Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 28th 2015 Contents June 28, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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By Roslyn Carrington
WALKING INTO LITTLE BLACK DRESS at The
Falls at Westmall is like stepping onto a Hollywood
movie set, back in the days when glamour meant
something. Glossy black stands out against stark
white, interspersed with bright yellows, reds and
fuchsias. The gorgeous and timeless Audrey Hep-
burn smiles down from rows of photos adorning
the walls; if the store had a patron saint, it would
"After I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's, something
about Audrey Hepburn's style resonated with me.
I connected with her on a very deep level. I did a
lot of research on her and was blown away by the
things she did in her life, and the number of people
she helped. She really had an impact on my life."
Although the store has been at Westmall for just
a year and a half, Hanooman grew up in the cloth-
ing business. Her mother, Karen Dharamdass,
owned two boutiques --- Klassy Korner and Straw-
berry --- at Gulf City during her childhood. "I was al-
ways running around, changing mannequins."
During her teens, there were two more stores,
called J'adore, and there is where she really learned
the business. "I worked in the boutiques, and spent
a lot of time analysing the industry." Little Black
Dress offered her a way to put her swirling ideas
into action. "To see this come alive is a beautiful
She credits her mother with instilling in her a
classy sense of fashion. "Whenever my mother
came to school for an event, she was always so
well put together, and the way she carried herself
had an impact on the way people related to her. I
think fashion is a powerful tool women can use.
You dress for the job you want."
She also owes a lot to her father, Surendra Hanooman, a fo-
cused, hard-working and disciplined man. "He put a lot of em-
phasis on education. Like Casey Kasem, he would always say,
'keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.'
I would get text messages from him saying, 'Go for gold,
daughts.' His voice is always in my head, pushing me to do bet-
Incredibly, the price points are well within reach; there are no
nasty price-tag surprises anywhere. The boutique tries to offer
something for all women, focusing on hard-to-fit body types
such as Petite and Plus.
Hanooman also offers her services as a stylist for women at-
tending special events, or for photo shoots, etc. "In the same
way that you'd pay someone to make up your face for an event,
why shouldn't you hire a stylist?"
Hanooman's creativity also flows in another direction: she de-
signs and produces "couture cakes", a small but glamourous
niche of cake design that involves the look and feel of high fash-
ion in edible form. In 2012, after just 6 months of practice, she
packed up her rolling pins and food colouring and headed to
West Palm Beach, Florida, to compete in a Vogue event, coming
up against the top 10 cake designers in the US. Unsurprisingly,
her cake was inspired by the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. She
took home the People's Choice Award. She is hoping to have the
time to spend on her Little Black Dress Cake Company as soon
as her work at the boutique allows her to breathe.
Her background in business and the pressures having to turn a
profit in such a highly competitive sector do not take away from
her natural people-centeredness and her curiosity about what
makes them tick. "I've always had a love affair with sociology;
I'm passionate about it. And literature! I love to read!"
As women drift in and out of the store, it's evident that they are
at ease, even charmed by the antique ambience. Hanooman de-
signed the store herself, carefully choosing the eclectic pieces
and holding steady to her theme of timeless glam-
our. She is quick to point out that she was sup-
ported in this by her boyfriend, John Laquis, whose
interior decorating company brought her ideas to
life. "I can't say I did any of this without him."
Located as she is in one of the country's most
beautiful and sophisticated malls, Hanooman
needs to stay on the ball in order for her store to
stand out. This she does by offering ageless pieces,
rather than "flash-in-the-pan" items that are in
vogue this month and out the next. Even the
term "Little Black Dress" reflects that idea. "You
spend money on items, but how long are you
going to have them for? Are you going to
wear them once and never wear them
again? I have little black dresses I've worn
20 times, and I will be able to pass them
on to my children in 20 years. They'll
still be relevant."
And the feedback has been over-
whelming. "The boutique is
beautiful, so people gravitate
towards it. They come inside.
I take a lot of pride in every
aspect, in every detail of
this store. It's really a
labour of love."
"Fashion is a powerful
tool women can use.
You dress for the job
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