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Creative industry—key driver in diversification

Sunday, July 8, 2018
Designer Sheldon Martin Warner shows some of his hand-painted pieces.

The work of local designer and artist Sheldon Martin Warner speaks volumes.

His creations are bold and alluring, colourful and fascinating and have landed him clients in London, the United States, Japan and other parts of the world.

Warner, whose design studio is in Lopinot, Arouca, was among a diverse group showcasing their talent at the launch of the Trade Ministry’s fashion value chain investment programme (VCIP) for 2018 at the Government Plaza, Port-of-Spain.

The fashion industry has been identified as one of the key drivers in the thrust to diversify the economy and FashionTT is the state agency mandated to propel business development and export activity in that sector. In pursuit of this mandate, a strategic plan for the fashion industry was developed and approved by the boards of FashionTT and its parent company CreativeTT.

Describing his pieces as a lifestyle collection, Warner said: “Everything is hand-painted, one-of-a-kind.

“The range of items are hand-painted clothing for men and women, to home collections items comprising hand-painted tableware. We also have acrylic wall hangings.”

Warner, who has many high-end clients, has designed for local Miss Universe delegate and participated in regional and international fashion week events.

He said fashion has an integral place in T&T’s economic landscape and new capacity building opportunities continue to be provided for local fashion entrepreneurs with the continuation of the VCIP, a strategic initiative aimed at increasing the sector’s commercial impact. It is facilitated by faculty of the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, under the guidance of Professor Vincent Quan.

The VCIP is subdivided into four tiers: the global value chain (gvc) support programme, non-global value chain (non-gvc) support programme, incubator programme for new/young high potential companies or partnerships, and firms that are earmarked for future support.

FashionTT, led by general manager Lisa-Marie Daniel and under the guidance of the FashionTT and CreativeTT boards, successfully inaugurated the programme in 2017 and continues to strive for excellence in this field.

The 2017 cohort was applauded for maximising a valuable opportunity to improve the various elements of their value chain.

Daniel noted that the global fashion industry generates in excess US$2.4 trillion and within the local fashion sector there are many creative designers.

“One of the main objectives is eventually getting products out for export and getting more promotion locally. FashionTT is supporting our designers in doing so through capacity building programmes. We are also partnering with UTT with respect to the implementation of a local production facility which will be launched by the end of this calendar year at the UTT’s Wrightson Road campus.

“This facility will support the manufacturing of goods to fulfil orders locally and for export,” she said.

While there have been some obstacles in ensuring the industry is thoroughly thriving, including equipping designers with business acumen and providing more production spaces, Daniel said Fashion TT has been closing these bottlenecks through a series of initiatives, including discussions with retailers to offer products from local designers at their stores.

“This is a very palatable industry. It can definitely help the economy away from oil and gas,” Daniel said.

Chairman of the T&T Creative Industries Company Ltd (CreativeTT), parent company of FashionTT, Calvin Bijou, explained: “The strategic plan for the fashion industry prudently earmarked vital near, medium and long-term projects to aggressively drive the business development and export activity of the local fashion industry.

“The cornerstone of these is the value chain investment programme. This programme provides mentoring and training for designers and aspiring designers irrespective of where they find themselves in some of the business stages.”

Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, FashionTT’s line minister, highlighted the importance of the VCIP, saying it provides a platform for local fashion designers to improve the various business elements of their value chain, making them better positioned to export and compete on the local and international markets.

“The creative industry has untapped potential that can contribute significantly to income generation and job creation. It’s heartening to hear of growth in their respective businesses including, for some, entry into regional markets in keeping with the strategic direction outlined by FashionTT for the period 2015–2020.

“This augers well for the fashion industry and for the domestic economy of T&T, as it introduces a new stream of revenue, job creation and foreign exchange earnings,” Gopee-Scoon added.

Creative entrepreneurs are also beneficiaries of other initiatives being implemented by the Government, including the national e-commerce strategy and the national quality policy and supporting national quality infrastructure.

The Trade Minister said: “As a Government we envisage that products proudly made in Trinidad and Tobago will be differentiated in the international market on the basis of quality, value and innovation rather than on price alone. The creative sector, and fashion in particular, can blaze a trail in this regard.”

Designers were told about access to funding through the business development fund in the amount of $100,000 per applicant, a grant fund facility to a maximum of $250,000 and up to $1 million per beneficiary under a research and development facility.

The Trade Ministry is also operationalising a secured transactions and collateral registry which envisages use of moveable property—intellectual property, machinery and equipment, accounts receivables—as collateral when approaching financial institutions for a loan.

• For more information on the value chain investment programme visit or follow FashionTT’s social media pages, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, to keep up-to-date with this and other fashion industry initiatives. Information on other grants and funds are accessible at


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