Universally, society has finitely socialized global citizens to accept ethnic, gender, socio-economic class and other arbitrary labels as the absolute definition of self. In October, the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago joins India, the Indian diaspora and the world to celebrate the festival of light over darkness, Divali. It is worth noting that the ancestry of the Trinbagonian began epic years ago and emerged through genealogy blending from some Amerindian, European, Indian, Chinese, African and Asian bloodlines. Some might even say that the complexity of our diversity identifies the national citizen as “TBC - Trinidad Born and Confused.” The East Indians arrived to this country as indentured labourers in 1845 on the Fatel Razack (Fath Al Razack), the first ship to bring the Indian immigrants to the island from India. As part and parcel of their contribution to this state, the East Indians brought their style of dress, traditions, customs and lifestyle. They joined other nationalities on the island who were ripped from their respective motherlands and would meet many more before their new home became an independent state where they would be now known as citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
Today, the ‘TBC’ identity crisis is real for the Trinbagonian who feels neither here nor there. They may experience fear of failure to fit in with a specific group(s) or stand out. All hope is not lost because as the Trinbagonians continue their evolution they have become conscious and undeterred in their mission to unlearn the age old, social conditioning by stereotype. They understand that the diversity and complexity of the Trinbagonian lineage represents to the world that which The House of Angostura's rum is renowned for; aged and blended to perfection. Trinbagonians are finding their way to hold their own and to redefine their authenticity of self as per their own terms. Fashion designer, Adrian Foster is just one of the many breaking the bias and this reverberates in his creative work and the extension of self, especially in his most recent contribution, the Indo-fusion sari top and shirt dress.
Adrian Foster’s design aesthetic can be described as modern minimalism that’s thoughtfully designed. His instagram biography speaks of him as, “a lover of all things beautiful.” (If you have ever worked with Adrian Foster you would understand that his biography speaks to his creative and energetic being as well. He is an unapologetically beautiful person.) Adrian, a darker toned Trinbagonian of mixed parentage is also openly gay. Foster, a creative entrepreneur leads by example through education in his art form and design through his thoughtfully designed collections. Adrian chooses to celebrate his uniqueness and embrace the blessing of mixed lineages which empowers him to tap into these connections between self and ancestry to inspire design.
Adrian tells a story in his design of the sari shirt dress. He has reimagined the history of the East Indian arrival to our country. His narrative posits the question about a young Indian voyager who is about to set sail in 1845 aboard the Fatel Razack instead she time travels to Trinidad and Tobago in the year 2021, "what would her life look like?" His vision for the sari shirt dress represents the beginning of the young Indian voyager’s time travel transition. Although she has to adapt to a new way of life, the essence of her roots will continue to journey along with her. Undeniably, one can expect that she feels disoriented and displaced existing in a space and time that has some semblance to her homeland but is stark different. She now has to rely on her instinct and intuition to adjust to this new life. Adrian Foster empathizes with the young voyager and visualizes that her clothing becomes modern and practical; her traditional sari is now a cropped day-dress, her half-slip transitions into an asymmetric pencil skirt. She develops a taste for colour as she begins to immerse herself in the rich, cultural vibrancy of the island which identifies with her clothing. She is a modern day Caribbean woman.
Furthermore, Adrian expounds on the young voyager’s story in modern day Trinidad and Tobago with the fusion of design details. He makes it possible to explore the sari shirt dress as gender neutral, a true depiction of sexual orientation in the present day society. He extracts this design detail with the mandarin collar from the traditional Indian wear for men, the kurta. His design fusion makes its mark when he lowers the neckline at the front and cuts the collar on the bias for a far from subtle but gentle drape along the neck. The sari shirt dress is complete with Adrian’s addition of a pleated shawl to be dressed over the shoulder or head respecting tradition by way of resonating with the form and function of Indian heritage, rituals and affairs.
Indian clothing has survived to be worn at rituals, celebrations and festivities with ornate designs to more contemporary east meets west fusion styles. It has become part of the Trinbagonian lifestyle and culture to celebrate and represent diversity and inclusion through clothing, food and festivity. Indian wear is worn by anyone in Trinidad and Tobago regardless of social class, sexual orientation and race. Adrian Foster’s asymmetrical wrapped crop top is yet another design that the young voyager would be donning in her new life. Subject to interpretation, the asymmetry gives her the freedom of choice to pair her crop top with articles of clothing other than the sari such as pants. It sanctions her to be whoever she wants to be without the religious, racial and socio-political confines of her past.
This Divali, Trinidad and Tobago stands (sits/limes) united to set aside our difference of opinions (disbeliefs and all other nuances of fallacy that make us human) to share with each other our interpretations of Indian influenced culture. If you choose to support local and wear Adrian Foster’s sari shirt dress and or wrapped crop top by pairing and accessorizing them to create your own signature look then that is a fashionably bold and representative choice. Remember that our freedom of choice as citizens of an independent and democratic twin island state is a privilege we get to actualize and enjoy. May we be privy to knowledge that every action and inaction just as every word said and unsaid becomes our responsibility to own. May we value our ability to choose and our better human quality to be mindful in our choices. May we choose to respect each other's differences. May we choose peace in times of conflict. May we choose hope and courage in times of struggle and strife. Above all else may we choose light over darkness.
Shop Adrian Foster this Divali
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