NAVID LANCASTER: Music Making Machine

NL
Navid Lancaster  Music Producer

 

Listen to a funny and informative excerpt from Navid before you get into the interview:


 

“I like noise”….a surprising phrase, but Mr. Lancaster assures me that this is one of the predispositions that makes him so well suited to his job.

At first glance, Navid seems reserved, maybe even shy, but the age old adage is true in this case- “looks can be deceiving”. As soon as the opportunity arises, Navid jumps into enthused dialogue. He is excited to talk about any topic under the sun, and one will quickly find out about his passion: music, the core of what he loves and where it all started.

To speak to all the things Navid does, several descriptors are needed: musician, audio engineer, music producer, video editor to name a few.  Following his passion from the onset, Navid has carved out a formidable career. He started as a musician and continued as a music producer who worked on projects ranging from radio commercials and artist recordings, to working on films and video games. Navid now collaborates with some of the most accomplished musicians across the globe.

We discuss with Navid the genesis of his career, how his path evolved and how he feels about different aspects of the journey so far. According to him…there is much more to come.  


 

EP: How would you describe yourself professionally?

As a lot of things;  a sound engineer, a musician, a music producer. My core focus is music and everything springs from there. I’m also a techy, I love technology.

 

EP: Tell us about your career path.

NL: Noise, noise, noise, left two jobs, noise, noise, noise, interview. Very simple. Laughs.

EP: You said early in your career you realised you wanted to get into sound engineering and you asked  Kenny Phillips how to do it. He said  you would  have to leave the job you were working at and start to work at his studio and that’s just what you did . What happened between then and now?

NL: Three months of hell, getting buffed and cuss up from Iwer George, Kenny J and other people who were recording music in time for Carnival. Laughs.  I had just started and had little idea about what I was doing.

I was about twenty five at that time. After working with Kenny Phillips, I started working at Proden near Long Circular Mall, they do lots of radio commercials. Then I worked at Spektakular Promotions’ studio. I started my BTEC (diploma) when I was at Spektakular. I then went on to work at NAPA. After doing the BTEC ,  I did my degree in Media and Communications.  From there I went straight on to do my Masters.  Also catch meh nenen there. Laughs.

That degree was in New Media and Society and it’s all interconnected but the core is music.  I have done music for film, radio ads, apps, websites, video games. Last year I started freelancing under the name “LANCAST LTD.”.

 

EP: What excites you about what you do?

NL: I get to create, plain and simple, I get to create doing things that I love. I also get to meet a variety of people.  It also has some perks, you do get into some parties free. Laughs.

 

EP: Which is your favourite type of music production to do?

NL: So far, I like doing films. I almost get to do whatever I want, and I say almost because it still has to be in line with the story. What I find happening often is that the director has an idea and then I give them some music samples and they get totally blown away, deep fried blown away. I take their idea and I blow it up and they are amazed by what I can create.

 

EP: What would you say is the most important non-technical skill that you use?

NL: Imagination. You have to imagine. It makes no sense having technical skills and then staring at machine knobs totally uninspired. You have to imagine, have the song in your head. That’s the only part I hate about my job, well kind of, I will get up with a sound in my head, it’s fully mixed, fully EQ-ed, and then I have to take my time and actually create it and hope I don’t forget it. Laughs.

  

EP: What has been the high point of your career so far?

NL: Well there is no point-it’s points. My high points are my interactions with the people I am doing work with and collaborating with now. Anthony Phills, he’s a Trini, he is the Head Android Developer for Hilton Hotel Android Development for Mobile Apps.  Roger Ryan, Grammy award nominated, Juno award winning record producer. He has played on stage with Whitney Houston, Ce Ce and De De Winans, Wynonna Judd, he has done Presidential Dinners. Clifford Wesley, world famous drummer, sound tech to the stars. He has been doing this for I think almost 30 years now. All my high points have been coming through for the past two years, meeting this calibre of people.

EP: Having been working now for close to twenty years and doing so much work, does it feel as though you have been running a marathon throughout your career or has everything kind of flowed gently in its proper time?

NL: The short answer, lack of social life gives you plenty time to do plenty things. Laughs.

You know in marathons there is a runner’s high. Right now I’m starting to get that runner’s high, mainly because of the people who I am fortunate to now be associated with. At least for the first 18 years I was running going “uuuuhhhhh” (gasping), a little tired. But the runner’s high is starting to kick in because now I have reached a stage where certain people are recognizing my work and want to be associated with me. To me now it’s not a marathon. For the past decade I’ve been planting the seeds. I’m not reaping the harvest now, well actually there is no reaping in this. Reaping means your work is done. I’m just planting seeds, taking some food from it, eating some and re-planting. And right now I’m planting some huge seeds, some maco size seeds, some G.M.O. seeds. Laughs.

EP: Final words?

NL: Follow your dreams and it will all come true!… Nonsense! You have to work for it!


 

Listen to Navid talk about his favourite project to date:

 

To find out more about Navid Lancaster, check out his website: Lancast Ltd.

For some more information on work Navid has done, you can see his profile on another website: Navid Lancaster on PlentyTalent.com

BABATU SPARROW: Designer, Stylist, Creative Spirit

BS

Babatu Sparrow is a designer, stylist, creative director, writer, sometimes photographer and in case you couldn’t tell by the name, one of the coolest cats around.

Reserved to the point of mystery, he is a stark contrast to the flamboyance of the fashion world he inhabits. He carries with him a certain stillness and never seems to get ruffled.

What energy would be used for extravagance in attitude is instead channeled into his work. He is an artist…the way others are surgeons, scientists, or athletes. And although he calls it “fun”, he takes his work very seriously.

We got Sparrow’s take on what makes a good designer and stylist, what style is, and the state of Trinidad’s Fashion industry… amongst other things…

EP: You design, style, you’re a creative director, you write. Did you always want to do all of those things? Or did you find yourself falling into those roles as you moved deeper into fashion?

BS: My main focus initially was fashion design and from there it became creative direction. There was a moment in time when I was in magazines so that’s where my love and passion for magazines came in……and styling for publications for magazines. So I started off with a focus on designing but the other expressions, they just became other outlets along the way, which I think creative people tend to look for and need.

EP: What it is about designing that you enjoy?

BS: It’s a way to create and I think with any form of creation, when you do it, and you do it right, it just feels like you’ve done something amazing. To be able to take an idea and transform it to an actual 3D thing, I think that’s something pretty cool.

EP: What are you trying to convey when you design?

BS: Anytime you design anything, you’re trying to tell a story. When I design, I’m telling the story of whatever it was that I was inspired by, whatever it is that moved me to design. I’m telling that story in my manner and hoping that people get it and understand it or want to interact with it. If they do any of those things then on some level it automatically is a success.

EP: What do you think makes a great designer?

BS: A great designer is a good story teller. That’s what an artist does. Being able to pull ideas together so that when a person sees your work, they understand and feel like they are connected to what you were speaking about. I think that’s what everybody hopes to do… should hope to do.

EP: Is it safe to assume that when you’re styling you’re trying to do the same thing? Tell a story?

BS: Yes, always.

“Suite Girls”: A spread styled by Sparrow for Trinidad Lookbook

EP: What is style to you?

BS: I think style is your way of detailing who you are in a visual manner.

EP: What is your pet peeve as a stylist?

BS: Not everyone pays it the respect that it deserves as an art form. Some people just think “my friends told me I had good taste, so I’m a stylist” but it’s so much more than that. You can’t just say I’ve got a steady hand so I can operate on somebody. It sounds silly but in truth it takes a lot more than that. There are amazing amazing stylists out there that do it so well. To just say that you’re a stylist without having studied fashion, without having studied why designers do what they do, without having studied colour, without understanding silhouettes, without understanding textures and fabrics and photographers and how photographers incorporate into the world of style … without knowing who these people are and what they do, it’s almost a slight to come out and say “Yea, I’m a stylist”.

Also, having to convince somebody that if they listen to you that this is going to be an amazing picture. Having to convince people irritates me. I’m doing what I do because I know what I’m doing. And if you listen to what I am saying and have a little faith that I’ve pulled talented people onto this shoot to make these pictures look amazing, you would know,  I’m not going to waste my time and I’m not going to waste yours.

Or someone says “I don’t know if I want to wear those pants”……no one asked you what you want to wear. It’s bigger than you, we’re creating art right now. That’s a bit of a peeve as well.

Image Styled by Sparrow for Trinidad Lookbook Magazine
Image Styled by Sparrow for Trinidad Lookbook Magazine

EP: What would be your dream story to style/shoot?

BS: I don’t know that when I do photo shoots or styling or any other project that I think about it that way. For me, it’s all perfect in the moment. If I’ve picked the right photographer, and I’ve picked the right model and I have the right supporting staff with me, then it’s all going to be perfect in that moment.

 

EP: How are each of your processes similar or different if you are wearing different hats?

BS: It always starts, for me, with inspiration and figuring out whatever it is that I’m inspired by. So if it’s a play, a movie, an art show, a book, whatever it is, whatever it is that makes me say “wow, there’s some great visuals here” or “there’s something great here”, it usually starts with that. From that point I go into research, researching more of it , figuring out what I’m trying to say and then piecing it together so that what’s in my head makes sense to everybody else.

 

EP: Your commitment and passion are so evident in your work…

Thank you. Whenever somebody identifies with something I’ve done, that’s really humbling for me. It’s always a great feeling because that means for that person I told the story right; they got it, they liked it and they identified with it and there’s nothing cooler than that. Styling and designing for me is an art form and it should be fun. I enjoy the creative process and when I do see my creation again, in person or in a magazine, that’s a very rewarding thing for me.

Editorial shot styled by Sparrow. (Photographer: Laura Ferreira)

EP: Any stylists or designers whose work you really admire?

BS: There’s just way too many. Patti Wilson is amazing. She’s just really talented. Edward Eningful, the Fashion Director over at W. That’s just two people. There’s a ton of people that are really great out there and in fashion there’s just way too many designers I mean. Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy, Nicholas Ghesquiere…Galliano, Alexander Mc Queen and there’s just so many super talented people that are here or were here that kind of embody that full creative spirit.

EP: You are from New York, and you have spent time in Paris and in Trinidad. What similarities/differences do you see with the three places?

BS: Paris is full of creativity, there’s a lot of art there, there’s a lot of architecture there and to me the creative energy is all over the place. It’s there all day every day.

In terms of the atmosphere I found Trinidad interesting because it’s still growing. It’s evolving and it’s changing and it’s consistently becoming different. It also takes a lot of getting used to.

There’s a ton of artists in Trinidad, there’s a ton of people designing, there’s a ton of people interested in design, and then there’s a whole new crop of students that are now trained in it that are going to try, and hopefully will change the tide of fashion. But the people that are supposed to support these arts are still unsure of how to fulfil their role. I think that that aspect of it hasn’t caught up to the “art” aspect.

Also in Trinidad, it always feels like there’s a select few that are constantly in support of the arts and that was a big difference for me  because when you go anywhere else, you go to Paris, you go to New York, wherever, people love fashion, they love art, they love these things and they support it relentlessly.

Trinidad is just approaching that as a viable economy. It’s not as developed as New York or Paris and that’s probably natural but I hope that the relevant persons get involved and do even more things to support it better.

I think it’s a really interesting time for Trinidad and fashion.

EP: How do you feel about being back in New York?

BS: Love it. Absolutely love it. New York is always hard, it’s always difficult but it’s that thing that challenges you to be better than the next person and the next person and the next person. On top of that it’s littered with things to do. It’s amazing….it’s home.

Sparrow on his “dream photoshoot” to style. 

Sparrow on the Trinidad and Tobago fashion industry

Sparrow on New York

See more of Sparrow`s portfolio here -> http://www.babatusparrow.com/

ALBERT LAVEAU: Stalwart of Theatre

Albert Laveau

Albert Laveau is a wise man. A wise man who has worked in Theatre for the majority of his life.

Albert Laveau started formally working as an actor as a teenager and continued to hone his craft through his adult years. In addition to acting, he has also directed and managed many plays in and outside of Trinidad and Tobago.  He has been an important member of the Trinidad Theatre Workshop (TTW) since its inception in 1959, and is an integral part of its continued existence: the name Albert Laveau is reflexively associated with TTW. Though Albert Laveau’s influence is widely felt, he is not bothered with notoriety. Through touching people and in being of service to them, he finds fulfillment. After 60 plus years of working in the field, he continues to energise the theatre and its practitioners of all ages who are carrying on the traditions of the art form.

Gentle but firm, focused yet light-hearted, a dedicated artist but also a shrewd businessman….and impossible not to love.

In speaking with us, he reflects on some of his journey; becoming an actor, what made him decide to stay and work in Trinidad, and his involvement over the years with “The Flagship of the Theatre Movement in the Caribbean”-Trinidad Theatre Workshop.

EP:          When did you get involved in acting /Theatre?

AL:          Well since I was about five years old, people used to call me “chatterbox”. I was always chosen to do something for concert day. I got into the habit of performing before large numbers of people very early. Also, my father, when I was very small-four or five- would invite us to tell stories every day after he came home from work.

When I was between 10 and 11 years old, I moved to a new school and the same thing that happened at my previous school replicated itself where I was called on frequently to perform.

So I grew up through my preteen years being aware of this capacity within myself, without knowing that I was going to be an “Actor”.

EP:          So when was the moment that you realised, “I am an actor”?

AL:          Well at no real point. It just became part of me. I’m talking about nearly 60 years ago.  I started with a drama company because I didn’t have anything else to do. The popular guys had their things, some were playing football, and some were lifting body weights. I started to lift weights but as soon as I went into my first play I decided “Nah!”, if I have all those big muscles then I wouldn’t be available for different types of roles.  I wanted to be able to do different kinds of roles. So maybe you could say I was making a decision, in a kind of way…

EP:          Even though you weren’t aware…

AL:          Yes

EP:          In every moment you were continuing the journey…

AL:          That’s right.

EP:          When you started acting seriously, did you have big ambitions?

AL:          No, no, no. Not as far as I can remember. I used to have ambitions to have girls and girlfriends (Laughs), because that’s what all the boys wanted.

EP:          You told me about the time when you were abroad acting and something Andre Tanker told you struck a chord…

AL:          Yes, well in 1972 Derek (Walcott) took a group of us up to the States to do “Ti Jean” in the square.  I got good reviews and a producer there adopted me so to speak. Andre and I were rooming together and in the morning when I was going out for auditions he would say “Albert, don’t forget, be yourself eh “. Then I used to wonder, “Who the hell am I ?…Who …am ….I?” A serious conversation here you know! “Who is this self…that I have to BE?!” And it was something that lasted with me during the four years that I was campaigning in America till it culminated with a confrontation with my agent who wanted me to go to Australia to be in a musical at Christmas time. I say “Leh me tell you something man, I have presents for my children…Christmas is for me and my children.” He said “Well you gotta make up your mind… if you wana be an actor.” I said  …” Uh huuuhhhh… but I’m going home.” I came- and I didn’t go back. I said this is me. I am the Trini. I belong here and anything that I want to do in the theatre or in the arts must be done in a Trinidadian context and me doing it, me being involved in it here and not in any remote kind of way. I thought I wanted to be like “one of the first blacks who”… but you can’t be the first anything. I learnt that humility. Anything you’re doing it’s been done already.

One of Albert's headshots during his acting days in America
Albert Laveau: One of the actor’s “headshots” during his years acting in America in the 70s

EP:          How did TTW start and develop over the years?

AL:          Derek Walcott came to Trinidad around 1958 when he was invited to write a play for the celebration of the birth of the new federation. After his engagement he stayed in Trinidad and started to do what he had done in Jamaica and St. Lucia; he collected actors from various amateur drama companies to craft them and started having workshops and rehearsals.

I joined in 1959.

So 1959 to 1966 was the first phase.

We would do Derek’s plays as well as the plays of other playwrights. We would do rehearsals and some workshops. That was the seed of what we are doing here with the School for the Arts.

Some of this phase was spent at Little Carib. Beryl Mc Burnie had this dream- more like a nightmare (Laughs) of  a “marriage of the Arts” …. Dance! Drama! Derek remarked it would be a shotgun marriage. Both she and Derek were very strong people, Titans! It was inevitable that they were going to clash. I went to workshop one friday and I saw Beryl locking up, I said “Beryl, what’s going on?” She said “Daaarrrling…allyuh eh hear the bungarunga? Uh huh! …it was one big buck up yes! Look ah put allyuh bench outside.” We had a bench and it was on the pavement. (Laughs). You think it easy. So we gone!

Then we got the basement of Bretton Hall Hotel and we made theatre there.We stayed there for a while making quite a talked about “basement theatre”.

In 1976 I went back to the States to direct a play for Derek. Then I came back and continued to direct his plays. All through 1977-1979, we didn’t have a home to do theatre.

In 1989 the 30th Anniversary came around and we made the move to get a place again to do our theatre. From 1989-1998 we were at the Old Fire Station.

In 2004 we got this building on Jerningham Avenue.

The building that is now home to Trinidad Theatre Workshop
The building that is now home to Trinidad Theatre Workshop

EP:          Do you feel that the original vision for TTW has been achieved?

AL:          Yes and we are still evolving.

EP:          How do you feel about handing over the baton?

AL:          Well I feel very good that I have somebody to pass it on to. That used to terrify me that I might be struck down and everybody would fold their tents and start to steal away, go back to where they were and nothing would go on.

Because of what we have built and the goodwill that is out there towards our work, I think TTW will do well. It has to be preserved ….Theatre workshop is an institution, one of our institutions… just like any other institution… Police Service, Fire Brigade and so on. It is one of the necessities of existence.

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

AL:          Well, I am still working on my life. I would like it to be an inspiration to people in my society. Not the whole world and all that but to those people I come into contact with, that’s all. I see that young people need inspiration and there aren’t so many role models but I would like to be able to make a contribution in that regard.

JACQUI KOON HOW: Fashion Trail Blazer (AUDIO)

Jacqui Koon How- Founder of House of Jacqui

 

 

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.

Children having fun in Jacqui's Kid's Mas Band -2009
Children having fun in Jacqui’s Kid’s Mas Band – 2009                                                                                                                                             (Photo Credit : guardian.co.tt)

 

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.

 

Jacqui receiving an award for her contribution to the fashion industry - 2013 ( Photo Credit: David Wears)
Jacqui receiving an award for her contribution to the  fashion industry      –    2013                                                                               ( Photo Credit: David Wears)

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.

Jacqui surrounded by her House of Jacqui Models (Photo Credit: Triniview.com)
Jacqui surrounded by her House of Jacqui Models                                         (Photo Credit: Triniview.com)

 

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 :

MEL GABRIEL: Editor, Publisher, Fashionphile

Founder of Trinidad Lookbook
Mel Gabriel

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.

Trinidad Lookbook 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.

A fashion editorial photo from one of Lookbook’s print editions.

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.

Photo from fashion editorial-“Girl Fight”, from a print edition of Lookbook.

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/

YVONNE POPPLEWELL: The Grande Dame of Make-Up (AUDIO)

Make-Up Artist
Yvonne Popplewell

Yvonne Popplewell is one of the most prominent women in make-up in Trinidad and Tobago. She has been doing make up for fifty plus years and her reputation precedes her as the queen of face art. I can personally attest to the magical powers she possesses with make-up brush in hand.

Vocation aside, she is a woman who understands what things are important and hers is the model of a life well lived. She has lived long, worked hard, loved everyone, mastered her craft and shared her expertise freely.

In this interview she does some more sharing. These are her thoughts on make-up, marriage, mothers and motherhood.

 

EP:  Where were you born in Trinidad?

YP: Woodbrook. Born and grew up in Woodbrook. Holly-Woodbrook and that’s why I’m a star, they forgot to put “Holly” in front of the original name. Laughs

EP:  When did you start doing make-up?

YP: I have to give Mahmoud Pharouk Aladdin all the credit. When I went to convent, the British Council sponsored “Extra Art Tuition”, which I would describe as a scholarship for children who were gifted in art. I and an older sister were both selected in the secondary school students from St. Joseph’s Convent. You had from Q.R.C.  Peter Minshall, from Fatima Wayne Berkeley, you had Pat Bishop, you had Jean Inniss from Bishop’s, you had Claudette Charles,  Jeanette Pollard. We were all in this art group and every Wednesday we went to do art. We learnt pottery, we learnt tie dye, we learnt batik, we learnt oil, we learnt every medium there was in art. One day there was no class but the teachers turned up and just five of us turned up. Mr Aladdin said what we’ll do today… I want us to experiment with stage make-up. I wanted to go back home, so I said “Mr. Aladdin, I don’t know how to do make-up.” He said “YYYvvvooonneee, and you could paint a face?” I said “Yes Mr. Aladdin”. He then takes up something looking like brown shoe polish and says; “This is the foundation, you put this on your face and then the face becomes the canvas, and then you paint. You do your highlight and contour and you create the character. The actor will show you the character he’s portraying, and you will look at the character and you will paint that character on their face after you put on the foundation.” And that to my mind, taught me everything I had to know about make up for the rest of my life. I never went to make up class in my life! Because he just told me, put on the foundation and then you draw the character on top of the face. So consequently, I change people’s characters very often. Laughs heartily. Not of their desiring of course. That day I think it was a turn around for me.

EP: So it really started with art, and then it segued into make-up…

YP: Yes. The communication with another human being when you’re doing art, is the most beautiful thing in the world. You’re doing somebody’s face, and you’re seeing the face changing and you’re having a conversation. When you’re drawing a painting you might feel the serenity of just you and the scenery but the ability to be painting somebody’s face and they’re talking about their problems and their joys and their everything, it is the most beautiful thing in the world. People, people, people, people, people, people, people, people, people. You meet the worst and the best in this world.  And everybody you meet you learn from…  that’s what the world is all about, people.

EP: Are there any memorable moments from doing make-up?

YP: Two experiences which are really really great. One is the graduation day. When graduation time is coming around I get excited. I am meeting new personalities and they are so turned on to life, they are so excited. I believe I am meeting the female at her most exciting self. She doesn’t know about the perils and problems that she’s going to encounter. She’s just graduating from school and she’s going with so much hope and by the time she leaves I am infused with all the hope that they feel. I say wait a minute man! This life sweet! Laughs .And I know very well that some of their dreams are going to crash but, while they’re here, they infuse their energy onto me and I love that. The other thing that turns me on is weddings.

EP: Is there a favourite make-up look you like to do?

YP: I say when you learn “Black Drama” you don’t have anything else to learn because you learn how you could change any ordinary face into a dramatic face. It didn’t originate from me, it’s something I saw being done in a MAC shop in Miami and I have copied it and I have learnt from it. It’s a dramatic look in black, which you discover you could adopt in any colour you want.

EP: Are there specific products that you use, that you think are really great?

YP: This will be doing a lot of commercialisation for people but anyway, when I’m talking to young ladies who are working with a Trinidad salary, I tell them; there is no Trinidadian who couldn’t find their foundation in Black Opal. Particularly their most recent formula, which is a liquid, it covers and it matches skin “Black Opal, Even True”.

EP: Do you have a make-up tip for women that you think they don’t use that could go a long way?

YP:  Concealer. You can straighten noses, you can put eyes in focus, you can camouflage dark eye circles. You could make a face look woken up if you put on concealer in the right places. A tired face just gets energy.

EP: Do you find the make-up/fashion industry has changed since you started?

YP: Woooo! There was no make-up industry when I started. You just work it out. The first bride I made up was over 50 years ago. In the 60’s, foundations used to start in light pink for white people come through the shades of pink and go to dark maroon for black people . So it used to look like a maroon reddish kind of mask on their faces. It is only when people like Fashion Fair, well before Fashion Fair there was Flori Roberts.  She made a change and black people started using foundation because somebody recognized that we have some yellow in our skin, we don’t go from pink to maroon we go through shades of tan and yellow and bronze and all of that.

EP: In an interview in 2010 Peter Elias was speaking about what goes into creating a beauty queen and he mentioned you. A snippet: “Another important basic need, Elias pointed out, is make-up application as there are so many possibilities in this expression, and always being well presented is important. He said, “Yvonne Popplewell has been training her for several months. Popplewell was selected not just because of her tremendous experience and manner, but moreso for the opportunity afforded for Latoya to converse for hours upon hours with a sophisticated, witty and charming woman.”

How does one become such a charming and sophisticated woman?

YP: That is quite a compliment and I’m quite flattered by it. I love Peter. In my case I came from a mother who made us very, very self confident. And then I met a gentleman who, well, some people might ask what a gentleman doing marrying me!  Laughs. I met a gentleman who has helped in the growth of my personality by never in his life putting me down, by supporting me all the way, all the way , just like my mother did.

EP: You think marriage is good…

YP: I absolutely adore being married to the person I’m married to because I have the freedom to act. You know part of the training I had at T&TEC, they sent me out on all the major job evaluation exercises they had. You learn how you evaluate people’s work and how they should be paid according to what they do. A very important factor in how they should be paid is their freedom to act…your freedom to act in your job, your freedom to make decisions, your freedom to go on your own. And I discovered it works the same way in marriage.

 I believe that although marriage is a pretty un-natural state -it is un-natural if there is no compatibility in personality- it could be the most beautiful thing if they are both kind of spiritual, humorous, loving.

EP: What is the love like for your child and for your grand children?

YP: My grandchildren is deep, my children is deep. I will give you one of the stories. John was the second boy, and at around 3 or 4 years old, he goes to school and he comes back… he says “Mummy, I don’t like my hair and my nose.” I was combing my hair. I dropped the hair brush, everything, and I dropped down on my knees and I said “John, what?!, what?!”  I’m  pretending tears are coming down my eyes, I say “John, I asked God for a baby just like you, I wanted that nose and that hair and you coming and saying you don’t like it now.” John takes his hands and puts them around me and says “Mummy don’t cry, don’t cry, I like it now mummy, don’t cry mummy I like it now.” Now, you see what I’m describing there for you, for the rest of his life I felt the need to reinforce my love. I wasn’t gambling with that.

Yvonne with her sons,Paul (L) and John (R)

EP: Last question, do you have any thoughts on where Trinidad is as a nation?

YP: I am happy that whatever shocked the nation recently… sometimes you know you have to shock people to wake them up. We got a shock and most of them are going to wake up and we‘re going to react positively to what hurt us the most. Sometimes you have to hurt them to touch them… to get them to wake up and do something. Hopefully we’ll get a positive reaction.

Listen to one of Yvonne’s responses:

SUNIL WHITTLE: An “Inspired” Make Up Artist

Make-up Artist
Sunil Whittle

Sunil Whittle is Make-Up Artist extraordinaire; a secret weapon of some of the top photographers in Trinidad and Tobago. When asked to describe his work, these were some of their responses : “The best Make-Up Artist I ever worked with”, “Flawless”, “Inspired”. Below, a few of Sunil’s own words about how he got started, his craft and the fashion industry in Trinidad and Tobago. 

EP: How long ago did you start doing make-up?

SW:  I have been doing make-up for quite a long time. I have been doing it professionally for the last four or five years. Before that I dabbled for about five or six years. But I don`t call myself a Make-Up artist. I often joke with my friends that I`m somebody who could “do a face”.

EP: What was it about make-up that captivated you?

SW: Myself. I went to school in the time of the “pretty boy”. Everybody hair had a curl, wearing centre stitch suede Clarks.  I really didn’t have that pretty boy image…..I had it, but it wasn’t showing on the outside, if you know what I mean.  That`s when I became interested in make-up.  I thought, “How do I make myself marketable?”

I had this rag that I would use to keep the face matte and I found an old tube of mascara. That`s really how it started for me.

EP : What is your forte or your pet?

SW:  If I had to have a pet, it would be glamour. Just glamour, glamour, glamour, everything glamour!  Curls, curls, curls, lashes to the heavens! I can do all types of make-up but if left to me everyone would look fresh out of a photo shoot every day.

 

 

EP: What is the most rewarding part of what you do?

SW: I put my all into what I do. I`m exhausted when I do one face, so when it`s finished and the client is happy, that`s what makes me happy.

EP: What are some of your proudest moments as it pertains to your work?

SW:  I like all of the work I do. One of the more memorable moments was the photo shoot I had to do with the current Miss TT World. We had to do a mid-night shoot a day before she left for the international pageant to get some new images out.

483930_512117802137577_1515480975_n

Miss TT World 2012-2013
Athaliah Samuel
Photo: Damian Luk Pat

EP: Who are your mentors in the Trinidad and Tobago fashion industry?

SW: If I had a mentor it would have to be Yvonne Popplewell. She`s absolutely fantastic: a wonderful Make-Up artist and a wonderful woman.  Just chatting with her about the craft has meant the most to my development.

EP: Do you think fashion is important? Why? Why do you feel so passionate about it?

SW: I think it`s important because it helps give people an identity. You never know how fantastic you could be, if there`s nothing new coming at you for you to try, or there`s not a new hair style or a new designer that might identify with who you are or where you`re coming from, …..who you think you are as a person. It`s very important.

EP: Do you think fashion is given the respect it deserves in Trinidad and Tobago?

SW: People will buy a pair of shoes, they will make sure they have their nails done, but then when it comes to that person who they know,  who might be a designer  or a hairstylist, the respect isn`t there. They don’t look at it like, this is the person`s craft, and maybe their livelihood, they just want a “freeco”. They will say oh gosh “do muh face for meh nuh”, “do meh eyebrows”, that sort of thing.

They have respect for the industry because they want to look good and they want to put their best foot forward, but I think some people have a lack of respect for the craftsmen.

EP: What would you say is the state of the fashion industry in Trinidad and Tobago?

SW: I think that we are still developing and if there is encouragement for developing artists well in a few years we`ll be something to see.

EP: How do you feel about the future of fashion in Trinidad and Tobago?

SW: I think we have a very positive future. I think the government needs to look at this as something serious. It`s not a hobby, it`s not a part-time. This is a multi-billion dollar industry and the sooner we embrace that in Trinidad and Tobago, by  respecting the craftsmen; the products that they are putting out, the services that they provide, the time, the effort, the energy, we will be able to move forward much faster. But I think the future is quite bright. We`ve lived in a society for a long time where everyone`s parents wanted them to be doctors and lawyers. You say to your mother I want to go and do hair, or I want to do make up and she would say “On your own time! After you become a doctor you could do what you want.”

EP:  When you`re 80 …..

SW:  Right. “After yuh retire!”  When we start looking at these kinds of crafts and skills as a professional service and treat it as such, then, the sky is the limit!

See Sunil’s work here : Faces- Sunil Whittle Makeup Artistry