Complexd Women

A day in the life of cosmopolitan women around the world

An Ode to Caribbean Self-Awareness

IMG_0897-1Shop The Runway: Gillian E Designs available at ShopCaribbeanFashion.com 

“Fashion is not something that exists in verses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street… fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

Coco Chanel

           Though consistent in its impact, its ability to pique interest, desire, disgust even, fashion is by nature ever-changing…and yet it manages to maintain a common thread – its brilliance in creating beautiful pieces from the most basic of inspirations. It is for this reason that Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW) – the region’s first major fashion production – remains a celebrated calendar event, pulling fashion followers and global media to the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston, Jamaica, each year to absorb the latest runway offerings. It’s no secret that Caribbean culture and fashion – especially Jamaican – have a far-reaching impact on the wider world, and as such, the 14-year-old show is always on the hot list of international fashion events to attend. Our fashion incorporates a kaleidoscope of cultural influences spanning the continents and weaves it all together with what makes us unique – our edge, spirit and survival instinct.

cfw 01Glam: Model Diedre’ Mckenzie at the Fashion Gala at Audi Showroom in Jamaica 

cfw 05Budding: Up-and-coming designer Kurt Campbell 

You never know just what you’ll get on and off the CFW runway. You can find anything from a taste of Asia, to remnants of European colonisation, gothic influences, pieces inspired by our biodiverse environs, dancehall music and the hustle and bustle of life in the streets. This year was a bit different. Black, white and red were staples in a number of collections shown last Saturday and Sunday. So, too were tropical prints, dancehall influences, and yes, the bubble hem is back. And, of course the newly introduced shopcaribbeanfashion.com website, launched at Saturday’s show which presents the opportunity to shop the collections right away.

cfw 06 Stunners stand out: Pulse Model Alyssa Wells

What spoke to us most was the message, be it stated or implied, in the collections that charmed us with playfulness and reeled us in with a call to action. There was an unwitting synergy of sorts, a shared consciousness with the designers for the two-night showcase where the emergence of the self-loving, culturally aware Caribbean individual was celebrated. It was all about Afrocentrism and ethnic pride drawn from a melting pot of diverse cultural influences. On the runway – Pulse’s striking Sue-Dionne Lewis, internationally acclaimed Pulse model-come-actor Oraine Barrett, fresh-faced visitor Vanessa Davidson (a Jamaican based in New York City), and ComplexdWoman darling Grenadian model Aria Francis, (whose Nell Robinson-reminiscent glide we absolutely adore) – were among those representing that fact. It was a declaration of ultimate ‘Caribbeanness’ and African awareness illustrated by emerging and established designers from the Caribbean, UK, Canada, America and Benin. Here are our picks for the most effective messengers at CFW 2014.

complexdwoman magazineNew Face: Grenadian Model Aria Francis getting some industry tips from Jamaican Supermodel Oraine Barrett

Yvonne Jewnell

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This year’s winner of the Caribbean Fashion Week Emerging Designer Award, 17-year-old Parsons graduate Yvonne Jewnell, jetted in from New York to make her mark on the CFW runway. Her unique collection of beaded, hand-painted fabrics in neutral tones and pops of red featured unconventional silhouettes, which, despite being influenced by many cultures was mired in black identity. Little wonder she rose to the top of a pool of nine hopefuls to claim the award.

Ochun

Guadelopean designer Anicee Martin’s elegant collection paid homage to Yoruban Orisha Ochun, the goddess of love, intimacy, beauty and wealth. We loved the understatedly opulent prints and effortlessly seductive fabric movement. She managed to present a well-edited package around the theme, simultaneously incorporating elements of traditional Guadelopean dress with hints of gold, lively colours and layering.

Alicia Mullings

There was no mistaking the powerful black historical symbolism in British designer Alicia Mullings’ collection, starring Marcus Garvey and prints featuring imagery of African queens for good measure. Her wide leg tailored pants, midi skirts and bomber jackets were well received.

Vain Glory – Old Harbour Babe

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Jamaican designer Jehan Jackson debuted her Vain Glory collection with a resort wear line dubbed Old Harbour Babe in reference to Old Harbour, St Catherine, Jamaica – her mother’s hometown. Think sophistication, ‘tropico’ and dancehall sass – rattan visors and floppy hats (an oversized basket, too) for drama. Light, airy outfits featuring hand-made textiles brought Old Harbour’s landscape to life with a touch of ‘plantocracy’ to bring it all together gloriously.

Mariska’s Designs

Sonia Noel is no stranger to the business of fashion. She’s been one of Guyana’s leading designers, fashion event organisers and boutique owners for over 15 years and has even dressed Michelle Williams, former member of Destiny’s Child. Her line, inspired by her daughter Mariska, was elegant and regal. Her latticework-inspired pieces, be it in tent shapes or floor-length gowns, flowed down the runway and made for a refreshing take on Guyanese sensibilities, African roots and global influences.

Honorine Amoussou

We expected much from Amoussou as a representative of the motherland and she certainly delivered. The designer, who hails from Benin, captivated eyes and hearts with the customary rich fabrics and vibrant colours of the African continent in a fresh and modern way. Her collection was well curated and beautifully accessorised, driving home the point that we are, after all, the descendants of Kings and Queens.

Mutamba

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Continuing the regal trend for the two-day fashion showcase, the Mutamba collection by Jacqueline Cohen was an absolute delight. She has been making a cultural statement with her prêt-à-porter line long before tribal looks became the rage, and yet her pieces are still always refreshing. This year’s impressive collection featured Mutamba’s signature Rasta-chic looks in breathable fabrics. She used solid black, crisp whites and vibrant colours to create practical, comfortable and elegant looks that still managed to bring the sexy (cue jaw-dropping cut-out evening dress). We loved the pocketed scarves most – trendy, unique and light for summer, plus you can slip one on in cooler climes when your hands need some extra warmth.

Save the Buccoo Reef

Though she officially started her career after graduating from the Caribbean Association of Fashion and Design in 2012, Delia Alleyne is quickly becoming one of the region’s most influential designers. She was part of a contingent of designers from Trinidad and Tobago to show at this year’s Caribbean Fashion Week – where industry giants such as Meiling Esau and Robert Young of The Cloth hail from.

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Her 14-piece ‘Save the Buccoo Reef’ collection, composed of net, linens, charmeuse and iridescent gems, though not teeming with Afrocentrism, was undoubtedly one of the strongest exhibited on Saturday. Inspired by Tobago’s 10-acre endangered tourist attraction Buccoo Reef, her daring pieces speak to the ComplexdWoman in a seafoam palette. She showed embellished, attention-grabbing ensembles for all occasions – from leggings to playsuits, circle skirts to ball gowns – in an attempt to use her creativity for good. She is passionate about the environment and our need as Caribbean people to take care of our home, our legacy, and hopes to wake up the public and entice her government into a partnership to protect the reef. We love her collection and applaud her efforts.

As Karl Lagerfeld rightly said, “…fashion is not only about clothes – it’s about all kinds of change.”

Report by Tameka Coley

Photographs by Henry Robinson 

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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.

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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 

07-awon-golding-millinery-london-snakeskin-swirl_grandeSS13 – Racing Collection 

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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COMPLEXDMAN: KIBWE MCGANN

COMPLEXDMAN: KIBWE MCGANN

Name: Kibwe Zwadie McGann
Occupation: Film Producer, Event Planner, Talent Manager, Garage Proprietor
Place of birth: Kingston, Jamaica
Current residence: Jamaica

I grew up in a large culturally diverse family. My father is Rastafarian and my mother is Christian, which taught me to be tolerant of all types of people. Rastafarianism is more than just a religion, it’s a lifestyle that encourages humility and humbleness and revolt against oppressive systems. In my home religion is very colourful and open for discussion. It was this freedom to experiment  that inspired me to be creative and appreciate the arts.

I manage and operate McGann’s Auto Place, a full service auto-centre. That part of my life is a complete surprise to most people because my passion is film and entertainment. I have produced and directed several reality TV shows across the Caribbean and my biggest project to date was SPLASH, a Caribbean lifestyle series that aired on Black Entertainment Television (BET) in the UK and on Centric (BET’s sister station) in the USA.

In 2012 along with Sean Lyn and Kara-Ann Anderson I co-founded Kingston Bridal Week, the first and only bridal week in Jamaica. The week long event, which brings together the best in fashion, cuisine, lifestyle, family and entertainment has really changed the bridal market and expo space. We are now catering to the demand through Wedding Spectacular, a two day event that opens today and promotes peer-to-peer marketing, providing an interactive bridal platform for a younger market.

1383679_532360390186277_1161344291_nThe Kingston Bridal Week Team and Mr. Randy Fenoli

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Me and my business partner Sean Lyn run Intuit Concepts – a marketing firm that offers services in event management, new media and television production. We love nothing more than writing a strong business proposal, executing ideas and seeing them to fruition and Kingston Bridal Week definitely broke the stereotype of men being awful wedding planners. I don’t like to limit myself in my work and career, which is why you will find me juggling a few business projects that span a wide range of industries.

Jamaican Bride

I also enjoy the fashion, production and modeling aspect of putting on an event. This came from my earlier career as professional model. I was based in Johannesburg, South Africa and it was such an eye opener. South Africa has its own version of every popular magazine, catalogue and department store. Their commercial market is major so work is abundant because production is cheap. South Africa is the place for young models to build their portfolios and get magazine tear sheets. Then you move on, hence my return home to Jamaica.

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Jamaican people are very creative and industrious. We pioneered and pushed Reggae music to the four corners of the earth. In the last five years young talent such as Mykal Cushnie (director, producer and editor), Storm Saulter (movie director ‘Better Mus Come’) and Jay Will (Music video director) have been pushing the film barrier. Fashion is also very much alive and I believe that Kingston is going to be one of the next fashion capitals representing the Caribbean.

behind the scenesJamaica’s most talented Mykal Cushnie 

Men are people whom much is expected. The title ‘Man’ comes with considerable pressure coupled with the inherent expectation to lead and be the ‘breadwinner’. In my opinion, that’s where a lot of the contention and relationship issues stem. I love confident women who know what their about. Ambition and intellect are certainly deal breakers and I am most certainly drawn to cultured and well-travelled women.

BETBehind the scenes filming Splash

My philosophy in life is a quote from Oprah where she said in an interview, ‘do what you love and the money will come’.  I was always fascinated by film, as a model I was more interested in what was happening behind the scenes. My journey into production began as a Grip, the person that helps unpack the truck and carry the film equipment. I then moved up the ranks to Runner, the person who gets the coffee and basically runs around. Then, I pushed through to Production Assistant to become the Executive Producer of my own series on BET seen in 200 million homes.

527624_10151242919021061_1888550045_nFounders of Intuit Concepts discuss business with Fashion Designer Lubica 

I am a ComplexdMan because I’m a WORK-A-HOLIC. I strongly believe ‘where there is will, there is a way’. I believe that if I want the moon, I can have it.

To find out more about Kingston Bridal Week visit www.kingstonbridalweek.com

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COMPLEXDWOMAN: LYNDAH WELLS

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 19.11.08Photographed by Evan Hunt Photo

Name:  Lyndah Wells
Age: 30 something
Occupation: Photographer
Place of birth: Lagos, Nigeria
Current residence: Freeport, Grand Bahamas 
 
My siblings and I were born and bred in Lagos, Nigeria – the homeland of our parents. We moved to London when I was five years old and in my early teens I was sent to boarding school in Stoke-on-Trent. Boarding school was where I learned to be independent and take care of myself. When I left school at 15 my father moved us to Nigeria so that we knew where we came from.  It was huge culture shock! On top of adjusting to change we had to accept the breakdown of my parents marriage. When I left after four years, Nigeria left a sour taste in my mouth. Now I love it! When I took my husband Douglas for the first time I noticed how much things had changed socially. I couldn’t appreciate the social life when I was a young woman. Especially not with three brothers threatening to break the bones in every potential boyfriends body. 

1014335_10152457969566393_176522349_nMother, Daughter and Grandmother  

My day begins at 7am when my daughter wakes up and says ‘hi’. We head to the kitchen to make my daily cappuccino (I don’t have breakfast). Then, we play for an hour before she eats (or doesn’t eat) her breakfast. As a full-time working mother I’ve leant how to juggle clients, editing, photo-shoots and grocery shopping, but regardless of how many things I have to juggle, I always try to make an effort with what I wear. Layla loves nothing more than dressing up in my clothes too.

mum and layla

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When I started out as a photographer, I spent a lot of time copying what I saw. It takes time to define yourself through your work. Eventually you get to the stage where you can step back and see your style clearly. My style of photography is honest, clean and simple. It’s fresh and full of light and air. I love how people respond to my work. I became a wedding photographer by accident, but I enjoy being a part of one of the happiest days of a couple’s life. That happiness is infectious and it shows in my work.
 
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I went back to university after leaving Nigeria and studied Furniture Design & Technology at London Metropolitan University (formerly London Guildhall University) and then went on to get a Residential Interior Design diploma at The Design School in London. I met my husband on a ten-day visit in the Bahamas and it changed my life. I never thought I would leave London, but I absolutely love living here because it has allowed me to become an artist and photographer. I have had so many wonderful opportunities and met so many kindred spirits. I love being able to put on a t-shirt and denim shorts in December, I love being able to raise my daughter in the sunshine and not worry about who is looking at her in the playground and most of all, I love the friends I have made in the seven years I’ve lived here.
 
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The best thing about being a mother is hearing Layla’s laugh and snort when I tickle her, the way she kisses whichever part of my body her lips can reach and gives me a pat on the back after a hug. I went back to work three weeks after giving birth because I have a great support system at home and my husband is a wonderful hands-on dad. There are times when I feel guilty for working so much, but I do make sure that I spend quality time with Layla, have date nights with Doug and go dancing with my girls. 
 
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I am a ComplexdWoman because I am independent even as a wife and mother. I have courage and the conviction to be me even when I feel insecure. I’m not sure it’s necessarily about being a woman, but it’s definitely about being Lyndah. My advice to other women would be the same advice I will give to my daughter. Be the best you can be in every way possible, don’t look outside for assurance because it all starts from within and the beauty that was created in you. If you believe in that beauty, there is no stopping you.

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COMPLEXDWOMAN: ARIA FRANCIS

COMPLEXDWOMAN: ARIA FRANCIS
 
Name: Aria Francis
Age: 21
Occupation: Student/Model
Place of birth: Grenada
Current residence:  Happy Hill, St. George, Grenada

CW: Where are you based and tell us a bit more about your home country?

AF: I live in Grenada, an island with exciting annual cultural events. My African ancestors were transported to Grenada during the slave trade and later regained their freedom. I love my country and the one thing I look forward to every year is our Carnival. Growing up in Grenada was blissful. I remember the games me and my siblings and cousins used to play and the jokes we used to have during our summer vacation.

CW: Was this your first editorial fashion shoot?

AF: Yes! It was my first editorial shoot and I was honoured to work with such an experienced and professional team. It was twice as awesome shooting at La Luna Resort in Grenada. I had the chance to put the different poses and facial expressions I have been practicing into action and fully engage with the camera. I loved every moment of it.

CW: Why do you want to become a professional model?

AF: I developed a love for fashion from a very young age and watching shows like America’s Next Top Model gave me a little insight into the modeling industry. I wanted to start much younger, but due to lack of resources in Grenada I have remained patient and take part in mini fashion shows and beauty pageants to gain experience. I’ve been building my model portfolio with Grenadian photographers in beautiful locations throughout our island and I interact with models across the  Caribbean who give me great tips and advice.

CW: With fashion season in full swing. What models and designers will you be looking out for and what Fashion Week do you dream of attending?

AF: Definitely Naomi Campbell, I would love to meet her one day. Naomi is a determined and fierce model, it’s even nicer to know she is of Afro-Caribbean descent and has broken down barriers in fashion. I love to watch the runway shows of classic high-end labels like Chanel, Valentino, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. It would be a dream-come-true to attend Paris Fashion Week and walk for Valentino.

CW: What are some of the challenges of pursuing modeling in Grenada?

AR: The state of the economy and not being able to host a Fashion Week here. But in saying that, I have a very supportive management team pushing me towards the best agencies. A fellow Grenadian model and I were chosen to represent Grenada in the 2011 Elite Model Look Caribbean Competition, held in Trinidad. This really pushed me out there and also taught me to be a chameleon in every situation. It gave me the confidence and know-how to try different things on and off the runway and during photo-shoots.

CW: What makes you a ComplexdWoman? 

AF: I am very disciplined and I can follow direction and take criticism without feeling defeated. I believe in change and I believe everyone can pursue their dreams once they pluck up the courage. I see each day as an opportunity to grow, achieve and aspire to be the best version of myself.

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Swimsuit: Silhouette by Neisha La Touche/ Accessories: D’ Accessory Place Grenada

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Swimsuit: Mostaza/ Chiffon Scarf: Silhouette by Neisha La Touche/Earrings: D’ Accessory Place Grenada

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Swimsuit and wrap skirt: Silhouette by Neisha La Touche/Accessories: D’ Accessory Place Grenada

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Dress:Jus Fashion Boutique Grenada/Bracelets: D’ Accessory Place Grenada/Sandals:A Step Above Grenada

Creative Team

Photographed by Salima Esmail – Lima Es Photography Model: Aria Francis @ Elite Model Look Grenada, Styling /Designs by Neisha La Touche, Makeup by Shelley Waldron and Hair by Keldon Roberts

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COMPLEXDWOMAN: DEBBIE VAN DER PUTTEN

Portrait by Brian Rolfe 

Name:  Debbie van der Putten
Age: 27
Occupation: Model
Place of birth: Helmond, The Netherlands
Current residence: Helmond and London

I grew up in a small town in the south of the Netherlands called Helmond. I had a lovely childhood and to this day I am very close with my parents and sisters. Even though my sisters live a very different life to me – I can’t imagine life without them. I love to look after my sister’s kids. Spending time with friends and family is so valuable to me so I never let work and travel get in the way of quality time. Without my family I wouldn’t be who I am today so I try to find the balance between both worlds. In fact, we just enjoyed some sisterly time in New York and Vegas.

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My life completely changed at the age of 19. My friends and I were travelling to Spain when our coach crashed in the South of France. Two people were killed and several badly injured. I lost my right arm in the crash, but I don’t look at it as a loss because I gained so much from that tragic accident. Life is what you make it and for me every day is a gift. Thanks to my disability I have had the chance to travel the world, work for amazing non-profit organisations and campaigns that inspire people.

brian rolfe photography

Portrait by Brian Rolfe

Like everything career there are pros and cons. A handful of companies see disabled models as professional models so it can be severely underpaid. There is this mentality that it’s OK to book disabled models for free because they are doing the disabled community a favor. To be frank, it angers me because I have bills to pay. I take what I do very seriously and would like to do it full-time.

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I have been represented by specialist agencies like Models of Diversity because mainstream agencies still don’t think that models with a disability can sell to their clients. They give reasons like ‘we don’t want to give false hope’ and many more. I always wonder how they can justify their reason if they have never tried. I’m not the only one! There are many more beautiful models like Shaholly Ayers from Hawaii who get turned down all the time. But we refuse to give up!

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I hope that soon we can see a better representation of society in advertising and popular consumer magazines and disable models signed to agencies that work with popular brands. Women come in all shapes and sizes. I believe beauty is in the depths of a woman’s eyes. The happiness that comes from within is what makes us alluring.

 Marc Sakro

Portrait by Marc Sakro 

I am a ComplexdWoman because my determination to make a change and the fact I turned my biggest loss (my arm), into my biggest win!

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COMPLEXD WOMEN: LONDON FASHION WEEK 15TH-19TH FEB

The different shades, shapes and sizes in attendance at London Fashion Week AW2013

Photographs by Frederique Rapier 

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COMPLEXD WOMAN: ZAINAB SALBI

Zainab Salbi grew up in Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s rule. At the age of eleven, her father was chosen to serve as Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot and Zainab and her family were often forced to spend weekends with Saddam where he watched their every move. She turned her life around from an abusive arranged marriage to forging a new identity as a champion of women survivors of war and founded Women for Women International in 1993.

Women for Women a non-profit humanitarian organisation, continues to undergo rigorous work in Iraq through one-year programs that include direct financial aid, rights awareness classes, job-skills training and emotional support. 57.5% of their programs participants cannot read or write more than their name so the ultimate aim is to help women become more independent.

Four Iraqi women, who are graduates of the holistic training programme of life, business and vocational skills, made a short documentary illustrating what life is like for Iraqi women a year after President Obama announced the official end of the war in Iraq.

Forty years ago Iraqi women and men were equal under the law and women enjoyed many rights similar to those of women in the UK today. However, since the early 1990s women have seen their rights curtailed and their participation in all areas of society dramatically inhibited. Today, the lack of security and policing in Iraq has led to women being attacked in the streets by people with different political agendas who want to impose veiling, gender segregation and discrimination.

This short documentary below, titled ‘Hands of Hope’ explores how women can overcome economic hardship and lead change in their families and communities through access to knowledge and resources.

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COMPLEXD WOMAN: ALICJA SOBCZAK

Name: Alicja Sobczak
Age:26
Occupation: Jewelry Designer
Place of birth:Poland
Current residence:London

I was born in Southern Poland near Krakow. It’s a region where culture and tradition play an important role in people’s lives. My upbringing was slightly different from the average Polish family. My parents were very creative and active so we traveled a lot, listened to different types of music and absolutely loved art. Creativity has always been a huge part of my life and I believe this has had a great impact on my career choice.

 A day in my life is quite intense and begins rather early. I wake up at 6am and start the day by exercising. Before heading off to work, I pack my oversized bag with the tools I cannot function without. I never get home before 9pm, which is why it is so important for me to have all my equipment to hand. I am very health conscious and keen on eating well so I usually go for a salad at lunch. Once I’ve finished work, I find a place to sit, unpack all my devices and begin designing. I spend my free time working on my personal projects and contacting galleries where I can showcase my work.

My initial inspiration comes from the colours and shapes of things around me, in particular, the shapes and colours found in nature and Architecture. Once I absorb that inspiration I decide upon a theme and I work from it. The research is crucial so I start with mood boards as it helps me remember what I am trying to achieve. I always try to do something that has never been done before, so I combine various techniques and test the boundaries of the materials I use against my own skills. I strive to create unusual pieces that without words translate the designing process to the admirer or wearer.

The fashion market is always changing and extremely cutthroat. It forgets about you quickly so it’s important to put your work out there all the time. The main problem for emerging designers in Poland is promoting our work. The marketing budgets are much larger in the UK so in Poland we focus on brand recognition and customer loyalty. 



The fashion industry is focused on cyclical changes dictated by trends. I have learnt that to be successful you have to be able to adapt quickly to these changes while keeping a strong personal trademark. That’s the rule I try to follow when adapting to a different environment or market.

 Why do I love being a woman? Well I have a waist, hips and bust and I can change like a chameleon. I can complicate simple matters and resolve difficult issues. When I feel like it I act helpless and let someone else take care of me and the contents of my handbag can look a total mess! The list is absolutely endless and every single woman has her own individual quirks. My advice to every woman is to follow your ambitions and realise your own goals – be creative and be proud of yourself. I am Complexd because I’m on a mission to make my dreams a reality. I love what I do and I use my creativity to the fullest!

www.alicjasobczak.com

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COMPLEXD WOMAN: SHEBA SAHLEMARIAM

Name: Sheba Sahlemariam
Occupation: R&B/Reggae/Afro-Beat Artist
Place of birth: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Current residence: Brooklyn, New York City

I’m Ethiopian, born in Addis Ababa, but raised in exile with New York City as my home base. My parents were international civil servants and after the revolution in Ethiopia, my family became scattered around the globe. We were quite nomadic and traveled around a lot so I grew up in Guyana and I’ve lived in Germany, Canada, Jamaica and too many other places to mention.

I don’t sleep a ton so I’m an early riser. I like to get up between six and seven so I can hit my computer and get some work done. I start my day with a super food shake, because it makes me feel less guilty about the coffee or anything junkie that I might have right after. I’m an artist from head to toe so my clothes are always colorful, bohemian and rebellious. You would be hard pressed to catch me in a suit or anything too status quo.

I make my living doing the odd thing here and there. I used to work as a Marketing Director before I decided to go full throttle with music. Since then, I’ve held down a zillion part time jobs doing everything from selling real estate to packaging and selling essential oils. I am currently working on a project titled ‘Who is the Queen of Hearts’. I wrote this song called ‘Queen of Hearts’ a time in my life when I felt like a line was being drawn in the sand. My personality and persona has always been loud, but if you strip everything away, all the culture, pizzaz and bells and whistles, I’m just a woman who is lead by her heart, even if it’s broken. I think a lot of people can relate to that and there are a lot of ‘Queen of Hearts’ out there.

This project, album, my whole philosophy is about heart, courage and passion. When people listen to my music I want them to feel the heart in my music so I could have a real relationship with my fans. I have two albums worth of material that I will be releasing over the next year and there is a lot coming down the pike; like self-directed videos and possibly a book. But I want people to get a sense of who I am and what I stand for before I start plying them with a ton of new material.

I was feeling lost and heartbroken when I put out the song ‘Love This Lifetime’ with Bounty Killer. I was burned out from running the label, I did not make money back and was having a difficult time supporting myself. I had to move out of my home and find new ways to get some income. I basically took time out and wandered around Europe for a few months, visiting friends and family, and ended up doing a pilgrimage across France and Spain that renewed my purpose and love for life.

My forthcoming album ‘The Queen of Hearts’ is a collection of songs that take you through the journey I went on from seeing things in black and white to Technicolor. It’s a chronicle of going from an optimistic and eager young woman to a Queen of Hearts, who’s seen a thing or two and had her heart broken, but found her way back home again.

The song titled ‘Technicolor’ was inspired by all the people that were there for me, reminding me that life is about good relationships and being around loved ones. Musically, expect a pop album with a lot of international, global culture influenced by my travels and life. So there’s dance/edm, a little reggae, African and rock.

I love the feminine spark in me that is sensual, sexy, compassionate, powerful, divine and motherly all at the same time. Women give birth to worlds. Being a woman is awesome. If I had to give another woman advice I would tell her to be the Queen of her own heart. Wait for no one; you are the one you have been waiting for. Step into your power and open up like a lotus flower. Shine and never apologize for being a light in the world.

We are all special and unique, but my particular brand of special is colorful, honest, bold, spicy and very global. I am a Complexd Woman because I grew up in the UN community where I was constantly interacting with different people from different cultures. Growing up scrappy little kid in New York City and coming from this rich ancient heritage in Ethiopia have all informed me and made my particular voice interesting and flavored. I am a woman with a lot to say and a lot of stories to tell.

@myqueenofhearts

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