Trinidad Carnival: The New Fashion Season

International fashion gurus better stop the clock and change their calendar as there is a new fashion season in town. Although Carnival Fashion has been here a while its stamp is further embossed this year as it has grown to accommodate new fashion niches. Fashion is at an all time high during this time of the year! Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is very different from the fashion weeks or fashion shopping months of other destinations. In this twin island state, Carnival may be perceived as two days of celebration but really it is a year round production as the cycle never ends. There are various genres of fashion as well as  different concepts of “fashion houses” as they are mostly known as “mas camps” . Regardless, there is almost a certainty of some degree of creativity and expression reflected in design. This sentiment is transferred to the client who wears the item and immerses himself or herself to become one with the costume to play the role of masquerader.

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Trinidad Carnival has come a long way with wire bending, mental works and craft cutting skills that even  require some knowledge of aerodynamics for some innovations. The evolution of Carnival has spanned many decades since the inception of emancipation. The freed colony donned shorts, skirts, blouses, head ties and t- shirts to play mas. The face mask was also popular. Even when they got banned from Carnival attire the emancipated people engineered a way to use the face mask as handheld masks. They would more often than not put them on in the event of the casual riots that took place after Carnival. But the creative people could only dream more fascinating costumes and decidedly crafted Sailor , Blue Devil, Moko Jumbie costumes to connect with African culture and reenact it in their newly adopted homeland.

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After World War II, Trinidad become home to many military folk. Hence, the inspiration to design military couture; gladiator style costumes, Grecian combat gear were inventive and spurred the design evolution on further. Pioneers like Peter Minshall came on the scene and used imported equipment and technology to speed up production for the demand or the output turnover of costumes in the mas camp . He continues to remain an icon for his contributions and portrayals that reflected the art of theater depiction and narrator style story telling in his Carnival mas concepts and productions.

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Over the years, a greater majority has pushed the Carnival artisans to their limit of filling this costume demand. Hence, the packaging of  Carnival experience and costumes became prevalent. Today, there are younger masqueraders and designers. Nonetheless, the design has shifted to a ” less is more “ type of costume for some Carnival bands which are more popular with the young and upwardly mobile demographic who are concerned with their image.

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There are a few designers who still contribute to avant garde costuming. Another evolution is the idea of Carnival Monday Wear. Designers found a new niche  to satisfy clients who do not have the time to sift through boutiques or cut up t-shirts and create their own wear for Carnival Monday or simply “fete couture”. Notwithstanding, the colour of Carnival resonates throughout this type of apparel as it did for decades. Yet, now more than ever embellishments and accessories such as ear cuffs, nail glam, make up even hair dyes and hair cuts are speaking volumes of style by their far from evanescent hues.

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A spin off from all of this is the fitness fixation to get that body ready for the two day Carnival Street Party. Again another fashion niche is well put together for this arena. Colourful leggings and fitness gear customized to enable flexibility, comfort and confidence for the masquerader who is sweating off those Christmas carbohydrates and fatty tissues at the gym.

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Overall, Trinidadian designers have creativity pulsing in their blood and passion for the arts as their veins. So whilst change continues in Carnival fashion the number of Carnival participants increases annually and the desire to create, differentiate and celebrate is still burning at the heart of every artisan. There is no doubt that Carnival fashion is the new season of this year’s fashion calendar for local and regional “fashionpreneurs” and experts. It won’t  surprise me if international fashion associations, designers, stylists, models and entrepreneurs  flee their snow ridden countries for a chance to capture a glimpse of the ethereal fashion experience of Trindad Carnival Fashion (often celebrities and socialites are welcomed to participate in the festivities every year). After all who would pass up  embracing this opportunity up close and personal in the sunny isles of paradise!

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