Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 27th 2015 Contents B40
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt December 27, 2015
One of the highlights of the last quarter of this year was a
collaborative 2016 collection by Meiling Inc themed Night
The designs showcased fresh modern fashion innovations while
retaining the otherworldly mystique of the richly contextual 18th
century universe of The Book of Night Women, a novel written
by multiple award-winning Jamaican author Marlon James.
The event was held at the Big Black Box in Woodbrook, on
November 24, and its creative collaborations included a dream
team of artists: creative director Wendell Manwarren, visual artist
Brianna McCarthy, accessories designer and artist Ashraph, stylists
Anya Ayoung Chee and Kathryn Nurse, lighting designer Celia
In the novel, there are varied and complex female characters.
The programme offered a quote from a book review by Kaiama
L Glover describing the women as "a clandestine Jamaican slave
sisterhood conspiring to stage an island-wide revolt."
Excerpts were read in a short pre-show segment by the storyteller
of the evening, elisha bartels. The mood of the pivotal scene
where the women are plotting rebellion together was translated
for the Big Black Box stage through narration, dramaturgy and
The signature tailoring of the Meiling fashion label found itself
threaded through the dark, roiling complexity of James' characters.
There seemed to be an attempt to marry the structure and clean
lines of the classic Meiling aesthetic with a more organic and
visceral artistic effect that would have been critical to translating
the soul of James' characters from the page to the fabric. The
attempt to do this resulted in some very interesting looks.
Some pieces worked. These included asymmetrical shirt ruffles,
all variations of the off-the-shoulder peasant-styled puff-sleeved
blouses and the plunging back dresses with whimsical feather
edged cords trailing along a deep V.
Cinched-waists were a sub-theme, with corset lacings along
the spine providing just the right touch of modern and vintage
in one. Some pieces were repeated on the runway with alter-
ations---either with the addition or removal of a detail, which
shifted the mood and context of the overall look. Those were
interesting and transformative moments.
Additionally fascinating were the shocking accents of red that
peaked through unexpectedly, a reminder, perhaps, of the hidden
undercurrent of vitality and power carefully restrained and hidden
within the parts these women and all women play in rebellions
of varying contexts.
"I hope people made the connection with the book. (I) was
inspired by the aprons of the slaves and the shawls that they
wore and then for the ladies who owned... the owners of the
slaves---the ruffles and the bustles. So I hope people got the con-
nection," explained Meiling.
Meiling confessed to have fallen in love with James' novel,
having met him in person. However, she had not the spark of
inspiration to do a dedicated collection on the theme of the book
until recently when she was moved by a J'Ouvert mask made by
local artist Brianna McCarthy from McCarthy's own 2015 exhibition,
The Vetiver Night Women.
McCarthy felt completely at ease making the masks in part-
nership with Meiling and felt that the combination of artists
coming together with all the different influences felt right.
"I was totally on board because I thought the Night Women
was a theme worth exploring. Coming out of the magic that I
felt with my show, and then with Meiling being touched by
Marlon James' book, it seemed to fit."
McCarthy was even pulled out of her comfort zone and made
a model on the runway in a spectacular all red, floor length
design---the grand finale, strutting to the energetic strains of Nina
Simone's Sinner Man. She confessed that while she was very
comfortable with making the art, she was incredibly anxious
about doing the modelling.
Meiling then approached Wendell Manwarren for artistic input.
"I said, Wendell, you must read this book---because we share
books. He read it, he fell in love with it and this crazy idea came
with this fashion show that would start at my house and then
we would walk and have a procession which would end up here
(at the Big Black Box venue on lower Murray Street). He did the
rest of the creative by coming up with the characters and the re-
enactments and everything."
In his programme notes, Manwarren further endorsed the evo-
lution of fashion "where it is no longer sufficient to just present
a collection of wearable garments, our designers are challenging
themselves more and more to avail themselves of the many means
at their disposal to help tell a story and make a statement that
might resonate beyond the practicalities of making and selling
This potent collaboration was formed from a callaloo of influ-
ences incorporating literature, theatre, music, dance and fashion
all stirred together. The Night Women fashion collection launch
was a bold and memorable creative statement and a true testimony
to the merits of meaningful intersection within the T&T creative
A novel collection
...Meiling's Night Women draws on creative intersections
Meiling's Night Women. PHOTOS: DAVID WEARS
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