A Recap Of The Haunting Evening Meiling’s ‘Night Women’ Walked
Last Tuesday night Trinbagonian designer and Caribbean fashion pioneer Meiling launched her new 2016 collection entitled ‘Night Women’ at The Big Black Box on Murray Street, Trinidad. The collection was strongly inspired by the novel ‘The Book Of Night Women’ written by Jamaican author Marlon James. The theme encompassed Jamaican slavery in the 18th century and included an introductory mini production of the novel’s protagonist a young enchanting slave named Lilith. The runway show commenced with a sort of reincarnation of ‘The Night Women’ walks, as the models made their way from Meiling’s place on 6 Carlos Street to The Big Black Box on foot already dressed for the show.
The Production (Introduction)
This was no ordinary runway show. For the opening, the audience was treated to a short dramatic piece, an excerpt reenacted from the novel ‘The Night Women’. Dim luminous lighting set the tone for the night. All eyes were glued to the stage, captivated by the astute articulation of the narrator and mesmerized by the ‘Night Women’ cascading the stage. The silence in the room echoed the audience’s intrigue with the happenings, as faces purred with smirks of excitement.
The Fashion and Runway: A Collaboration of Artists
Meiling’s love of art and culture has always been evident in her work. She is a mentor to many upcoming new talents and so it was no surprise that she opted for a dynamic collaboration with artist Bianna McCarthy and jewelry designer Ashraph for the launch of this new and profound collection. Serenaded by the sounds of the late, great and ever soulful Nina Simone every model made their way down the runway with an airy gait, reminiscent of a time of involuntary control, their faces solemn as if to wander.
Hair and makeup was enchanting, full of bliss and very rich. A series of tight sleek braids and textured afros were in the mix. In beauty there was a tasteful plague of gold with golden foil flakes accenting the lips and eyebrows flourishing into what seemed like tiny gold explosions along the temple. As much as I adored the beauty look I’m not sure it worked well with all the runway looks but I understood how important it must have been to remain consistent throughout.
Meiling’s collection was highly inspired by the yesteryears of colonialism, playing up stylish and modern twists on ruffled shirts, peasant dresses and classic sash cover ups.
What was delightful was her ability to achieve a high level of modernity with traditional fabrics like lace, cotton and linen, honing the authenticity of that era. The shy hints of detail were simple, unexpected yet impactful while the colour scheme held a majority ruling of black with drops of red, dulled lavender and grey pieces and a floral outburst in the form of a printed frock. Some of my favourite looks included a sassy lavender and black apron top that integrated a sexy x-back surprise. Other favourites, a black floor length tuxedo shirt dress and an off-the-shoulder blouse large enough to be a dress bombarded with audaciously puffed sleeves. Some shredding was also in the thick of things with a model sporting a shredded piece complete with feathers in the form of a necklace and another model with a similar piece about the waist of a tattered skirt.
Meiling also showed off a meticulous technique of wardrobe editing, where the art of designing transitional pieces trended throughout. Tops turned into dresses, dresses into skirts and layering of various pieces provided endless wardrobe possibilities. The haunting but gorgeous dark masks worn by models in the final walk from artist Brianna McCarthy felt like the perfect homage to Trinidad and Tobago’s industry of art and culture, teasing us with the revelry of Carnival and Mass in the most tasteful and elegant way. It was truly a night of ‘the feels’. I couldn’t help but have flash backs of the movie ‘The Colour Purple’ and with every new piece my heart felt a little overwhelmed with joy that a time of such pain could foster such innate inspiration and ingenuity all at once.
The show ended with an energy complimentary to how it began. Lilith and the ‘Night Women’ who welcomed us paraded the stage one last time with a vibe that was infectious and gave us the high we were all waiting for. Alas, another epic show hitting all the right notes that left those like myself who unfortunately were made to stand (which was to my slight displeasure) feeling like we had the best ‘seats’ in the room.
Meiling is undoubtedly one of the most established designers in Trinidad and Tobago and one of the best fashion designers the Caribbean diaspora has ever known. She captain’s a ship that is all her own admirable and inspiring to all (even those who won’t always get it). Her knack for detail and perfection is never lost and her cultured soul laid naked before us that night. I couldn’t ask for a better gift from a designer.
As always Meiling’s show was jam packed with A-listers from all around. Wendy Fitwilliams was eye candy of the night and St. Lucia’s Shala Monroque could be seen seated modestly taking in the collection with delight and of course designer Robert Young of The Cloth, a dear friend and fellow supporter of Meiling’s work could not be missed. The night ended quickly after the show was over, I reckon it was mostly because the show was held on a weekday and not a weekend but from the vibe everywhere, it was evident that all who came left full.
Photography by Melvern Isaac.