Mel Gabriel is the owner and editor of Trinidad Lookbook; an Online and Print Magazine that showcases all the noteworthy fashion creations and creators in Trinidad and Tobago.
We discuss with her the conception of Trinidad Lookbook, what it’s like producing the magazine and the state of T&T’s fashion industry .
EP: How did Lookbook start?
MG: Lookbook started in 2009. The idea really came to me in 2008. We would pull event photos from different sites and we would highlight the people who were dressing well. For some time publications would basically be embarrassing people who weren’t dressing well and I felt bad because who wants to be humiliated? Then you have to turn to your friend and be like “Crissy, did you really have to go down the road in that leopard tights?” So I said why don`t we highlight the people who are dressing well and give the people who aren’t dressing so well an idea of how they could do better. That’s where Lookbook started. Eventually it evolved into a website.
EP: Did the impetus for Lookbook come from your passion for fashion?
MG: I like fashion but I am more passionate about showcasing talent. Showcasing really creative people who are doing really great things and they aren’t getting the recognition that they deserve; at that time persons like Denise Henry or Christian Boucaud. Additionally, I wanted to make fashion accessible and show people that there are designers out there and they are making things that we can wear and purchase and you don’t have to use your life savings to do it.
EP: What is your long term vision for the magazine?
MG: I would like Lookbook to be known as a Caribbean style and fashion guide. When you think about fashion or any designer of Caribbean heritage you must know that you can go to Lookbook and get information on that person.
EP: It`s a lot of hard work though. Some time ago, you gave me the story about an intern who didn`t seem to understand that…
MG: We had to do a shoot near a river. The intern came with her handbag on the crook of her elbow, walking around like Coco Chanel with these big shades. Meanwhile I`m there in shorts, assisting the photographer…. assisting the model, asking myself if I`m the editor or the intern.
EP: What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome over the years putting together the magazine?
MG: I don’t feel like I ever really overcame anything. Every day is a work in progress and you have to fight up every single day. Nothing comes easy. Every single element of this entire experience has been the hardest thing I`ve ever done in my life. People think it`s so glamorous but everything is difficult. I also feel it`s because we are in Trinidad and everything in Trinidad is harder than it needs to be. It`s all about “who yuh know”.
EP: Did you ever think about giving up after you started?
MG: Every day! Are you kidding?!
EP: Any happiest/proudest moments with the magazine?
MG: When something goes right it always feels great. Every time we do a feature, whether it`s online or in print and you see it and you see people respond to it, that always feels good.
EP: Do you have mentors in the fashion industry?
MG: I thought I did. I trusted people to a certain extent and got burnt. Now what I would consider a mentor would really be the internet. That’s where I get my guidance, that’s where I am inspired.
EP: In 15-20 years what do you think the fashion industry should look like?
MG: Ideally designers should be producing full collections twice a year, at least a 50 piece collection. They should have the infrastructure to produce “en masse” the items from their collections, which could or could not be supported by the government. I feel like we just need a proper place or factory that can contract work from designers. It should be something designers could afford; something that will make sense business wise for the space and for the workers. Every year we should have one major fashion week. Designers should be up on their trends. They need to know about their social media, marketing and have actual websites because guess what, yes you live in Trinidad but the world is bigger than Trinidad. Trinidad isn’t the world, it might be your world but you have to decide if this is the only world you want to be in.
EP: Do you think the fashion industry will grow to a point where everyone involved who enjoys creating fashion will be able to sustain themselves ?….. Something that Trinbagonians will patronize with enough intensity to keep it afloat and thriving?
MG: YES………….IF we`re doing a good job ……yes.
Check out Trinidad Lookbook online : http://www.trinidadlookbook.com/