The passion for fashion in Tobago is being fuelled through the Value Chain Investment Programme (VCIP) administered by the Trinidad and Tobago Fashion Company Limited (FashionTT) and facilitated by the Tobago House of Assembly’s Division of Finance and Enterprise Development (DFED).
Launched in August of 2015, the strategic plan of FashionTT incorporates the VCIP, which is intended to support both new and emerging and advanced firms in improving various elements of their value chain. The intent of the VCIP is for each selected participant firm to receive expert guidance in order to improve their access to markets and increase the levels of innovation applied in their operations.
Finance Secretary, Assemblyman Joel Jack, outlined the suppport for this initiative, “The Tobago House of Assembly recognises the untapped potential of our creative sector and continues to strengthen and stimulate its growth, while building the capacity of persons in the business. The fashion industry is the focus of several programmes and activities implemented by the Business Development Unit at the DFED, and through these efforts, the sector continues to expand. I am highly appreciative and encouraged by the efforts of FashionTT and the special attention paid to Tobago’s talented and innovative fashion designers. I am hopeful that all of those screened will become successful participants in the VCIP.”
Thus far, eight applicants from Tobago have been screened by a FashionTT panel, which is charged with the responsibility of independently assessing applicants based on international criteria such as quality production, volume, market experience and financial capacity; and then categorising them according to the various levels within the VCIP.
Two Tobagonian fashionistas screened thus far are Christie Warner of ‘Cee Wee Designs’ and Kirsten Benjamin of ‘IsayU Designs’. Both of these companies have been nurtured and guided by the DFED alongside other Tobago-based fashion designers, including facilitation of their participation in the Caribbean Fashion Week for the past two years.
Cee Wee Designs focuses on the manufacture of unique, handcrafted bags and accessories and were recipients the Business Pioneer Award 2015 from the Association of Female Executives of Trinidad and Tobago (AFETT). IsayU Designs engages in the design of both male and female clothing and accessories and was featured in Essence magazine’s “Looks We Love”.
According to Christie of CeeWee Designs, “The FashionTT panel was very knowledgeable and were immediately able to offer me business strategy pointers based on the interview questions. We have been in existence for five years now and I believe that if we are selected to take part in the VCIP programme, it will catalyse the achievement of our vision to be the Caribbean’s number one bag company as well as an internationally recognised brand with a distinctly Tobagonian and Caribbean flavour. I really have to thank the Division of Finance and FashionTT for providing this priceless opportunity for Tobagonian designers to achieve their full potential.”
FashionTT is charged with overseeing the business development and internationalisation of the local fashion industry and is a subsidiary of the Trinidad and Tobago Creative Industries Company Limited (CreativeTT), which is a state enterprise under the Ministry of Trade and Industry.