Designer Identity Crisis

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Remember as children, people would ask you what you wanted to be when you grow up and you would give some cute answer like I want to be a doctor to save lives and help improve my country’s medical facilities? Now that you have gone overseas to gain your degree, be honest, do you really see yourself going back or are you too busy sniffing that greener grass where you are? It is a fact that once you open your mind to all the possibilities out there, going back home to work in a struggling economy becomes a less attractive option by the second.

However, you can’t deny the fact that for the better part of your life, you were raised there. I raise the question, after studying overseas. D you feel some moral obligation to go back and help improve the society in some way and if you don’t what are some of the possible ramifications that you will have to face in the future? I ask this because it is something I am currently struggling with at the moment. after I graduate from fashion school, I get an entry level job with fairly decent pay, work my way up, possibly travel, make enough connections to start my own ventures and continue to climb the career pinnacle. Sounds like the ideal future but then I ask myself, where does my national duty factor into my life plan?

I remember when I wrote my application essay for Parson’s and I wrote all this patriotic stuff about wanting to open an art school, funding fashion programs in Barbados lah-de-dah and it sounded so philanthropic on paper but looking back now I am wondering is that even going to be a feasible venture? If I choose to stay in New York and somehow make it in the fashion industry, am I going to end up with a Rihanna situation on my hands? Am I going to be criticised for not being Caribbean enough? These are just some of the questions that have been running through my head as of late.

I have also been asking the question what does “Caribbean Designer” even mean? Yes I was raised all my life in Barbados but I was never really a deeply cultured soul, meaning I don’t think I am “Bajan” enough. Apart from being a very picky eater, I don’t like parties, I honestly couldn’t care less about Crop Over (no offense), I have a weak Bajan accent if any and I could go continue at length. Finding a connection to my national identity has always been a challenge and I have been trying to make up for that by trying to find design inspiration from various things that are Barbadianna but even that I have failed miserably at because the personal connection is not there. Given my lack of “culture”, does that make me less of a “Caribbean Designer” or is that term not even applicable because the Caribbean fashion industry is um…not at world status level.

I know my statements are provocative and may be borderline offensive but it is just something I am trying to work through. Look at what happened with Rihanna. She was born and bred in Barbados, achieved worldwide acclamation, fashion icon, multi- platinum recording artist et cetera. Yet, Barbadian society managed to put her on a pedestal and knock her down all at once. Rihanna’s image caters to an international market but does that make her any less of a Bajan? I am not defending her or anything I am just posing the question; if some Barbadian happened to gain international prestige in his or her field and doesn’t promote national identity in his/her public image? Are they going to be subject to cultural ridicule? Is their national /cultural identity suddenly questionable? Just throwing this out there guys please don’t lambass me later.

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