Editors Diary

The culture, life, style and inspiration of the Editor Kered Clement

EDITOR’S DIARY: MEET KIM BARROW

Portrait by Lebwait Girma taken in January 2012 for the Women of Strength issue 

When we featured a cheerful portrait of Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize alongside his chic First Lady Kim Barrow in the Island Issue, I couldn’t wait to find out more. Introduced through Travel photographer Lebawit Girma, I was regrettably informed that she was diagnoised with Breast Cancer earlier that month. We exchanged emails and after expressing how much she loved Complexd I knew instantly that I wanted to make her the next Complexd Cover woman. Suitably, the issue was themed ‘Woman of Strength’. In the days and months that followed in preparation for the next issue, Mrs. Barrow displayed the type of strength I wished to express in the issue. When I deliberated about the cover, she sent me an email saying she wanted to show women the effects of cancer by not hiding behind a wig in her cover shot. I felt honoured when I found out she made that extra effort when all her strength was being drained by this life-threatening illness. Through Kim, I have seen first-hand how the power of love and support can fight off the deadliest disease. I am so happy to be publishing these portraits below because on her face is an ever-present glow and appreciation for life that she talks about in our latest interview. Enjoy reading.

Editor: Was recovery as hard as the diagnosis?

Kim: I took my recovery one day at a time. I did a total of six chemotherapy sessions and a mastectomy. I was scheduled for 30 fractions of radiations, but suffered heart failure after 15. I was in the intensive care unit for a week when the doctors finally agreed to terminate radiation. After resting for almost three months, I went for a second opinion on my heart condition at MD Anderson Cancer Centre, while also seeking the advice of a Radiologist. I completed 20 additional fractions of radiation on September 19th 2012. There really is no magic that can get you through the process – it’s about believing, having faith and always being positive.

Editor: How did you cope with being away from your family when you were undergoing treatment in Miami?

Kim: The hardest part of it was being away from my seven year old daughter, Salima. She was and continues to be my greatest source of strength. My husband Dean was very supportive and helped tremendously during that time. He spent a few days fighting the fight with me in Miami and I received so much support from family and friends. Some of them flew out to help me with daily task like cooking, cleaning and washing. I was never alone whether being accompanied on visits to the hospital or just somebody sitting quietly in the room with me. Not a day went by without my mum and siblings being there or giving me a call. I also met what I describe as ‘angels on earth’, who stood beside me as sentries along the way. They and all of my wonderful countrymen filled my heart with incredible joy and buoyed my spirit just when I needed it the most. I am changed forever. My appreciation for the true goodness of the human spirit knows no boundaries and my faith in God remains eternally true.

Editor: Did having heart failure set you back in your fight against Breast Cancer?

Kim: This whole experience is truly life changing; it has made me very aware of both the fragility and strength of the human being and the incredible flexibility and adaptability of the body, mind and soul. At first, I couldn’t believe this was happening to me – a young and healthy woman who worked hard, ate well and exercised daily. As a mother of a seven-year old child, it was especially hard. It forced me to recognise that cancer does not filter through its recipients and when it chooses you, you have to prepare for combat, lace up your boxing gloves and be ready for the fight. I have fought this enemy with everything I have!

Editor: You continued campaigning throughout your recovery, how did you manage it all?

Kim: I was happy that I was able to maintain my workload with the various charities that I administer in Belize. This was a wonderful distraction that took me away from my own troubles as I concentrated on helping others. Once again the incredibly positive power of giving upheld my spirit.

Editor: How does it feel to finally be home and what’s next?

Kim: I’m elated to be back home, especially for my daughter Salima. It’s been one year since my diagnosis and as difficult as it has been for me, can you imagine how difficult it has been for my little girl. I’m happy to be home with her and Dean and be more hands on with the various projects I’ve been spearheading. Right now I am focusing on two projects. The Inspiration Center, which will offer rehabilitative therapies to children with disabilities in Belize and the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Karl Huesner Memorial Hospital where we hope to treat children with cancer.

Editor: After everything you have been through, what advice would you give to a woman who has just been diagnosed and to women in general relating to Breast Cancer Awareness?

Kim: For my cancer warriors, who remain in battle with this dastardly foe, I say, try to remain positive and calm. Stress and negativity are cancer’s best friends. Focus on yourself and make sure you eat well, continue to exercise and remember to say your prayers. Be thankful for every small step you take towards recovery and don’t let the clouds that cover your sun-filled sky put a downer on your recuperation. They will eventually shift as time goes on.

Cancer does not have a brain, a heart, or a spirit. It doesn’t have the ability to plan or be cunning. It’s up to us and our doctors to strategise its demise. We must fight with our brain and also our heart and soul. I have my own personal battle plan and every day I attack cancer. Keep fighting, keep the faith and always remain hopeful!

For those who have won the battle and are cancer free, I applaud you because I know that you have been through hell and lived to tell the tale. I have a new perspective on life; it should not and cannot be taken for granted!

We must always revel in the small moments that make life worth living and lend a helping hand to those who are still in the midst of their battle. To the loved ones of women who lost their fight, I can only imagine how difficult it was for you to watch your mother, grandmother, sister, aunt or daughter go through this terrible ordeal. Please take care of your health, learn from the experience, grasp the importance of regular breast exams, mammograms, check-ups and become an advocate for others to do the same. Living a fruitful and healthy life is the best way to honour the memory of those who have gone before you.

Kim and Salima photographed by Olivera Rusu in Belize

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EDITOR’S DIARY: UK SCREENING – NOTHING LIKE CHOCOLATE

Monday saw the official start of Chocolate Week, but before you make a dash for your stash of chocolate, stop to consider where the cocoa beans that produce that addictive and highly indulgent treat come from?

On Monday evening the Grenada Board of Tourism invited me to the private screening of Nothing Like Chocolate, an independent film Directed by Kum-Kum Bhavnani, narrated by Susan Sarandon and starring Mott Green – an anarchist chocolatier on the island of Grenada.

Kum-Kum Bhavnani and her film crew trekked through the rural landscape documenting the continued growth of Mott Green’s chocolate-producing co-operative, while exposing the practices of how the harvesting of the cacao bean has been violated commercially. The film recaps the shocking discovery and inhumane treatment of trafficked children, forced to work on cocoa farms in West Africa. Juxtapose ginormous factories in the USA whose owners know what’s going on, but don’t care enough to regulate the industry.

I visited Mott Green’s Bon Bon shop at the Belmont Estate on my last trip to Grenada and sampled their award-winning organic dark chocolate. In my opinion, it was sensational. Organic chocolate is an acquired taste, so I wouldn’t touch the 100% chocolate bar again unless I was stripped of all my taste buds. But, I am not being a biased patriot when I say that the fruity flavours in the 60% bar, have really grown on me.

The film was fascinating, here you had an American man nicknamed ‘Smilo’ by Grenadians and to us a Willy Wonka with good intentions, running around Grenada, often bare-footed with noticeable holes in his t-shirt. As a British Grenadian I knew that it was this very behavior that allowed him to infiltrate the local community. Grenadians are friendly, but proud people, so walking humbly among them works better than behaving like a figure of superiority. Mott was exactly that when he addressed us after the film at the Ritzy Picturehouse in Brixton. He was unpretentious, soft spoken and honest and with every question that incited expansion, his main concern was ensuring his collective of farmers reaped the benefits as much as the Grenada Chocolate Company did.

Throughout the film we saw the curious faces of Grenadian people and children and the active lives of cocoa farmers. While local farmers collected $60 for a month of physically strenuous work, scenes of men with expressions of kids in a candy store gambled the price of cocoa beans earning up to $100 a minute. While a farmer said that this little wage for harvesting his cocoa will be his income to eat and survive for the next month, to the gambler the actual bean was insignificant.

Present in a few of the scenes was an inspiring Complexd Woman – independent female cocoa farmer Necile Stewart. On screen Necile shared with us her love for agriculture, which was almost infectious as she sang her way through the bushes while maintaining her crop. It was a real tearjerker moment when Necile single handily mixed cement to lay the foundations for a bedroom she was building for her son. I’ve been working on the Female Empowerment issue focusing on women who prosper in a male dominated environment and Necile was a perfect example. There stood a female farmer and construction worker, raising seven children and still had time to spruce up and put on her Sundays best for Church.

After the film Director, Kum Kum finished by saying that she hoped the film would encourage people to not buy chocolate made with cocoa beans produced by enslaved children. And, on that note I will proudly profess that any time I have a chocolate craving, I will pop down to my local Waitrose or Wholefoods and pay that extra bit for Chocolate from the Grenadian Chocolate Company, whose bars were delivered to the UK sustainably on a sailing ship.

I grabbed a few minutes with the inspirational Mott Green aka Smilo after the screening.

Editor: Why did you choose Grenada and are you planning to expand on the products you offer at the Grenadian Chocolate Company?

Mott: I’m cynic! The fair trade movement hasn’t done anything. I think the best thing to do as a chocolate maker is to make chocolate right near the origin of the cocoa so there is no chance of corruption. The climate is not the best place to keep the chocolate cool, it’s very hot and humid and Grenada has one of the most expensive electricity rates in the world, but because of genetics Grenada is able to produce one of the best tasting chocolates. You can have the best equipment in the world, but you can’t take a rubbish cocoa bean and make good chocolate. I’m a bit of a purest, which is why I haven’t included flavours from the various spices found in Grenada. It’s a very special cocoa bean and the traditional idea was to bring out all the inherent flavours. We have opened a little shop called Bon Bon chocolates and that’s where we mix every kind of spice and fruit with our chocolate. We just released on a small scale and only available in Grenada a dry organic banana. We grow bananas on our coco farms and a lot of them are wasted so I recently started it up as a little side project.

Editor: What’s the relationship between you and the farmers and how do they benefit from joining your cooperative?

Mott: As well as paying them a higher rate than the Government, farmers also become major shareholders of the Grenada Chocolate Company. So far, all of our profits have gone into expansion, so there hasn’t been passive income as yet, but when there is it will be distributed to all the shareholders, which includes the farmers.

Editor: And what about this amazing woman Miss Nelice?

Mott: Miss Nelice is a pending member of the Grenadian Chocolate Company now, but it’s going to take another year for her to be certified as organic according to the regulations. As soon as that process is complete she will be one of our twelve member farms.

Editor: What has been the overall impact of the cooperative on the economy of Grenada?

Mott: There are about 100,000 people in Grenada, cocoa has been in decline so only a third of the people make a living from it. It’s slowly picking up because of the new popularity and the scarcity of Grenadian cocoa, which is considered one of the best in the world. Grenada exported 750 tons last year and we did 23 tons, so we want to keep growing and growing. When you include all the people that work in the factory on the farms and their families, we are about 40-50 strong and that makes a huge impact on the people directly involved. We still have a long way to go to change the country, but we have started making small changes in the coco sector in a significant way because we created an environment that is considered viable and safe for farmers to join. We just need the chocolate sales to match the production.

Extended Trailer:

Find out more about The Grenada Chocolate Company here

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GUEST POST: BY SOPHIE RAE

I am delighted to introduce our guest blogger Sophie Rae. Complexd Woman Sophie was featured in the 2nd Anniversary issue (page 50-55). Here, she writes about how her career as a food writer/stylist blossomed and gives us her top three restaurant recommendations to trail for London Restaurant Festival, which kicked off yesterday.  

MUFFINTOPS 

By Sophie Rae

                                                                                             

I’d like to think that over the years, my tastes have refined, my palette matured and all in all my stomach understands the appropriate portion that a lady should eat. Well, I can vouch for everything but the latter.

Allow me to explain. I eat for my job. Not in a ‘I can’t stop stress munching my way through a pack of cheesy Doritos’ kind of eating; I HAVE to eat for my job. As a recipe tester and food writer, it’s the only way.

About 2 years ago, I found myself in London with no job, no money and no plan. Cue stress. So I began to cook. Cue muffintops. And whilst eating my way into an oblivious culinary cocoon, my career was inadvertently blossoming. One tedious evening, as I lamented next to our oven pining for a raspberry soufflé to rise faster, I decided what I wanted to do for a living. ‘Install ovens’ I hear you cry? Well not exactly.

Fast forward 2 years later, imagine some tears, a lot of grit, hard work and the occasional sprinkle of just plain luck and you have me. As a freelancer, I flit my way through the publishing world with all the grace of a hippo to write, cook and talk about food. Seems ridiculous really doesn’t it? But there it is. I eat for a living.

I test recipes for national editorials, twice, sometimes three times until they’re perfect, so that readers simply can’t complain if their dinner party was a complete shambles, because (and allow me to be modest here) the food will not have been the problem.

If you’re feeding a lot of guests, try the ‘one pot wonder’. Take chicken thighs, diced chorizo, peppers, courgettes, red onions, garlic; drizzle in oil and throw everything in a roasting pan. Roast for an hour. Serve with rocket salad and a mountain of crusty bread to mop up the spicy paprika juices. An all round favourite and most importantly so simple and stress free, because if the host is flapping around the kitchen, the guests will too. And unless you’re all Michelin star chefs, too many cooks in a kitchen, ends in tears. Or worse, a fire.

It seems that my love affair with food had been gently simmering through my adolescence, bubbling away ever so quietly until it knew it could be served. In hindsight, it should have been obvious. My school lunch box was always filled with random savoury experiments (brie and grape cracker anyone?) and I never did ever cotton on to the whole McDonald’s craze through my teenage years (it’s just not a burger unless it has 80% meat content). So perhaps in university when student loans pinged into our bank accounts and I’d rather visit the artisan deli instead of the pub, I really should have paid more attention. Or the look of childish glee on my face, every time mum served us spaghetti bolognese, which to this day is still my favourite meal. My tip? Get good quality mince, cook it a day in advance for the flavours to deepen and if your mouth doesn’t resemble smeared red lipstick then you simply haven’t eaten it properly. This is not date food, this is home comforts; and at home, we allow ourselves to slurp.

I’m hardly what you call a domestic goddess; laundry gets left to the last minute, I have only a quaint familiarity with our hoover and from time to time the dishwasher leaves a distinct whiff, informing me that I’ve been overusing the garlic again. Yet I think in some way, as long as you can feed yourself and loved ones a variety of vibrant, healthy meals, filled with fresh and tasty flavours with, of course, the odd devilishly naughty treat thrown in for good sugar measure, you’re already winning the battle of the ready meals. With all the fantastic produce on our doorstep, there really is no excuse for bad food anymore.

Taking a masterclass with British celebrity chef and restauranteur Marco Pierre White 

However if the idea of cooking is still too much to bear, then your in luck because from the 1st-15th October, this glorious city plays host to London Restaurant Festival. In a spectacular celebration of eating out, a plethora of eateries are serving tantalizing menus, to get people’s taste buds tingling again and I have a fair few favourites.

  • Head to Sherlocks Bar & Grill in the Park Plaza for the most succulent of charred chicken. (108 Baker Street, W1U 6LJ)

  • Try the Oxo Tower for it’s elegant brasserie with breathtaking views of the city and a formidable wine list with over 800 bottles to chose from across the globe. (Southbank, SE1 9PH)

  • Because we Brits can’t pass by a good curry, book a table at the sought after Michelin Star Tamarind in Mayfair, for it’s fragrant aromas, sugar and spice and all things nice. Be warned, the rose petal martinis are highly addictive. (20 Queen Street, W1J 5PR)

Ranging from £10pp to £40pp set menus, it’s a wonderful fortnight offering the chance to dine at the most exclusive of restaurants for a fraction of the normal price. So get eating!

Follow Sophie @muffintops88

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EDITOR’S DIARY: BREAST CANCER AWARENESS

October is the month to increase awareness about Breast Cancer and according to statistics published by the Breast Cancer Care organization, this October around 4,000 people will receive the devastating news they have breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second biggest cause of death for women and nearly 12,000 people die from invasive breast cancer in the UK every year. These unsettling statistics are published each year and although there are campaigns and messages urging women to self-check, there is still a sense of immortality among many young women.

When I came across a series of topless portraits of women in recovery, I knew it would be the strongest visual message to ‘raise awareness and inspire action’. New Zealand based photographer Damien Nikora’s aim was to produce emotive portraits that would support women living with breast cancer and inspire their partners, families and friends.

Violet Lawrence and her husband who are featured in the portrait above with photographer Damien Nikora and his wife, Whakarongotai, and their children, Nazareth and Opal at the Portraits of Strength Exhibition Opening.

As one woman photographed by Damien puts it, ‘I am not an exhibitionist by nature, but breast cancer is regrettably so common now, I think it’s important to cross that last frontier’.

View more portraits here

Read the full interview in Complexd on page 70-75 here 

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EDITOR’S DIARY: A GOOD SPEECH

Endangered Bodies is a global campaign that challenges the culture that teaches women to hate their bodies. Complexd attended the launch of the Endangered Species Summit held in London last year, while the body positive message was also being spread in New York, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Melbourne.

Female led charities, non-profit organisations, specialist and governmental representatives were invited to discuss their individual concerns. But the interview that really made me sit up and listen and eventually led to a feature in the magazine was that of writer, editor and activist Sharon Haywood.

It’s one of those speeches that really awakens your concerns about what’s going on in other parts of the world. Watch the full speech filmed by documentary filmmaker Elena Rossini.

Read the full article on page 44-47 here

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EDITOR’S DIARY: BODY GOSSIP

I never get tired of celebrating the goals set and achieved by women featured in Complexd magazine. In our the Beauty + Body issue last year we featured our first live interview coined ‘Complexd Couch’ with Natasha Devon from Body Gossip.  Filmed at home on her couch, she gave an honest and open interview about her experiences with her body, overcoming Bulimia and learning to love her curves. (Watch video here)

 buy book here

Body Gossip is a campaign, which allows people to share and explore their issues about body image. I was pleased to hear from Natasha that Body Gossip recently launched their first paperback book, featuring 300 body image stories written by people of all ages, races, shapes and sizes across the UK.

I love these T-shirts worn at their book launch earlier this month and I can’t wait to read the intimate stories of people brave enough to share their thoughts about their bodies.

You can also take part and share your thoughts, opinions and stories relating to body image on their website www.bodygossip.org

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EDITOR’S DIARY: EXHIBITION @ LFW

The Exhibition at LFW houses 110 designers, showcasing 30 new designers for spring/summer 13. Here’s a round up of my favourite finds.

Sold in London, New York, Asia and the Middle East, Willow is a global brand whose Creative Director Kit Willow originates from Sydney. Having learnt to master drapery in Paris, her SS13 collection features goddess style dresses with strong underwear support to enhance the female form.

Irish designer Danielle Romeril’s debut collection displays her experimentation with geometric digital prints, laser cut leather, silver silk lame and Swarovski crystal pearls. She explores her inspiration found in Regency convex mirrors, sliding square puzzles and the photography of John Thompson’s ‘China Series’ through fabric combination and decoration.

Design duo Fyodor Golan sought inspiration from the book ‘Blue Tattoo’ for their SS13 collection. Through the collection, the designers tell the story of the Victorian girl captured by a Native American tribe in the desserts of North America. Each piece combines Native elements with Mayan and Aztec aesthetics. The detailed designs tell the story of her transition from the traditions and customs of the tribe that adopted her to being sold back into White Victorian society.

Top to bottom - Buba London, Mawi, Yunus & Eliza

Top: A range of bags handmade in Delhi and cutely named Calypso are designs by Euan Mcdonald and Lesley Silwood of Buba London. Their collections are inspired by the exotic cultural colours and shapes of Goa to the florescent glamour of Ibiza’s Techno scene.

Middle: Indian designer Mari Keivom injects into her jewellery house influences from travelling to many continents and experiencing different cultures as the daughter of a diplomat. Her collection fuses cutting edge style with traditional influences and old-school glamour.

Bottom: Jewellers Yunus & Eliza designed these organic face sculptures to collaborate with the SS13 collection of label Fyodor Golan (above). Yunus and Eliza are inspired by theatre and fantasy and create  signature sculptural collections that bridge the gap between art and fashion.

Images by Frederique Rapier

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EDITOR’S DIARY: THE ALIGN PRIVATE FASHION SHOWCASE

London Fashion Week spring/summer is my favourite season! It’s a chance for me to shed the protective layers that safeguard my thin skin and joyfully embrace the sheer fabrics that complement my small frame. So it seemed fitting to start my fashionable week last night at the private fashion Showcase of three iconic designers from the blissful climate of the Caribbean. Held at the Mayfair Hotel’s Amarillo Suite, Project Runway Season nine winner, Anya Ayoung-Chee and clothing designers Meiling and jewelry designer Rachel Ross gave an intimate crowd a preview of their spring/summer 2013 collections.

During this season I fret at the lack of diversity in the on-schedule catwalk shows and non-existent presence of Caribbean designers, but this is slowly changing with organisations like The Trinidad & Tobago Coalition of Services, Louise Laurent PR and Fashion Consultant David Jones, who all pulled together to introduce these strong Caribbean brands to a UK market.

The show started when large doors opened to reveal a regal boudoir draped with three models in sensual silk pieces from the ‘Carnival of Colours’ collection by Anya. This was closely followed by the simple modern cuts of Meiling adorned with Rachel Ross jewelry.

The vibrancy of Caribbean fashion is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the wardrobes of well-travelled cosmopolitan women would reveal that we mix and match trends inspired by cultures around the world more than ever. I asked a varied range of women at the showcase what they thought about the collections and I spoke to each designer to find out how they feel their designs can fit into a European market.

Jo Cheng – Artist – China (Wearing – Zara, Topshop and Urban Outfitters)

 ‘Anya’s collection is amazing and she is a lovely person. Her designs are very elegant and I think they will work really well in Europe possibly in China’

Merci – Designer – Uganda (wearing – all own designs  Merci Me)

‘I appreciate Meiling’s collection; I love the fact that it’s effortless, classy and stylish all at the same time. Anya’s collection is beautiful too, there is definitely room for her designs in the European market and in the African market as-well, a lot of the textures and prints she uses can translate to African culture’

Alicja Sobczak – Jewelry Designer – Poland (wearing – Zara skirt – H&M top – My own necklace)

‘I could see Anya’s designs selling well in big cities like Kraków or Warsaw in Poland, which are big International markets with a diverse range of people who appreciate good fashion’ 

Cola Bling – DJ/Music TV Presenter – British Jamaican (wearing – Dress by Nairobi Children)

‘Meiling’s collection is forward thinking but also very classic. The detail and the embroidery adds to the femininity of each piece and I love her use of bright white’

Charlotte Webb/ Jessica Archman – London ( Charlotte wearing – blue Topshop top and trousers, collar from COS/ Jessica wearing Primark top – river island trousers – red or dead boots)

Charlotte‘I loved Anya’s collection; it’s something I would wear on a night out. It’s sexy but sophisticated as-well and I definitely think it has potential in London’

Jessica‘I can see myself in Anya’s designs in the summer in London it’s beautiful’

                                                                                                                    

Anya Ayoung Chee –The first Caribbean designer to win Project Runway Season 9 and winner of Fan Favorite HP/Intel and L’Oreal prize after showing her Spring/Summer 2012 Collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York.

Editor: How has your designs evolved since your Project Runway victory on season 9?

Anya: My spring/summer 2013 collection ‘Carnival of Colours’ is an exploration of the aesthetic of the Caribbean combined with living in New York and Harlem. In this collection I am staying true to myself, but adding elements of my city lifestyle. Before I went on Project Runway, I had no formal training so I was designing not constructing garments. When I started to build up my sewing skills on the show I played it safe with floaty unstructured pieces. The irony of that is, that’s what people love and want! And, I love nothing more than creating easy, flowing sexy pieces that you can throw on with a pair of flats and with the right accessories still look glamorous.

Editor: A lot of women here tonight have expressed interest in your pieces, are there any plans to cater to women living in colder climates?

Anya: I definitely think my designs can adapt with the use of more toned down colours like blue and mulberry. The silhouettes would remain the same making it more suitable for evening-wear, but I’m still fresh on the scene so I’m taking my time before I start entering into autumn/winter collections.  I’m so committed to making this brand what it is and it’s all about island style for now. I would love to see people wearing my pieces all year long, but as a young start up brand I am mindful of what that requires financially. Take for example Diane Von Furstenberg, she didn’t make a fall collection for 15 years and no one expected anything else. My designs are suited to warmer climates, which has opened my eyes to emerging markets that PILAR fits very well in like South Africa, Brazil and Dubai. I am showing my collection for the first time at Johannesburg Fashion Week in October and I am extremely excited about the prospects.

 Image source

Where can we buy your pieces?

The first stop is my website where pieces have been available, but not as frequently as I would like. Over the next few months I will be making pieces readily available in boutique quantities and limited edition lines, as the production is manageable for me right now. My long-term goals are with major online retailers like ASOS, but I’m taking it one step at a time. The ‘Carnival of Colours’ collection is a higher price point, but on my website you will be able to purchase similar pieces at a more affordable price. My dream is to have people wear my clothes not just look at them.  Regardless of Project Runway, as an entrepreneurial designer, this is an ongoing process of making my pieces frequently and financially accessible in boutiques across the Caribbean, US and Europe.

What makes you Complexd?

I am Complexd because I am true to me. In my world that means being true to my aesthetic and taking risk. Project Runway has definitely shown me the benefits of taking risk and learning lessons. During the process of learning it creates all these layers of personal stories and journey’s which when accumulated make you the person you are.

Image source 

                                                                                                             

Meiling Esau - As the Caribbean’s premier fashion designer, Meiling was recently honoured with the Women of Influence Award from the most influential networking woman’s group in the Caribbean, The Association of Female Executives of Trinidad & Tobago. 

Editor: Tell me about the history of your brand Meiling and how it’s evolved over the years?

Meiling: The brand has been entrenched in Caribbean fashion for over 30 years. It all started in the sixties when I returned home after studying fashion in London and couldn’t find anything to wear. Like everything else in fashion, the timing was right and I launched my label. The name became known because I was the first of many young designers on the scene and TV personalities started to wear my clothing.

Since then it has always been my aim to push myself so that Meiling Inc. remains relevant, new and fresh in the industry. I always try new things and when I started to dress celebrities and entertainers in the Caribbean region, it opened the market and allowed me to launch trendier diffusions lines for a younger audience like Z-Meiling. Over the last few years I have been designing another label called MSquared – a line based on the H&M model with a distributor in Trinidad with seven shops. Last year I ventured into sleepwear and home wear, which gives my clientele even more options under the Meiling brand. I recently co-found 6 Carlos magazine – a content heavy art, culture and fashion magazine that is relevant to anyone who is interested in world topics, but also wants to learn a bit more about the Caribbean and artist from the Caribbean.

Editor: What does your brand mean to Trinidadian women and how can it fit into the European market?

Meiling: I am now dressing four generations of Trinidadian women. I designed Anya’s mother’s wedding dress and I will be designing hers. When the name became established, Trinidadian women wanted to own and wear a piece of my clothing. The brand is very special to Trinidadian women, but I have also established the name outside Trinidad. In 2008 I was given the ‘Grand Master of Fashion Design Award’ at Caribbean Fashion Week in Jamaica. Anyone in Europe can take a piece from my resort line and adapt it to suit their city wardrobe. It’s just about how you team it together, which is why I refer to myself as a designer who happens to be living in the Caribbean.

Image by Gary Jordan 

Editor: What legacy do you hope Meiling Inc. will leave in the Fashion Industry?

Meiling: People will always say she was an amazing designer, but I want to be remembered as someone who has mentored and encouraged emerging talent. I teach a nine-week BA course at the Fashion Academy in Trinidad and I prepare students producing their final collections. I am always willing to help, give advice and share my expertise. I always tell my students, you’re only as good as your last collection and you cannot rest on your laurels. You have to constantly push yourselves. I have worked very hard and because I have a shop, I have to produce two retail collections every year. I’ve been doing that for the last 30 years and these collections are not just to look at, they do sell. I didn’t get where I am today by not working. One of my biggest aims is to be working at 90 years of age and still be relevant.

Editor: What makes you Complexd?

Meiling: I’m a Complexd woman because I have no patience for sloth. I am extremely punctual and fastidious about my whole lifestyle and my mind works all the time. I’m a workaholic, my work is my passion and it comes first.

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Rachel Ross – Talented Trinidadian Jewelry designer Ross aims to facilitate the introduction of the Same Sky initiative in Trinidadian market – A company whose aim is to empower women by giving them the tools to become entrepreneurs and lead self-sustaining lives. 

Image by Tony da Silva

Editor: What has been the feedback from your debut showcase in London tonight?

Rachel: The feedback has been fantastic and I am pleased to say it’s been really encouraging. It’s a finicky world, you never know who is going to like what and how people are going to respond, but everyone seems excited.

Editor: What inspired this jewelry collection?

Rachel: The selection of jewelry on display show a range of what I do as apposed to being a collection. Most of my designs are hand-made, we do a little bit of casting, but I don’t mass-produce so most of my pieces are one-offs. I’m inspired by materials sourced in everyday life, which I love turning into gems. For example, I made a brass cuff with an oyster shell on it, the oyster shell has become my gem and within it I have set cubic zirconia in silver. That combination is what I think is unique about Rachel Ross jewelry. Not many people will use that combination, but I love the raw element and mix of textures, which gives life to the pieces.

Editor: What would be your advice to aspiring Jewelry Designers?

Rachel: I became a Jewelry Designer by accident. I studied Geology and never finished my degree so I went back to Trinidad. I got into jewelry making after observing the work of a friend’s brother, who was also a jeweler. I was always very artistic and jewelry making just felt right and I’ve been doing it for 25 years. There are two key ingredients for being successful in the jewelry business, one is certainly hard work and the second is having something that sets you apart from everybody else.

Image source 

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EDITOR’S DIARY: FASHION NIGHT OUT 2012

We are all excited at the Complexd HQ because tonight is the 4th annual Vogue Fashion Night Out in London and around the world. Celebrated in 18 different countries, it’s a night for both consumers and retailers to make a big effort in the celebration of fashion and all things voguish.

Last year I sashayed through the streets of London surrounded by the bold, beautiful and fashionably delirious. This year I plan to join in with the intimate celebrations at Orla Kiely flagship store to witness the launch of the AW12 party range.

I spotted this dazzling top at Orla Kiely’s presentation at London Fashion Week in February. In the style of an afternoon tea dance, the collection was presented on models and dancers, not far-off from scenes in James Clavell film ‘To Sir With Love’, where the designer got her inspiration for this collection.

 Orla Kiely Tea Party presentation photographed by Kris Atomic 

With a gold textured fabric at the front and sheer silk organza adorned with a tiny dragonfly print at the back, I can’t wait to style this stand out piece with something simple.

Along with drinks, canapés and live music, the wishes of three lucky shoppers will also come true. Whatever they wish for, they are guaranteed a modern/retro piece that effortlessly finds its place between the elegance of the 50s-60s and architectural structure of today’s fashion.

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EDITOR’S DIARY: CARIBBEAN FILM CORNER

…and now for my next instalment on Caribbean cinema.

Caribbean Film Corner (CFC), which kicks off tonight, is a free annual event showcasing feature films, short films, documentaries and animation by Caribbean filmmakers. All the films, which will be shown over the next four nights have been produced in the region including Latin American, the French, English and Dutch speaking islands in the Caribbean Basin and Caribbean diaspora.

This year’s event will celebrate 50 years of independence for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago as well as a display of work from filmmakers in eight different Caribbean islands. If you can’t make it to Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival (the largest film event in the English-speaking Caribbean), Trinidadian native and producer Neigeme Glasgow-Maeda in collaboration with experienced events manager Marc Woods of Kalinago Entertainment have brought eight productions from Trinidadian filmmakers to your doorstep.

I bumped into Marc and Neigeme at the BFI’s screening of ‘Better Mus Come’ and ‘New Caribbean Cinema’, and they were extremely excited by the turnout and growing interest of Caribbean cinema in the UK. We had a little chat about what this means for Caribbean Film Corner, which is not a one-off event and how they intend to progress with the demand.

Neigeme Glasgow-Maeda at the BFI screening of New Caribbean Cinema

Editor: How important and relevant do you think it is to have an event like Caribbean Film Corner in UK?

Neigeme: It is massively important that this festival exists in the UK, because it is one of the only mediums for West Indian filmmakers to get their films shown to an international audience – exposure that is very important for them as artists. More importantly back in their home countries it allows broadcasters to see that their films have an international appeal and spurs them to start paying for locally produced content. It also spurs governments to start investing in film and recognising that they need to support this budding industry that has great export potential as well as developing the market for Caribbean films by expanding its audience base.

Marc: Caribbean Film Corner is extremely relevant as it allows nationals and their descendants to get a sense of their own voice and it gives non-Caribbean people a chance to watch our own stories. We get a lot of bad press here in the UK so CFC is a way for us to show off the talent our region produces.

Editor: What was the response from audiences at last year’s showcase and have you made any new additions or improvements?

Neigeme: The response as always has been great, but we seek to do more than just reach out to the West Indian community. Our aim is to bring Caribbean Cinema to the world! We want to reach out to the wider community and those who wouldn’t have normally associated Cinema with the Caribbean. The improvements that we’ve made are mainly in the quality of the films. We have teamed up with Studio3210 a Caribbean film distribution company to ensure that the films have a life after the festival, which could provide a positive financial return for the filmmakers. This is another incentive for Caribbean producers to continue investing in films.

Marc: Because of the success of last years event we were able to establish a sponsorship relationship with Caribbean Airlines (CAL). They are now our title sponsor this year so it’s a big boost for us. We aim to work with them to increase the audience in the UK, Europe and back home in the Caribbean. With their assistance, we believe we will be able to provide an even greater platform for our filmmakers to disseminate their content.

Editor: What is the criterion for filmmakers wanting to showcase at Caribbean Film Corner?

Neigeme & Marc: The festival is not only for filmmakers living in the Caribbean. It is also open to West Indians who’ve made films that have nothing to do with the Caribbean, the Diaspora, and non-West Indian filmmakers who have made a film in or about the Caribbean, its people and culture. The main criterion for selection is the quality of the film, documentary or animation.

Editor: What can we expect from Caribbean Film Corner in the near future?

Neigeme: We are hoping to start a showcase in France. We will be back in Antigua in November and Martinique and Guadeloupe in December adding workshops to our existing format. Next year we are traveling to Cannes and the Berlinale to promote Caribbean cinema and we’ll be back on the hunt for those gems of Caribbean cinema no matter where they are.

Marc Woods speaking at Caribbean Film Corner 2011

Marc: We plan to have more regular Caribbean Film Corner screenings. The aim is to be the go to place in London for Caribbean film screenings.

Caribbean Film Corner 2012 – 5th-7th September at the Tabernacle, 35 Powis Square, London W11 2AY

Find out more about what and who is showing on their website and Facebook 

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