our treasured Kirani James going for an Olympic gold, Suzanne Gaywood and her team maintained the standard of previous gold-winning years, with a display of tropical flowers and spices grown in Grenada.

Each and every passer-by commented on the vivid display of our plant life, which fed my imagination as a child. Acalypha hispida also known as ‘cat tails’ to my six-year-old self, would double up as hair extensions twined into my ‘dodo plaits’ and I spent hours putting Mimosa pudica leaves to sleep as if they were my dolls in need of a midday nap.

Fletcher Frank and Suzanne GaywoodGrenadian based Anthurium grower Fletcher Frank and Suzanne Gaywood displaying the Grenada/UK collaboration 

Our distinctive display wasn’t the only thing attracting the crowds. It was also the proud warm Grenadian smiles of Suzanne Gaywood, the orchestrator of team RHS Chelsea Grenada, Fletcher Frank who specialises in growing striking Anthurium cut flowers, a hero of the soil Lance Sergeant Johnson Gideon Beharry VC, Mr. Joslyn Whiteman The High Commissioner for Grenada in the UK and our Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Hon. Alexandra Otway-Noel.

Suzanne Gaywood, Hon.Alexandra Otway-Noel and UK High Comissioner Joslyn WhitemanMinister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Hon. Alexandra Otway-Noel and Mr. Joslyn Whiteman The High Commissioner for Grenada in the UK give a speech alongside Suzanne Gaywood

After an encouraging ‘book your ticket and come see’ speech to guest, British media attendees and sponsors of the Grenada stand, the Minister informed me of the importance of being present at RHS Chelsea.

 “Our flora is one of Grenada’s biggest attributes and Chelsea Flower Show is the best place to capture our target audience, who are people interested in the beauty of nature. There are thousands of people walking around, so having a Grenada stand gives us an opportunity to compete and show-off our beautiful flowers”, she added.

Sponsors with Flower Show TeamA group photo with the team and sponsors True Blue Bay Boutique Resort, Spice Island Beach Resort & Blue Horizons Garden Resort, Sandals LaSource Grenada, Mount Hartman Bay Estate and Mount Cinnamon Resort and Beach Club. 

It was even more of a pleasure to meet Suzanne Gaywood in person, having interviewed her many moons ago for the 35th Grenadian Independence special of Everybody’s Caribbean magazine. She has been entrenched in the business of flower growing and exhibiting since the 80s. Even after all these years she still radiates with the excitement of a new-found love. 

‘This display is reminiscent of my childhood playing in the rainforest of Grand Etang and on Grand Anse beach. And, of course I had to put Grenadian spices through the middle. I love it! I’m in my sixties now and like a child I’m still fascinated by the rich lush vegetation of Grenada and I love sharing it. It makes me more happy when visitor come back and tell me they flew to Grenada because of my stand”, she proudly informed me.

Below are a few pictures I took of our impressive display, if you manage to get your hands-on a ticket before the 24th May, then do pay Grenada stand a visit, if you don’t then I’ve been informed we will be returning bigger and better next year.

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For more details on Chelsea Flower Show click here

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EDITORS DIARY: Fun Fun One Crab on the Run

launch nightPhotograph by Teddy Dwight Frederick

Dear Readers,

Have you ever met someone for the first time and after some good ole like-minded conversation thought, where have they been all your life! Have you ever had an elevated discussion best described as an adrenaline-powered race with a high five at the finish line?

If you have, then you will know how I felt when I met Grenadian Artist Stacey Byer on home soil back in December. This was one of the very few occasions that a mouthful of the Umbrella Beach Bar burger and ocean view could not silence me. Perched on the top deck overlooking Grand Anse Beach, we talked about life on the island; life in London; art; freelancing; features and culture. You name it we deliberated it.

umbrellas beach bar grenadaPhotographs by Andrew Richards

She told me about understanding her limitations as an artist in Grenada, but using these limitations to push herself to forge a path that involves her community. Efforts that not only fulfill, but inspire her to continue to show young Grenadian children that being an artist is as reputable as being a doctor. We talked about her voluntary efforts in children’s homes where she has experienced firsthand how intrinsic art is. How it fosters children’s imagination and develops their critical thinking skills.

There are loud activist and then there are silent doers. When I asked Stacey what she is doing to change the dismissive mentality towards creative careers she calmly explained, ‘I just enjoy what I do, it’s not about convincing the country about my artistic ability. If what I do changes the way a small minority of people think great! But I go out there and share my skills with young children because I can’.  And with that said, I would like to share with you what Stacey Byer has been up to since we interviewed her two years ago.

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She is currently working with Reach Grenada to plan a second summer art camp for children in foster care and coordinating a community mural for the new Mt Zion Children’s Library.

In 2012 Stacey met best selling Cuban author Mario Picayo after attending his talk on children in the Caribbean having access to multicultural books. The bold step to walk with her portfolio resulted in the 12-month process of illustrating the imaginative children’s book Fun Fun One Crab on the Run.

Stacey and Mario combined creative forces to ensure that Caribbean children see imagery that they are familiar with when learning to read and count by featuring mangoes and lizards and not apples and squirrels.

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The book for 3-6 year olds also promotes environmental conservation by featuring detailed illustrations of animals and plants found in nature, so it was no surprise when Stacey told me her stock sold out on the night of the book launch in Grenada.

launch night 02Photograph by Teddy Dwight Frederick

And, the great news is that Fun Fun One Crab on the Run was recently donated to one hundred and thirty pre-primary and primary schools across Grenada to support national initiatives in childhood literacy. This was with the support of local corporate sponsors NAWASA, Southern Electrical, Eco Dive, Country Cold Store, 3B’s Shoe Shop, Grenada Pharmacies, Wade Optical, Island Dental, Spice Isle Retreaders, Grand Anse Playgroup and the Sweetwater Foundation.

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When presenting the books to the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, Government of Grenada in an official handover ceremony on Friday 28th February.  Permanent Secretary Ruth Elizabeth Rouse congratulated Byer on her accomplishment.

I would also like to congratulate Stacey on using her innate talent to inspire young Grenadian children.

Get your hands on this book here

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EDITOR’S DIARY: #HAPPYDAY

Dear Readers Happy International Day of Happiness!

Happiness fascinates me! I’m fascinated by how challenging it gets to literally ‘Be Happy’. The baby laughing out loud happy, the cat that got the cream happy or just to be as happy as Larry was. Sometimes I can’t turn my frown upside down because the creases in my forehead are crunching the ideas factory in my brain.

I remember being interrupted by ‘cheer up love’, while walking and crunching one day. I wasn’t unhappy, I was mentally pursuing happiness so that I could retire early (because I’d rather work to live than live to work).

‘Live in the moment not in the future’, the happy clan say, but if you were born a thinker, this is easier said than done. So, I have decided to embrace the moments that unravel my wrinkles and bring about a facial expression socially recognised as ‘Being Happy’.

1. Happiness is seeing a photograph of Steve Mcqueen, The Academy Award Winning Director of 12 Years a Slave, return to Grenada, the homeland of his mother.

EDITOR'S DIARY: #HAPPYDAY via @DiscoverGrenada

 2. Happiness is eating a West Indian meal cooked with love and plenty flavour.

942804_193252567492168_288633088_nVia @CottonsShoreDitch 

3. Happiness is having an outer body Carnival experience where you do things (involving paint, powder, wigs and waistlines) you wouldn’t normally do 364 days of the year.

1005826_733104983381883_2120302122_nNotting Hill Carnival 2013 Photographed by Frederique Rapier via Abir – The Colours of Life

4. Happiness is listening to my 104-year-old great grandmother recite the Our Father Prayer word for word.

GrannyPhotographed by Andrew Richards via The Beauty + Body issue 

5. Happiness is Coconut Water with cute outfits on Karla’s Closets thrown in.

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6. Happiness is an Indian Head Massage with Nutmeg Oil for soothing and sedating over thinkers. You can buy Grenadian Nutmeg oil in the UK via Alberta’s Garden 

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7. Happiness is lazy hammock lounging under a beaming sun

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8. Happiness is a room with a jaw dropping view of the inspiring ocean

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What things, experiences or moments make you Happy?

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