Fashion retailing vs the Golden Jubilee design syndrome

As the preparations for Guyana’s Golden Jubilee continue to stimulate excitement across the diaspora, many are hoping to capitalize monetarily during the festivities. To be quite honest, I am a bit sad about not being home to bask in all the joy and celebrations.

20141115the last wordThe excitement of the Jubilee celebrations however has resulted in the overnight designer syndrome. Many new faces to the fashion scene are expected to make their debut whilst many older faces, who have been relatively silent for the past few years are using the opportunity to launch new collections. I don’t necessarily like to be the bearer of bad news but this sort of opportunistic interest in fashion makes me question the possibility of fashion ever becoming a real industry in Guyana. It’s this type of behaviour that essentially stagnates industry growth. People pick up the craft conveniently, drop it appropriately and don’t pay enough attention to it for too long to truly reap its harvest. As harsh as this may sound this is the reality of the industry.

Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being creative during this time but essentially this opportunistic pop-up shop mentality towards fashion dilutes the industry in the grand scheme of things.

The pop-up fashion show/shop mentality is not only applicable to Guyana’s Jubilee celebrations but for the fashion industry in general. Now with social media and so forth it has become easier for us for create and celebrate business models that work to our convenience only and this has somehow found its way into the fashion industry. Fashion designing has, sadly, become a side gig ‘opportunity’ for many with only a few truly caring about making it their full-fledged career.

20160430Duo Cuffy longAs the excitement continues to build up, I wonder to myself what new will come from all these Jubilee collections. I have started to see the works of a few designers and I have observed that many are choosing to base their collections solely on the colours of the Golden Arrowhead. Whilst I love the colours of the flag; in all honesty all I could manage to feel is boredom out of my skull if such a thing is even possible.

I pondered on what would become of the outfits after the Jubilee celebrations would have become nothing but a distant memory in the minds of many? Will the average buyer now clock it in as just another souvenir piece? Will it be mixed into their general wardrobe? And most importantly will they support the designer ever again?

The problem with many designers in Guyana, is their approach in adapting their aesthetic to trends, wearable silhouettes and how they prepare for retail after the shows. I find most Guyanese designers tend to be out of touch with practicality and the consumer in general.

In truth, the excitement and patronage during the period might just be impulsive; a false alarm to the fashion industry’s development, like what Monday Wear Carnival designing has done in Trinidad’s so-called fashion industry. The most anticipated question is who will steal the spotlight and which designer will be commercially successful from all of this.

I personally believe Duo Collection is one of the few that will manage to win the hearts of many and possibly be the most commercially successful one.

Finally, there is a local brand that is trying to glue fashion designing and a retail vibe together wholesomely. Nadia Thomas-Winter and Natalya Thomas, who are the creative minds behind Duo, said in a telephone interview that while the collection, United and Free, is culturally and Jubilee inspired, they really wanted to move away from the very saturated ethos of fashion designing in Guyana, which lingers much over the one-time-wear look. They insisted that everything must be wearable and practical and that their pieces shouldn’t occupy closet space and cause clutter. In addition, Natalya said it is for the Guyanese woman who is on the move.

The collection places its central theme on highlighting national and historic symbols and picturesque flora and fauna that fascinate many. In addition, Natalya said it was crucially important for Duo to create its own independent print for the collection so that the designs would be difficult to replicate and maximize an originality feel.

I think it’s the first time I have seen a local brand creating its own prints, apart from the fabric dyeing and painting that takes place. It’s the distinctiveness of the textile being merged with practical everyday silhouettes that makes this collection stand out miles from the rest. Another impressive vibe from the collection is that you could see some sort of thought process throughout it. The print essentially allows the pieces to become socio-political statement pieces. It develops a meaningful tie with the consumer and in some instances even a debatable twist that may upset some as the swimsuits will be carrying the St George’s Cathedral print on them; very daring and provocative, but then it’s a secular country.

 

Retailing the Duo Collection

While most designers run their own production line, Duo will be outsourcing the factory production. Nadia stated that the collection must be retailable and accessible outside the window period of the 50th celebrations. The designs will be mass produced and made available through Amazon, local boutiques and the brand’s e-store that was scheduled to be launched by today.  Nadia said that while the cuts and silhouettes are very commercial, it is equally important that they are available through effective retail channels for any collection and designer to be successful and this is often a setback for local designers. It is the poor access to the necessary retail outlets. The ranges of pieces that will be covered include: jumpsuits both long and short, shift dresses, maxi skirts and dresses, swimsuits, trousers and tops. The brand will also be carrying a shoe line. Nadia reiterated that the collection is designed in such a way that the pieces can be interchangeable in any woman’s wardrobe, which allows Duo to be a more investment- worthy brand for the 50th.

 

Pricing and sizing

The pieces will be available from US size 2 to US size 16 and the cost of the collection will range between US$30 and US$200. The collection has approximately 20 pieces, however only 15 will be displayed when the collection makes its debut on May 21 for the Guyana Fashion Council’s Fashion Show.

While putting out a collection for the Golden Jubilee can be seen as opportunistic, it was most pleasing to see a brand commercializing the designs with heavy intentions for retail prospects.  At least someone is thinking of the business reality of fashion that many ignore. Of course I can’t legitimately comment on quality as I haven’t felt any of the pieces, however from the detailing to the fabric designing, this is shaping up to be a successful collection from my point of view.

All photos are from Duo Collection’s ‘United and Free’ line.

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