Editor’s Note: I first published this interview with Stephanie in 2018 which- after the year that we have had- seems worlds and eons away. I have decided to republish, however, because it remains one of my favorite interviews done with a blogger/stylist/trini gyal that I truly admire.
Talk to us about the Fashion Industry in the Caribbean. What are your biggest challenges as a stylist? How receptive have persons been to the idea of even having a stylist to begin with?
Funny enough, the biggest challenges in the Caribbean are similar to the ones in NYC. People confuse being Stylish, with being able to Style. It’s like the difference between having a great palate for food, and knowing how to cook. I find myself having to justify this as work. People only see you on set, or at a consultation. They don’t realise how much work goes on behind the scenes. They don’t see the hours of research, planning and project management.
What would you change about the Fashion industry in the Caribbean?
If I could change anything about the fashion industry in the Caribbean, it would be perception. I can only speak for Trinidad and Tobago, but the market considers local designer brands overpriced. Many times designers are under-pricing just to be able to sell. No way could they run a sustainable business on these models. The Caribbean fashion aesthetic is unique. It is so undervalued by Caribbean people. When I wear local brands on the US, I am always asked about it. Always.
However, it’s a double edged sword. While there are designers doing it right, a lot of socialites or influencers hire a seamstress to recreate simple patterns and call themselves designers. Many of these people have no technical skills, just good taste. It cheapens the industry. It makes Design seem like a simple process that anyone can do. Truly, fashion design is a very very difficult job. It requires so much education and experience. We’ve lost that respect.
What is the biggest misconception people not working in your field have about what you do?
Someone recently said to me that my life looks perfect. Styling can look like a dream job when we’re posting BTS footage on Instagram, of beautiful clothing and makeup. Flashy sets. It looks like we’re playing dress up. But it’s not that at all. It’s so physically demanding. You’re toting luggage most of the time. Anxiety through the roof over wardrobe being damaged. Weeks upon weeks of waiting to be booked. Then being beat down on your rate because people feel Stylists aren’t necessary.
How do you choose what looks work for each individual client?
I do a very detailed interview. I read their body language. Study how they respond, almost as much as what they respond. I ask about their routine, lifestyle and goals. I try to get to know everything about them as quickly as I can, because style has everything to do with who we are first. Then we apply that aesthetic to shapes and silhouettes. Mind first, body after.
How would you describe your personal style?
This changes so often! As soon as I’m comfortable in one look, I’m inspired to change again. It moves with me, as I grow personally. Right now I’m into comfort. Ease of dressing. Convertible, versatile pieces. Loose fit. I also find myself in a lot of bright colours and Caribbean made pieces. I love wearing my culture on my back. I adore when people take notice of these things. I’m in love with where I’m from. And now living abroad, and being a foreigner, I want my appearance to tell this story. I want to look unmistakeably Caribbean.
What trends are you loving right now?
I’m such a sucker for this brainwashing. I don’t invest in trends, but I do get infatuated with fads. They are signs of the fashion era we’re in, and will carry nostalgia with them at some point. Tiny Matrix glasses which are so unflattering, have my attention right now. As well as round wooden and geometric lucite bags.
Which trends to you want to see disappear?
Honestly, there is a person for every trend. It must at least work on one person. But…. Low rise skinny Jean’s are usually not worn by their soulmate.
If you could choose any Caribbean Celebrity to give a makeover, who would it be and why?
Nailah Blackman. I love her energy. Full to the brim with style and natural beauty. I would love to re-visit her image with her. I imagine her as a sort of Toni Braxton mixed with Solange Knowles. So much edge, and youth.
Who is your favourite Caribbean fashion designer? Why?
Touchy question! I have so many favourites for different reasons. Right now I guess I’ll say Aisling Camps. We’ve been spending a lot of time together and I’ve been getting to observe a lot of her process behind the scenes. She’s brilliant. Her clothes truly are engineered. Always cleverly thought out. Innovative, Sexy and luxurious.
Your favourite shoot that you’ve done?
I’ll say Nailah Blackman in Jin Forde Sweat wear. Very rarely have I been able to execute concept, styling and choose how the final edits would be treated. I got to work with Melvern Isaac who is a dear friend, and who has the most amazing eye for photography. It was also shot on the same day Badishh was released, so Nailah was hype! (Even though she performed the night before and was super sleep deprived) She killed it.
We’re huge fans of your blog and have followed your journey from Trinidad and Tobago to New York- what prompted that move? How different has it been for you working as a stylist here as opposed to Trinidad? Do you ever feel like Carrie in Sex and the City during her initial move to New York?
I’m so excited to hear that you love the blog! It’s my baby. It’s like hearing someone thinks your child is cute and well-behaved haha!
In Trinidad I feel even though work was very inconsistent, and very underpaid, it was still easier in some ways. People trusted me more. In New York, I hear “No” a lot. I think people hear my accent, see my skin and assume I dont know what I’m doing. How can a Third World brown girl know anything about Fashion?! I really have to work twice as hard to prove my value.
I have definitely been compared to Carrie. Just like Instagram might do for me, SATC sold dreams about Carrie’s life. We’re alike in many ways I guess. Especially the wild curly hair. But only after moving to NYC do I realise how different we are. And I’m glad. As I got older, I related to her less and less. I even liked her less. She had a privileged existence that they disguised with her aloof treatment of finances. She would make a quirky comment about it here and there. But bills are real. How could she be buying Manolos and taking cabs while renting a huge place on her own? Always out lunching. Preoccupied with men. Preoccupied with rich men. That’s not me. Carrie wanted a knight. I’m no princess. I’m a fucking king. (Well that’s the plan)
One of the things we love about you is the way you make words dance on a page. We were even more ecstatic when we learnt that you wrote and published a book of poetry. Tell us about that:
“words dance on a page” oooh!
The book happened so fast. It was literally what I had been journaling while I was dating a very unsuitable mate. (Aptly referred to in the title as the “Fuckboy”) I didn’t didn’t care. Everyone thought I was insane, but I was so happy. Deeply infatuated.
After that fizzled and I got my life back, I could not relate to the poetry. I could not even promote the book because I felt like I left that version of me on the pages. Now I’m more drawn to writing about women from a place of strength and resilience. I’m in love with my girlfriends. They empower me with their unique ways of coping and persevering. They are such a comfort to me. Such pure love, with nothing asked in return.
I do still peek back at the poems. And I’m happy to be so far from that place. Also humbled that I could feel so deeply, and express it so clearly. Many people have expressed that it helped them process their emotions and pull them through their own situations. That makes it all worth it.
Before you go, any advice for those looking for a career in the fashion industry whether in the Caribbean or internationally?
Don’t do it!!!! (J/k, not j/k)
You can contact Stephanie via the following channels: