Village Dispatch: Trinidad & Tobago with Stephanie

In celebration of Trinidad & Tobago's Independence today, I originally planned to do a special style post photographed at a national historic building. However, the concept seemed too contrived so instead I decided to publish a new Village Dispatch interview featuring another Trini creative doing good work, Stephanie Ramlogan. She is dedicated to promoting Trinbagonian/Caribbean fashion designers. Through both her career as a stylist and her eponymous blog "No Fashion Victims", Stephanie is helping to influence the regard for the Trinbagonian/Caribbean fashion industry. 

AM: What’s behind the name “No More Fashion Victims”?
It started off as an awareness thing. I treated the term “Fashion Victims” as referring to people who were following trends blindly, or who didn’t understand their personal style and were confused about clothes and how to dress. I would write about colour and recent runway shows and that sort of thing. Then as I got more and more into local fashion, and appreciated the process of the slow fashion experience, NMFV started to mean something else- it was more than just about the label whores. Now it refers to all the people who suffer to make fashion, like sweatshop workers, underpaid nameless creators -- it refers to the environment that is being affected by careless dumping, fabric wastage-- the animals who are killed for us to wear them as accessories. NMFV stands for living with style and heart.

AM: What placed you on the path to being a fashion stylist? 
I always wanted to be a fashion designer. I was obsessively drawing since I was 2, and when I was about 7, the subject of my scribbles moved from mermaids to models. While pursuing my BFA in Fashion Design, I met Babatu Sparrow, a stylist/designer from New York who was at CAFD teaching Fashion Illustration. He is one of the most talented people I have ever met. He took me under his wings for 9 months as a Styling Assistant for his magazine project. It changed my goals.

AM: How has your personal evolution shaped  your approach to dressing?
I always used to dress to fit in and please people. I grew up very insecure about my looks. As an Indo Trinidadian, my skin colour was always an issue. My family would make comments about me spending too much time in the sun, and being too dark. I was lost. I had what was called “Bushy Hair” and wore thick glasses. My body developed at a young age too- wearing bras since primary school. I constantly tried to look like everyone else. I had no sense of my own style identity.

Through my Personal Styling studies and working with different women, I think I grew more courageous. I had been telling them all the things I needed to tell myself - it was cathartic. Then it would be my relationship with men, who seemed to find me so attractive. I had to stop shying away from the compliments and started to listen to what they were saying.  I started to own my curves and my complexion. I started to wear my hair wild. I realised I am not girly or delicate. I stopped listening to people who who criticise me based on their personal preferences, and started to wear what made me feel authentic. I felt the most me I ever had.

AM: What are some unique rewards of  being a stylist in the Caribbean?
Stephanie:The network is small, which means designers, stylists, photographers - everyone knows one another. Collaborations are easy to bring together. Friendships are easy to make. It’s like a family.

AM: How has the fashion industry in Trinidad & Tobago changed  since you began your career? 
Stephanie:There is definitely a higher demand for local pieces and there are definitely a lot more cooks in the kitchen. 

AM: Who are your favourite local designers?
Stephanie:Personal Favourites? As in who suits my style the most? Meiling and Adrian Foster. I like classic, convertible and interestingly detailed designs.
Designers I think are doing the damn thing are J.Angelique (always innovating and thinking about being unique), Solange Govia for Carnival. Solange manages to stay outside the box and still be relatable.

There are many I really love. Many of them need a push though. They aren’t living up to their potential.

AM: Why do you value local craftsmanship?
Stephanie:Caribbean people have a unique story to tell, especially Trinbagonians. We are a mix of so many cultures and colours and places and voices- fashion is merely an outlet to tell these stories. I see so many different influences in local fashion that are unique to us. I am so proud to be from here. I want to wear our art. It’s a soul connection.

AM: Who are a few persons  you consider to be some of the most stylish Trinbagonians (male or female)?
Stephanie: Ooh That’s a good one!
  1. Kathryn Nurse, blogger of Cities and Islands, always makes me want to take her outfit off her body and put it on mine.
  2.  I went to school with Nakita Hyatali (Kitanilly designer) and since then I found she was so creative and bold with her clothes.
  3. Calypso Rose, her style is iconic ~ from her androgynous, boxy suits to her ornate Indian embellished stage looks. I love this woman!
  4. Nailah Blackman (artiste)  knows her body and who she is so well. She really dresses like a rock star and still looks comfortable.
  5. Ecliff Elie (menswear designer) also pays a lot of mind to his look. Always so well put together. 
  6. Meiling Esau, her timeless all black signature look is clean,sophisticated, modern and classic. I also love her jet black hair and fierce haircut. Also, her face is so bright and radiant.
AM: What types of challenges (personally/professionally) do you find most fulfilling?
Stephanie:Recently I have been dealing with similar situations that I had to face as a teen and in my early 20s with respect to romantic relationships. Being able to tackle them as an adult with so much more experience and so much more strength and knowledge, makes me very happy. I can actually compare my former self with the present one and I am so content seeing how much I have evolved.

AM:What do you do to feel your best (apart from dressing up)?
Stephanie: Cut my hair. It thrills me.

AM: What places in  T&T do you find inspiring or rejuvenating? 
Stephanie:San Antonio Green Market is one of my favourite places to be as well as Blanchisseuse beach. I love the northern range, so the whole North Coast drive brings me to life. 

AM: What’s one suggestion you would share with a young Trini/Caribbean person interested in a career as a stylist? 
Stephanie:I’m asked this all the time. I wonder if my answer changes lolStyling is hard work. It’s way more than dressing up. It is management and customer service. My advice would be to not half-ass it. Too many people treat styling like it is not important, but I believe styling sells fashion, and styling makes people feel empowered. If you want to be a stylist, sell yourself whole heartedly (or whole ass-edly rather lol) to it.

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