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Saint Lucia Jazz Festival's Controversial Couture

This year, the revamped Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival featured a fashion show dubbed “Hot Couture”, intended to boost the island's burgeoning fashion industry by creating a showcase for local models and for designers both in Saint Lucia and throughout the region.

The show's artistic director was Vincent McDoom, a Saint Lucian designer and television presenter currently based in France – and while the event has generally received positive feedback, it has also been controversial, thanks in part to behind the scenes wrangling.

Designer Joycie Mederick, who had voiced concerns early on, felt that the event needed closer examination

The controversial Fashion Show Hot Couture has brought to light a number of issues and personalities. There are a number of questions to be asked. Have any of you seen the Hot Couture Magazine under St. Lucia Fashion Pioneers? The information contained is endorsed by the Government of St. Lucia/ SLTB in support of the development of the Arts. Please find a copy and tell me what you think?
Was Hot Couture really to promote St. Lucia or St. Lucian Talent or was it staged to help some friends and to save a publication house? One that has done nothing to promote the works of the very industry or sector it is now claiming and making a bid for? If there was no money for the Arts would the same players be interested in making an investment in the industry? And why is there a need to wipe out and discount the efforts and achievements of others in the fashion industry?

Tennyson Scott felt that the post mortem should have been held after the entire festival was over:

My only disappointment is that the St. Lucia Jazz has not concluded and we have all of this outplay in the media. Why could it not wait until after the event when there is specific meeting when there is an evaluation. This in my view is how professionals operate. Issues like whether a foreign or local designer should open and close the show, or the design of the catwalk etc are things that should be discussed at the evalaution meeting. Remember this aspect is a new addition and we won't get everything right one time. But it is from the mistakes that are made and the recommendations…implemented [that] the event gets better and more meaningful.

Magdalene Daniel was happy that the fashion show brought something new to the Jazz festival:

I tend to agree with Vincent Mc Doom about trying something different and start[ing] to change the everyday people who are involved in Jazz every year. We need to uplift, add others opinion[s], also Jazz need[s] to grow with other people's ideas to make a difference. We in this Country dislike change. We need to stop paying so much to bring the likes of R. Kelly. We've got lots of talent right here and in our neighboring Islands.

Wendy Pilgrim-Michael felt that McDoom was justified in airing whatever problems he had with organizing the event:

Vincent is a professional and in that same vein would like to see the industry that he's passionate about succeed in the country of his birth, the country he loves; to afford other young people the opportunity that he was afforded. The country cannot be held hostage to the incompetencies and deficiencies of certain individuals….by calling on members of this forum in your post, you make it seem like before THEIR tourist board came in everything ran smoothly.

According to Jason Sifflet at The Flogg Blog, there was conflict on the organizing committee:

‘We’re giving them an opportunity,’ the highest paid committee member was said to have commented.
‘How are they ever going to become professional if you don’t treat them professionally and pay them,’ McDoom was reported to insist.
‘Ok, how much per model?’ he was asked. ‘$75 to $150?’
‘More like $700,’ McDoom insisted.
‘That’s too much!’ he was told.
‘But you’re getting $100,000, for what?’ he replied.
The Flogg claimed that McDoom's directorship of the show was his way of giving back to a society that didn't always appreciate him:
McDoom’s practically free directorship, his single handed creation of the Hot Couture franchise and his upstaging of the jazz festival in general is part of his revenge on the establishment that abused him, refused him, exploited him, neglected him, tormented him and discarded him as a young St Lucian.
Some of those same people profited from Hot Couture way more than he or the models did. Way more than all of them combined. It is the way of the world – at least in St Lucia.

Vincent McDoom spoke about his experiences directing the show on his personal Facebook page:

This was a lovely opportunity and a fabulous learning experience for me as well as a slap in the face eye opener… My grandma taught me that it's in sleeping in a chicken pen you realize that chicken snores and this experience proved she was right in many ways…. After working closely with the models and designers the real talents who really should be applauded for their tried hard work and dedication I have come to realize that the designers suffer just as much as the models from various forms of abuse.

Yet, he promised to never stop his advocacy of the creative talent in Saint Lucia:

I will also continue to voice my observations and opinions on the ills of our creative talents both in the press locally and internationally and on the social network so as to create more awareness as to what the are truly confronted with and to stop those who trie[d] to exploit this talent with smooth talking in the media when in truth they could not care less and it's just to promote their faces and their egos at the expense of our models and our creative designers

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  • sunrainor

    The controversy on this is just a very good illustration of frustrations that local artistes have had with this premier event throughout its history: local musicians were sidelined for years, with Boo Hinkson finally putting his foot down a few years ago and refusing to accept a contract that offered him pay that was a fraction of that for any of the other (foreign) performers who’d share the stage with him that day – his stature was/is equal to some of those artistes, so why pay him so much less?
    We, designers/contemporary and traditional crafters who produce high quality work (my jewelry is featured on the handpainted silk garments of Lyn Bristol around 48 – 53 sec on the video) have given up in total frustration with the same shoddy conditions being offered for us to showcase our work and SELL at this event – we advise, year after year, what needs to be done – several of us have a lot of experience -myself having even organized similar events for the St. Lucia Tourist Board in the past and been the co-ordinator of the Caribbean Export Caribbean Gift & Craft Show in the past – but our pleas and reasoning fall pretty much on deaf ears…we are at a loss to understand why St. Lucia and the Tourist Board does not capitalize on this event to really promote the culture of our island and in so doing support local creative entrepreneurs…left shaking my head!

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