Monday, 31 October 2011

Trinidad, Anya Ayoung-Chee and Project Runway: Supporting Our Own

Anya Ayoung-Chee by Laura Ferreira

It has happened. Trinidad's fashion chief Anya Ayoung-Chee has prevailed, and is the newest winner of the Emmy award-winning show Project Runway.

It's a funny thing to be invested in something that you technically have no personal stake in, but that's how every Trinidadian felt over the last 2-3 months as we sat and watched Anya prevail time and time again against designers more experienced than herself. 

I was a fan of the show before Anya became a contestant. But this season I found myself torn between loyalty to my fellow Trinidadian (and Convent girl), my personal tastes, and my need to judge the show objectively. Because as much as I am glad that Anya won, there were times when she floundered and others when I simply was not personally taken with her design. (See looks 3, 8 and 9 below).

Anya's looks from this season's competition

As far as I was concerned, it didn't really matter if she was auf'd early. Making it to the show at all after battling through the "I just learnt to sew" narrative was validation enough for me. She would have made it, and people would know her name. But she fared far better than anyone could have hoped. She was a designer, she was a Trinidadian, and she was GOOD.

It cannot be denied that Trinidadians were biased. It's not a surprise, or even a problem since we had no say in the outcome. We are a bandwagonist society; but we are also fiercely loyal. Even in her "darkest hour" (Reggae Jesus I'm looking at you) Trinis rallied in support of a subpar offering; one that Anya herself acknowledged was less than exemplary. Instead of recognizing the misstep, we praised Reggae Jesus that she was spared elimination. Typical Trini logic.

But this season, what impressed me most about Anya was not her design capabilities but her sincerity. There were very few times when Anya felt the need to denigrate her fellow competitors, and she was genuinely upset when Joshua McKinley's bad mood over losing the L'Oreal challenge carried over into the next week. She managed to form genuine friendships with people who had every right to resent her successes. That to me, speaks highly of her character.  

I  was also impressed by the fact that she made sure to keep the Fan Favourite vote as positive as possible. When things started turning nasty between her fans and Anthony Ryan's in the last few days of voting, she made it clear that they were actually friends, and that she supported his initiative The Rock One Foundation, just as much as her own. After she was announced as the winner, Anya opted to share half of her winnings with Anthony Ryan to help him launch his foundation, which seeks to raise awareness of testicular cancer. With the rest, Anya plans to start a micro-finance fund to benefit other creatives in Trinidad and Tobago. She has stated that it is her way of giving back to the people who dedicated their time to supporting her throughout the competition and providing a means for other artistically minded Trinidadians to follow their own passion.

Anya's final collection for MBFW

On the show, Anya mentioned feeling the pressure of having to live up to the nation's expectations, and commenters online wondered if the pressure was all in her head. Since I knew better, something struck me about the immense support back home for her: Anya is ours and we are immeasurably proud of her. 

Trinidadians are quick to claim any person who is even vaguely well known as a compatriot. We've claimed Nicki Minaj, Nia Long and Tatyana Ali, but with the exception of Nicki (sometimes) have they ever claimed us? Anya's success resonates so deeply with the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago because she is wholly and truly ours. She grew up here, she went to school here, she represented us at Ms. Universe, she started her fashion career here and she speaks our lilting dialect. She is ours to claim completely and outright. 

So Anya, if you haven't gotten tired of hearing it already, congratulations again on winning Project Runway Season 9, and thank you for representing us so well, with equal measures of talent, class and dignity.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Soundtrack Saturday: We Found Love

Soundtrack Saturday: We Found Love- RihannaThis week's soundtrack saturday song is We Found Love. I've already told you how obsessed I am with this video, but I thought it would be a fun challenge to try to translate the music into fashion, since the wardrobe for this video is far more pedestrian than we've come to expect from Rihanna.

What I came up with is influences a lot by the style of one of my favourite bloggers Yani of vainglorious and proud. I tried to select pieces that not only worked well together but fit the more casual and relaxed aesthetic of the video. The character that Rihanna plays is all about being comfortable and wearing whatever works at that moment. I thought that the denim on denim was perfect to capture that feeling and the boots gave it the tougher edge that we see in the single cover art.

For the accessories, I tried to take my cues from things I've seen Rihanna in, or that make an appearance in the video. The animal print shades were a must, and the I chose the polish because it was the perfect colour to stand apart from the outfit while still looking like it complemented everything. I added the cross body bag as a way to make the look more pedestrian so that it translated to everyday style. Also because I have one that I love and haven't been able to wear since the clasp broke!

The lipstick, lashed and jewellery are all just complementary embellishments of varying kinds. I especially love the bow because I'm not very adventurous when it come to hair accessories, and this seems like an easy way to slowly introduce myself to them, without having to be afraid that I looked ridiculous.

How about you? What did you think about this video? How would you have styled yourself based on the themes of the song? Let me know in the comments below.

Fashion Snaps from TVFU

A long overdue post. I spent half of the weekend snapping shots of all the fashionable students who attended the event. It made me feel grossly underdressed. Thankfully there are no pictures of me to prove how dowdy I looked in comparison so I'm safe. 
I've recently taken a shine to accessories shots so that what most of these are. Shoes, bags, arm parties: lots o' fun. There is another post coming later today with pictures from the editorial floor tour. It was fantastic. stay tuned for that, but in the mean time, enjoy these lovely ladies (and their shoes).

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Taking it In: Teen Vogue Fashion University

The Teen Vogue Handbook, this month's issue ft. Alexa Chung, and the TVFU official itinerary

Yesterday's seminars were so amazing. I can honestly say that applying to TVFU is the best decision that I have made all year. I am still in awe of the fact that I was able to be there to experience the wealth of information that Teen Vogue was good enough to put together in one place for fashion hopefuls like me.

I have tons of pictures to post and fun stories to write about, but I don't have time to do it all now because I have to start getting ready to head back for closing ceremonies, but as soon as I'm back in Boston I'll post all about the great people I met, the things I learnt, and recount all the times I almost cried out of sheer joy!

For now I'll just leave you with  picture of my current prized possessions above. I'm so excited to have been a part of TVFU and I'm so grateful for the experience.

Friday, 21 October 2011

I'm in NYC!

Bill Cunningham by Scott Schuman

It's probably not very cool to be starstruck by this city, but right now, I'm not a ninja. I'm a giggly little girl who is WAY too excited for her own good. 

The last time I was in NY I was 15 years old, and I couldn't do any sight seeing or fun stuff because my knees were giving me problems and I couldn't walk anywhere. bummer. 

But I remember coming out of the subway in Times Square, looking up and just being in awe. I can't wait to have that moment again. 

I'm beyond excited to be back in New York. I've had my heart set on living and working here for some time. To me it's the ultimate goal, and just being here for the weekend is a little surreal to me. If I haven't mentioned it before, I'm in the city until Sunday for Teen Vogue's Fashion University. I found out about the program last year, but it was too late to apply, so here I am this year gearing up for some great seminars, and an amazing experience. I'm so giddy. It's probably very unbecoming.

As I write this I'm sitting in a greyhound bus. When I get in, I'll be making my way to the kick-off event at H&M, and then going back to my aunt's place to get ready for tomorrow. 

I'm going to try to blog throughout the day tomorrow, and recap each of the great talks that we get, but of course, no promises. I am very excited though. The opening speaker is Michael Kors! The said same Michael Kors who coined "Reggae Jesus" :D 

My biggest concern for this weekend is to get as many pictures as humany possible, and maybe get some sightseeing in. If I'm lucky, I might run into Bill, but I'm not lucky, so.... but we'll see. I can't wait to experience the city in its entirety. I want this  really badly, and I can't wait to make the most of the experience. Until tomorrow. (Or maybe even tonight!)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Music: We Found Love by Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris

Rihanna's newest video was released last night, and I don't know why, but something about it just entrances me completely.

I've watched it about 5 times in a row, and I still can't get enough. I genuinely think that this is one of her best efforts to date, and I'm probably going to break my own rules and buy this on itunes. 

That being said, there is a lot of.... questionable content in the video :) I have a ton to say about it, but I'm hopped up on red bull at the moment and I can't keep everything in order in my brain, so I'm going to break it down into sections:

I love the look of this video. It reads to me like an indie movie montage set to a soundtrack. The feel of everything is just so authentic, and the chemistry between Rihanna and model Dudley O'Shaughnessy is pretty tangible and it makes the entire thing a lot more interesting to watch. There are a lot of the little things: Her inhaling the cigarette smoke that he blows out, and him tattooing "MINE" on her ass (which in itself is problematic, but that's another story), and all of the face sucking. Separately those elements seem mundane, but taken together, you realize thatt these are actually the important things. These are the little pieces that make up any relationship; that inside perspective that only those two people are ever priivy to. It's positively genius. Cinematically,  there is a lot going on that speaks to what the message is, and what we should be taking away from the video, but I'll address that in more detail a little lower down.

One of the reasons I love this video so much is because it shows a different side of Rihanna than I'm accustomed to. I'me very familiar with dolled up, sexed up Rihanna, but this new fresh-faced, casual, friendly and dare I say it, ordinary Rihanna is very refreshing. In this video, she comes across as one of my reckless friends. She's someone I want to hang out with. Someone I want to get into mischief with. I really liked that because it had this "celebrities are people too" quality about it that I found very arresting.

This kind of lends itself to what I said about attitude above. Because this is regular girl Rihanna, we get a lot of regular girl clothes. And not just regular girl clothes, but "girl in a relationship" clothes. There is a lot of wearing of boyfriends clothes including his jackets and boxer shorts. I love it. It plays perfectly into the whole picture that she's painted about this relationship and the two people whose lives revolve solely around it. Their actions tell us they are each other's whole world, and the styling choices reflect that very well and very cohesively.

Similarities to other Work
On my facebook newsfeed, someone compared this video to Cee Lo's video for No One's Gonna Love You. As far as I'm concerned, the videos are no more similar than Dudley and Chris Brown are similar for both having cropped blond hair. To me, the videos are similar in the sense that they explore the same themes, but if Rihanna copied this video, then she also copied every indie movie ever put into production. The "reckless couple on a road-trip of self destruction" trope is a well trodden one. This is different than say the S&M video where the references to David La Chapelle's work were much more overt, direct and obvious.

Social Issues
I'm always a big proponent for celebrities who reject the "role model" label simply because I think that an entertainers role in the market is to entertain, and not to teach become a poster child for any particular issue. However, at this point I think Rihanna is actively trying to piss off the PTC. And on the one hand, I'm totally with her. It's not her job to raise anyone's child. But I do think that when you know that a large portion of your fanbase is not in the demographic that can responsibly interpret the message that you're sending in your craft, you do have a bit of a duty to tone it down a bit, or at the very least say that the material isn't suitable for consumers under a certain age. I'm oddly very concerned that there will be a lot of young girls who will come away from this video with an entirely wrong message, and completely miss the actual point that's being made. Teenagers just don't have the maturity to process the fact that not everything is literal. In this ONE video, there is tons of smoking, allusions to heavy drug use, shoplifting, and the implication of a highly combustible relationship. While none of these things is bad in itself (in fact I think they contribute significantly to the video's authentic feel) I guarantee that at least 100,000 young girls are going to leave this thinking "I will start smoking and find a boyfriend. Then I will be as fabulous as Rihanna."

I've rambled on about what the video isn't about. Here's what it is about:

"This is probably one of the deepest videos I've ever done. Its all about love and love being like a drug... you definitely get that from this. The good feeling of it and the dangers of it. That's what this video is about." Rihanna

Oddly enough, I think that the message is actually very clear. When I watch this I see the story of two people who are deeply in love. Two people who revolve entirely around each other. They're so consumed by each other's presence that it borders on destructive. Every day is a whirlwind for them. They're reckless and irresponsible but that's what keeps them together. What we start to see by the end though is Rihanna recognizing after a particularly rough night out that they can't continue down that road, getting out before they destroy each other. As to the perceived references to Chris Brown... steups.

I honestly love this video and I think it's positively mesmerizing. There's a great message in there if you're paying attention enough to find it, and it suits the song well. This is a side of Rihanna that I hope we see more of. 


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Long Time Tally: News and Views

Stephanie Derrick by Cate Young

So much is happening! I haven't had the time to post regularly of late because I've been so immersed in so many other projects. This is the first semester of my senior year, and there is so much to do make sure that I don't end up a bum after graduation!

This semester I'm taking a photojournalism class, a magazine workshop class, and I'm the photo editor of BU's lifestyle magazine, The Buzz. It's a lot of work, WAY too much time spent in the lab editing files, but it's one of those super ninja things that you get to look back on and congratulate yourself for powering through it. 

I'm so excited to be doing the things that I love and to be able to get experience and skills that I'll actually use in the real world. Let me tell you right now that managing a staff of 6 people is no joke. Imagine a full-sized magazine department! I'm still deciding if I'm cut out for it.

The biggest thing coming up for me right now is Teen Vogue Fashion University. This weekend, I'll be taking the bus to the mecca of New York City to spend a full day in seminars with various professionals in the fashion industry. I'll hear them speak, pick up some tips, and hopefully find some networking opportunities. To be perfectly honest, I'm terrified. This is the closest that I will ever have gotten to my DREAM!!!! :D It's a funny kind of nervous though. I'm deliriously excited, but also so anxious I might pass out. I must look like I'm on uppers to the outside person with all the nervous shaking I'm doing. 

Basically, for me this last year is all about making the connections I need to be able to find a stable job in the industry when I graduate. My options are limited, so it's really just a big marketing push for myself. It's about doing all I can to show how awesome-tastic ninja-fabulous I am so that someone will want to hire me.

In any case, when I get my bearings back, there will likely be a few more editorial changes. Though I have my calendar, I never follow it because I never have time, so that will change. I want to do more writing since I'm no longer writing for external sites, and I'm hoping to shoot more (big surprise) in the coming months.

For now, you can expect tons of pictures from TVFU this weekend, and an extensive recap. I'm so excited!!!!

Model of the Moment: Crystal Noriega

Crystal Noreiga by Nando Esparza

Trinidadian model Crystal Noriega is making waves in the international industry with her slender frame and strong features. After a successful runway season, here's to hoping she continues to makes us proud.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Editorial: Anja Konstantinova for Style Stalker “Baby’s on Fire” by Darren McDonald

Anja Konstantinova by Darren McDonald

This editorial is all kinds of awesome. Sleek lines and the perfect mix of shades. Why can't I just start working already?

Fashion Finds: Darcel Does Fashion Week

I'm posting this late because I've been so busy of late, (with fun things that I'm going to tell you about very soon!) but this week's Fashion Find is Darcel Disappoints: Faces of Fashion Week. DD is one of my favorite blogs because it's so unassuming and entertaining at the same time.  

I've posted a few of my favourite illustrations after the jump. Can you guess who they are? (Hint: The one above is Anna Wintour!) If you get tired of guessing, you can cheat a little by checking the originals over at DD, and seeing a few of the other fabulous fashion celebs illustrated darcel style.