Artist and craftswoman Carol Fraser believes that one of the more meaningful developments to come out of CARIFESTA X111 for the creative industries was the encounter between nine regional fashion designers and experts from the globally recognized Italian fashion industry, not least, the fashion workshops, fashion shows and business meetings that resulted from the encounter.
Fraser, along with Sonia Noel, were the two Guyanese fashion designers who met with the Italians through a US$45,000 CARICOM-Italy project that brought the regional fashion designers together with three Italian fashion industry experts with a view to forging “new avenues for cooperation and partnership and provide opportunities for the professional development of Caribbean fashion designers and manufacturers.
Fraser, who was selected by the CARICOM Secretariat to be part of the group that met with the Italian experts told Stabroek Business on her return from Barbados that she valued the one-on-one opportunity afforded her to interact with the Italians in order to enable a professional assessment of her work.
The focus of the encounter was on expanding opportunities for training, technological exchange and international fashion shows in Italy. She said that such opportunities would place regional creative people in situations that would allow them to measure themselves against some of the best talent in the world. The ten regional fashion designers who participated in the event specialize in the areas of apparel, jewellery, hats and other accessories.
Project staff of the CARICOM Secretariat collaborated with fashion officials in Barbados in putting the event together.
Fraser told Stabroek Business that it was rewarding to be presented with the opportunity to engage “real experts” in the fashion industry “in order to allow us to get a better sense of just where we are in the Caribbean. She said that while the Italian designers appeared struck by some of the creativity evidenced in the work of Caribbean designers, “it is not difficult to see that we in the Caribbean are several years behind them.”
Fraser told Stabroek Business that it appeared to her that designers in the region were lacking in the technology that would enable them to compete with the best in the world at this stage. “At this stage there are also issues with the finish to our creations,” Fraser said, adding that the experience helped the participating regional designers “to understand exactly where we are.”
But according to Fraser the weaknesses in the regional creative sector did not necessarily preclude their work from getting the attention of markets in countries like Italy.
”What they appear to be looking for is talent and style. With training anything is possible.”
A release on the encounter from the CARICOM Secretariat said that a special showcase and business meeting was well-received by the Caribbean designers with each participant provided with feedback and advice by the Italian experts for furthering the development of their fashion lines.”
Fraser told Stabroek Business that the collective opportunity afforded the ten regional designers to engage the Italians also afforded an opportunity for intra-regional networking out of which a regional creative organization is expected to be set up with the support of CARICOM.