JACQUI KOON HOW: Fashion Trail Blazer (AUDIO)

Jacqui Koon How is probably best known for her work with her namesake business “House of Jacqui”.

House of Jacqui has been providing training for aspiring models and producing fashion shows for forty six years. Jacqui has been the engine behind this machine from inception to present day and she shows no signs of letting up.

In addition to House of Jacqui, she brings out a children’s mas band and lists as other career titles: florist and fashion commentator.

She seems to have tapped into a well of limitless energy.

Though some would describe her as petite, she is a force of gigantic proportions. She is blunt and “no-nonsense “and speaks frankly and honestly about life, but in truth, she is more of an action person. You know her most through her work.

From fashion bastions to fashion babes, everyone knows and loves Jacqui.

EP:   You grew up in San Fernando…

JKH:  All my life

EP:   What was it like growing up?

JKH : I had three sisters and one brother. I was the youngest so I learnt how to wear hand-me-downs, but one thing I am very proud of with my parents, is that I never had to compete with anybody. I was allowed to be me. I just had a big happy, happy family life.

EP:   Where did your interest in art came from?

JKH:  I don’t know. Laughs.

EP:   Did you always want to do what you are doing now?

JKH:  I wanted to teach dance and art. I left here to get my degree and I wanted to come home and teach, and I don’t know what happened, all kind of things happened. So life is.

EP:   You taught at St. Benedict’s, then you studied in Canada, and then you came back to Trinidad. How did your career evolve?

JKH:  I did Art for my O and A Levels. After that I taught Art and English at St. Benedict’s College. Then I went abroad to study Art and Dance. I went to get my Diploma in Art and I was also doing various types of dance because I had done some dance at home. While doing the course abroad I got ill and I had to come home.

When I came back I was ill for about a year and then proceeded to get married and make children. Laughs. And then while I was married I started to work at a shop as a fashion buyer. Then they asked me to coordinate a fashion show. I didn’t know where to find models so I picked up some girls and I said “Okay, let’s learn”. I did a little bit of modelling in my teenage years. That started the whole thing and we started doing fashion shows all over.

EP:   When did you officially start calling your training “House of Jacqui”?

JKH:  About four or five years into it. My friend came to me and he said “What is the matter with you? You going all about and you doing fashion shows, what yuh calling yuhself? Yuh’s just “Miss Fashion Show”? Why don’t you find something sophisticated, why don’t you call yourself House of Jacqui or something like that?”… and that was it.

EP:   How many fashion shows have you done to date?

JKH:  During the height of fashion, when it was big, we would number two hundred or two hundred plus shows a year. Now we are doing about one hundred plus per year. When I say shows, one would be a fashion show, one would be a queen show one would be a photo shoot or something like that… fashion productions.

EP:   In terms of House of Jacqui, from your vantage point, what is the process like when you are building a girl from start to finish?

JKH:  My intention is for every girl to be the best she can be. She does not have to win (the competition). And that is one of the things I keep telling people, you don’t have to win. But you must give yourself the best chance you could have. Results don’t matter to me you know, half of the time I leave before results.  When I see you and I see that you are doing what you are supposed to do, you can’t do better than your best.

 

EP:   How old is the kid’s band?

JKH:  Twenty one years now. Comfort is most important, and well you have your idea because you have the name of the band. For example, if you’re playing African mas, you know you’re looking for something African. And you just sit down and, it will just flow. Before we used to go to the library but now we go on the computer and we do it. What I do usually, about two or three weeks before I start, I pick up all the old carnival magazines to get myself in that carnival mood. I just start to glimpse through it. I look through all my old pictures, just to get myself feeling carnival. By the time you get that! ….the ideas just start to flow.

EP:   So if we had to list all of the things that you’ve been in your career, it would be model trainer, mas maker….

JKH:  Fashion commentary was an important part. I started to do that by about my third show, we asked Jean Minshall, Peter Minshall’s mother, she was fantastic. I really learnt a lot from her. She would say “Don’t describe anything for me, don’t write down any description. Just tell me, if it’s a new fabric that’s difficult, write the name. Other than that just give me the feeling of the garment.” I picked things like that up from her. She said “Don’t insult the people; don’t tell them it’s a white dress with a pink collar. Don’t tell them that, they’re not blind, they can see. Give people the feeling of a garment”. Around the third show she couldn’t come and I’m very brave so I said “Okay give me the microphone”. From then I started to do fashion commentary. And then I started to do queen shows. All over Trinidad and Tobago they used to call me to do commentary for queen shows. And I can’t tell you how many queen shows we won as well. I never counted.

I’m a florist…When my mother got ill I said to her, “You don’t bother I will do it”. I remembered what she used to do and I did it.

EP:   If you could only do one of the several things in which you are involved which one would you pick

JKH:  Train models. Chuckles.

EP:   On a more personal note, I have to ask about the elephants…..

JKH:  I love elephants. I like how they move in their skin. If you look at an elephant you feel as if the skin is there and the elephant is moving inside the skin. And they’re so graceful. They are so massive and yet so graceful and an elephant never forgets a good deed. There was a story about a man who used to help elephants and when he died all the elephants came and they surrounded the house and they stood there for a day, as though they were paying tribute to him and then they all walked away. I have over 800 elephants.

EP:   In what forms

JKH:  All kind of forms.

EP:   You kind of see them as your spirit animal

JKH:  Yes my talisman. I feel as if, if I don’t have an elephant on me, nothing is going to happen. I feel I must have an elephant on me.

 

EP:   Is there anything you would like to say in closing?

JKH:  I think I have defied a lot of odds, in that when I became ill, I became very ill. I was told that I have a hereditary disease, I was told not to have any children. I had one I was told not to have two.  I had two and I was told not to have any more and I had three. And I had what you would call a stroke…I had a stroke after my son. And I have just defied all of that. And I have lived my life to the fullest. My mother used to tell me “People who have ill health are supposed to appreciate health but you don’t…you just go and go and go”. But that is just me. Also, when I started doing the fashion business, there was no other fashion group in the country and I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing. But I would sit and plan my business; I planned my first fashion show. I went out and sold every ticket myself. I think when I was finished I made seven dollars profit. So I think I have defied a lot of odds and to coin an old term I am a “path blazer”. I made it happen. So with the people coming after me, anybody who comes to me I give them help because I had nobody to help me. So come and I will help you. They tend to be afraid to come because they feel “oh this is competition and she wouldn’t want that”. They don’t know I am open and I will help anybody. That’s all I would say really. And that people must follow and do what they want. It makes you so happy. When I lie down in the night , I just lie down and I see Ashanna walking in her evening gown, I see Brenda Joy walking in hers…I see Giselle La Ronde, you know and…

EP:   What more can you ask for?

JKH:  Exactttllyyyy! What you want again in life? I don’t have a swimming pool. I would like a Jacuzzi. Laughs.

Listen to Jacqui’s closing remarks :

9 thoughts on “JACQUI KOON HOW: Fashion Trail Blazer (AUDIO)

  1. My heartfelt gratitude to Jacqui she thought me everything I knew in d business and I appreciate her words of advice and commnets given by /Jacqui hello she lives every line she stated —-truly a great role model

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    1. Jacqui I’m so glad you like it !!!!! I really aimed to capture your essence so the fact that you feel it is very “you” is the best compliment. I’m glad I was able to capture you in this (short) interview and I’m glad you like it . Also great to see so many people who were touched by you liking it as well .

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  2. Jacqui is a mother to all! I started modelling with Jacqui at age 15, which was 30 years ago. oh showing my age there, but what she has taught me and others remains with you, and it is not only modelling, she has set a lot of people’s career in motion and they have succeeded. She teaches you to do your best, There is no replacement that can come close to her. Love you Jacqui!!!!!

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