What does any Fashion Week mean to the average Bermudian and why should it be important?

Fashion Week is often a strange time for me. I’m always the most excited about it even though I’ve only seen one (Milan F/W 2010) and it’s because Fashion is my love, my passion. However, to the average Bermudian, it is another week, nothing significant. I think this is what bothers me the most about the industry in Bermuda. I rarely hear about local buyers being present at the brands that they carry in store or being truly familiar with the brand and their ethics. How are you able to educate your salespeople if you aren’t willing to do the research? I think this may be a problem, but I went on this little topic because of the larger ramifications, not really these trickle down ones. 

Currently in Bermuda, everybody is either a model, photographer, make up artist or designer (no, i’m not talking about the ones who have invested time, money, education and made sacrifices for their art) but nobody has any real interest in the business of Fashion. They all see the glamour and the celebrity, but rarely are they willing to invest the kind of patience that it takes to make it to the top for the average person within the industry. Very few, if any, have a Fashion trajectory like the one of Shiona Turini(@shionat), Bermuda’s only claim to the industry since Polly Hornburg. I would say that she is the exception to the rule for Bermudians. She is educated in her craft and has done very well for herself (If you need to know more, google her, as I already know the background. It should be important to others to appreciate her accomplishments as well, since the industry is so harsh and nearly impenetrable unless you know somebody, or happen to be at the right place in the right time).  Especially, if you are passionate about Fashion. I’ve digressed but anyways, It has made me question a few things. I consider myself among the few who have really put in the time and effort to understand my craft as a Fashion Stylist. I crave the entire process of styling with my every breath, but I can not afford to be a Fashion Stylist in Bermuda. There is no industry here, and it really begs the question, “Why?”. 

There should definitely be room for an educated stylist within the retail community in Bermuda, but there isn’t. I’m not talking about being a personal shopper or a wardrobe consultant. Fashion styling goes above and beyond those realms for me. It’s not even a diss, I value both of those roles, but I feel like a Fashion Stylist is inherently both, with something extra. Styling elevates everything, because it’s all about the visual stimulation that the subject matter provides. The emotions that it evokes combined with the subtle nuances of the past, present and future. It is a special mind that can flip through references and realities and create something wholly unseen, or recreate something that references an original, but does so from an entirely new perspective. A Stylist has to be more than a designer, more than a photographer, just more, because they create the foundation for everything to explode out of. It is all expression, but you are the maestro, the enabler of everybody else to bring their best to the table and create something beautiful and poignant. An image that sticks, whether in print or in real life. That is the goal. But there is no room for my goal here. 

I think it is incredibly sad that I have to venture anywhere else to be successful on my terms in Fashion.I mean of course of love to travel and I will always plant roots somewhere different from time to time, but It’s stressful. I admire Polly Hornburg so much, but there hasn’t been someone who defines what Bermudian Fashion is since nor continuously and avidly promoting her fashion perspective. It’s horrible. I can’t even imagine what she thinks right now about Calypso Bermuda, let alone Fashion in Bermuda. I can’t even imagine that we haven’t had an exhibit just using her clothing as yet. She redefined so much for our culture and ultimately plunged Bermuda into an epic time in Fashion. Where is the continuance of this legacy? Where are the structure and resources that are needed to foster this level of creative interpretation? It baffles my brain that so few that have real talent in Bermuda are afforded the opportunities that they need to actually bring the Bermuda product back. We had some of the best seamstresses, but that is practically obsolete. You can barely find a sewing class, and it isn’t taught in all the schools anymore, but it used to be considered an important skill to know the construction and quality of garments on the island. I’m not even sure what happened, but we’ve forgotten the core of what makes us uniquely Bermudian when it comes to fashion. We were never trend followers, but innovators. Before, I could spot a Bermudian from a mile away. Now, I’m not even sure some of these Bermudians remember where they are from as they are so caught up with being in fashion, instead of cultivating a Style. I shrug my shoulders all the time but not in defeat. I think there is room for somebody who honours their cultural heritage the way that I do in the world, and I think it’s more of us out there who share a similar vision. We don’t want to have to go all over the world to be successful Fashion Stylist, Designers, Photographers, Make up Artists , Editors etc. We should be able to do that here because it’s possible. We should be employing people to ensure that two retail shops across the street from each other do not carry the same labels, to ensure variety on Reid and Front Street. We should be targeting smaller, more lucrative brands, as well the more established brands on Front Street. We need to invest in our Fashion Culture as it is a billion dollar industry, especially if we want to be the resort destination of the East Coast, and potentially the world. We need to start having things that appeal to all segments because of the taste and quality of what we are offering, is not there right now. Maybe, just maybe there is more to fashion that meets the eye, like a multi billion dollar industry that feeds other billion dollar enterprises. 

What does having a “real” body mean??

I’ve always found it rather interesting how other women find it so easy to say that I do not have a “real” body. What is a “real” body? I am totally confused about what a “real” body is.

As a petite woman, I find it very offensive when people call me “two sticks in a paper bag”, “unhealthy”, “anorexic”, or just “a stick”, and being an island girl makes it worse. No, my breasts are not a 34C, but they are a healthy 32A/30B. My ass is not very big, but it is curvy,soft and just as sensual as any other woman’s. I have a tiny 22 inch waist and curvy, small hips. My legs are long and shapely so Why is my body not considered “real”? I love bigger, curvier women than me, and sometimes I do wish I was bigger, just like many wish they were smaller, but I don’t consider their bodies any more real than mine. I have stretch marks and cellulite and areas that I don’t like but have learned to love and accept them because they are mine. I have the same anxiety about being naked for the first time in front of someone. For years, I wondered about what men saw when they looked at my body because they even have their own subjective way of saying that I am not “woman enough” because my curves aren’t like Kim Kardashian or Deelishis, and I had to get over it. I was helped along by having lovers  in life who loved all my curves, sharp angles and smooth edges, so I’ve learned to love my body and it’s capabilities. But it was a struggle, especailly when other women do not see me as a representative of another feminine body type. I’m the same body type just not big. I do not starve myself or exercise excessively, I am naturally tiny and I want you to know that my body is just as “real”. I’m not less of a woman for having a small frame, and you are not more of a woman because you have more curves. We are just women.

Signed,

Fashion Sociologist

Stefanel Returns!!!

If you know me, you know that one of my favourite brands in the entire world is Stefanel. I’m in love with Italian design primarily because I find it quite true to size. I am natural size 0 and it is very difficult for me to purchase clothing outside of Europe. US sizes are generally too big for me even though they are the tag size I would normally wear. I was slightly spoiled by actually living in Italy for close to a year and finding everything fit practically off the shelf was a revelation. Anyway, I digress. Yesterday was the reopening of Stefanel in Bermuda. I’m not sure how many years ago it closed down, but there was always the promise of a reopening. Last night, the weather was dismal, but it definitely didn’t stop the Stefanel die hards from coming out and enjoying the pieces on offer. I found a few things that I feel would be a grand additon to the Trikeita Leshae that I am now, as in today, and that is truly what I love. A brand that manages to stay fresh but still be classic enough that it can grow and transition with you through life. Congratulations to the Cacace family on bringing back something quality and worthy on the Bermudian retail scene. See you next week!!

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Signed,

Trikeita Leshae: Fashion Sociologist

(image credit: www.stefanel.com/it)

Bermuda Retail: some thoughts

Bermuda is a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Many would say that we are considered the “Jewel of the Atlantic” and I would agree. Naturally, I am slightly biased about that since I was born and raised there. With that said, Bermuda has a really unique interpretation of style, at least, we used to. It was so distinct that we were able to carry our own brands and be successful a la Polly Hornburg and The Calypso Group. Unfortunately, that generation of innovators have died out and their successors are stagnating at the helm of the retail ship in Bermuda. If it weren’t for our community of indie designers and certain boutiques, retail in Bermuda would be dead.

Once upon a time, Bermudians would create their own looks based off of what was shown in the magazines and on the streets. Due to our unique cultural and racial background, we have a much greater influence from Europe and the style culture that arose from there, than we do from our American neighbors. It was more classic and innovative because we are a country that has to import everything and when you are waiting a good while for the right fabric, the idea was not to mess it up. Bermudians are really particular about not looking like anybody else (or at least we used to be), so imagine the innovation that was rampant during those times. Fast forward, twenty to thirty years later, and the culture barely exists anymore. I am unsure if this is because our realm of influence has shifted more towards Americana or what, but it’s becoming gaudy. There are very few innovators of style left in Bermuda, and there is only one place to lay the blame, at the foot of Retail. What has happened? Maybe it’s time to explore.

One of the issues that I find that Bermudian buyers seem to be having is in actual product selection. They are unsure about what the customer will buy due to the high volume of choice which is offered through various trends. However, this is where hiring someone who is adept at trend analysis is important. I do not think they have taken this into consideration. Also being trendy is not something that true Bermudians truly relate to. It’s a foreign concept. In a population of 63,000 give or take a few, why would trends be really that important. Style and trendy are two different concepts in the Bermudian mind. Even being fashionable is something separate from being trendy here, which is probably different from the majority of locales in the world. In the Bermudian mind, just because you wear the latest, doesn’t make you the greatest. I think this is something that retail locally has ultimately forgotten.

Another thing is quality. Bermudians do not like cheap clothes. If we wash it once and it falls apart chances are we will not revisit your store for anything that we think we would want to keep for a little while. Especially since in Bermuda, something is purchased wholesale or in bulk by the majority of the boutiques and it is then marked up up by approximately 300% due to importation, duty and having to make a profit to pay for overhead, so the consumer unfortunately picks up that slack. A $10 shirt will be $30 plus by time it hits the retail shelf in Bermuda. The catch is that Bermudians do not mind paying for quality. Bermudians will pay in excess for things that we can keep for years upon years due to the timelessness of it. And that doesn’t mean that Bermudians aren’t a funky bunch, its just that we still have to look polished when we do it. It’s kind of a really bourgeoisie place but so what. It’s our culture.  I touched briefly on price but the price of goods in Bermuda is exasperated by the fact that what you buy could be the cheapest quality ever but it will cost you more than what you should ever consider purchasing it for, but because of the limited selection, it’s like you are forced to purchase, especially if it is last minute. With that said though, Bermuda has some really good quality shops but the selection is still so  limited its unbelievable the prices that you pay for things.  It appears to me that nobody takes the time to understand their customer. Nobody is looking out on the streets at what shapes and styles people are actually wearing or on what can be made better. As a fashion stylist, I often look at people and say if they would put on this, this and this, they’re whole appearance would be better. This is what buyers need to be doing. Observing what fabrics work, what shapes are the best and then select based on the style direction you wish to see the company take. I understand that oftentimes we are ordering seasons in advance from catalogues, but with that said you need to know what classic pieces you can definitely sell and then fill in the blanks with more specific, trend inspired features. In this economic climate people can not afford to be purchasing entire wardrobes every year, so to present things to them that make zero sense in their lifestyle is stupid. Point blank. You have to know who your customer is and pay attention to that. You can’t bring in just what you would wear or find nice because you are not the customer. Order samples of the pieces if you have to. Go the extra mile to ensure that the price you are charging for goods is comparable to the quality so that you can get full price for it. Instead of people waiting for it to go on sale because “It’s not worth this price.” Do your due diligence.

Fortunately, we are being rescued by the generation of Under 40’s who are starting to bring their ideas to the table and open their own retail spaces, both concretely and virtually. This is the result of being constantly shut out by those who think they know what the market is truly about in these times, when they do not. This is clearly evidenced by the retail statistcs for the last couple of years. We are not recovering, but yet there are Bermudians who are shopping and spending their dollars elsewhere simply because it is worth it. This is what we need to be discussing, as well as how retail can help to support the Tourism and IB industries and how they can reciprocate. We need to get back into the business of really selling and being Bermudian about it.

Signed,

The Fashion Sociologist

email: fashionsociologist@gmail.com for comments and questions.