Fashion Designers Council seeks to open doors to global industry

The creation of the new Guyana Fashion Designers Council seems set to create lucrative entrepreneurial opportunities in a sector which has, up until now, been unable to come even close to realising what is widely believed to be its considerable potential.

This is not meant to nay say the successes of some of the big names that have realised breakthroughs on a bigger scale here, in the Caribbean and even further afield. Names like Donna Ramsammy-James, Derek Moore, Pat Coates, Michelle Cole, Sonia Noel and Pamela Fox are among those that come to mind. These, by virtue of their unquestioned talents and, perhaps more importantly, hard work, have been able to carve out niches on a limited local market.

For all its constraints, fashion design in Guyana has managed to grow beyond the creation of clothing. The sector embraces the design and manufacture of jewellery, accessories and household accoutrements that include bed and bath linens and window treatments.

Contemporary fashion pieces at the Guyana Fashion Design Council launch
Contemporary fashion pieces at the Guyana Fashion Design Council launch

There have been other developments in the industry in recent years. Not least of these has been the emergence of a surfeit of local talent, would-be fashion designers whose aptitude, regrettably, is often not matched by the resources to sustain a pursuit that has always been a costly one.

Still, the ranks of the sector continue to be swollen by aspirants attracted to the potential of a market that continues to grow. Carol Fraser whose Miracle Hands creations have found their ways onto the regional and North American markets is excited by the craze for creations that embrace eco-friendly, biodegradable materials that have given rise to what she says are “new lifestyle innovations and fashion apparel.”

Fraser is one of the key players in the recently founded Guyana Fashion Designers Council, which was launched on Sunday June 30 with a show titled “Fit me 2013.” The council comprises a cluster of fashion designers and garment manufacturers brought together under the aegis of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA). What the council seeks to do is to provide a local home for the creative skills in the sector and to hone them into viable entrepreneurial pursuits that can make a commercial impact in Guyana, the region and beyond.

That the GMSA has ventured into seeking to exploit the potential in an industry that has always been constrained by a lack of resources is a feather in the cap of a business support organisation (BSO), which, in the past, has been cited for what its critics say is an indifference to the development of small businesses.

Recognising that foreign donor agencies are disposed to supporting clusters that focus on the entrepreneurial development of women, the GMSA deliberately selected the fashion industry to benefit from the funding which it sought from the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export).

Late in 2012 Caribbean Export approved a reimbursable grant worth 70 per cent (€30,000) of the project valued at €42,989.60. The council and GMSA must raise the remaining 30 per cent (€12,989.60) of the overall project allocation that will go towards capacity building in the sector. Pursuits will include training provided by professionals from home and abroad, and visits by local designers to fashion centres overseas.

The funds being provided by Caribbean Export are part of a grant made available to the region from the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), the main EU mechanism for providing community aid for development cooperation in ACP countries.

Part of the idea behind the establishment of the council is to enable the exposure of local fashion aspirants to their more experienced and accomplished counterparts. The council has already recruited the services of local fashion expert Donna Ramsammy-James who will provide a series of instructional presentations on entrepreneurial ap-proaches to fashion. Other local fashion and creative people who will be recruited to support the work of the council include Andrea Braithwaite, Olympia Small-Sonaram, Sonia Noel, Paula Evans and Paul Burnett.

GMSA President Clinton Williams believes that the creation of the council amounts to a breakthrough opportunity for the fashion design sector. “We are pursuing the lucrative opportunities available in the international multi-billion dollar fashion industry,” Williams was quoted as saying at a recent public forum.

Head of Political, Press and Information at the EU Delegation Derek Lambe also sees the setting up of the council as a new entrepreneurial opportunity for the local fashion design sector. At the event held to mark the launch of the council, Lambe pointed out that the fashion industry in Europe could be worth as much as US$40 billion that includes 850,000 companies. Directly and indirectly the industry provides around 8 million jobs throughout the supply chain.

The local council’s Management Consultant Joycelyn Williams said the current focus of the organisation is on enhancing both creative and production capacity among local fashion designers and manufacturers. She said the council’s first order of business will be to enhance cohesion in the sector and to seek to respond to its technical and marketing requirements. The council will also seek affiliation to the Jamaican, Canadian, American and Indian designers’ councils and the Toronto Fashion Incubator. It will also seek to facilitate local representation at the London Fashion Week as well as to explore the fashion sector in neighbouring countries including Suriname and Venezuela.

Crucially, the council will be seeking to engage local department stores in order to facilitate more aggressive marketing of Guyanese fashion lines. Stabroek Business understands that an understanding has already been reached with a city retailer to distribute the creations displayed at the “Fit Me 2013” show at the Umana Yana.

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