THE Brown Cotton IRIS Photoshoot - Behind the Scenes

_MG_6094 _MG_6095 _MG_6098 _MG_6100 _MG_6109 _MG_6104 _MG_6110 _MG_6112 _MG_6114 _MG_6113 _MG_6124 _MG_6134 _MG_6122 _MG_6139 _MG_6166 _MG_6144 _MG_6165 _MG_6154 _MG_6151 _MG_6167 _MG_6172 _MG_6175 _MG_6184_MG_6186 So by now if you're my Facebook or Instagram friend, you will have seen the photoshoot I worked on with Risanne Martin of Brown Cotton, because we literally social media spammed people with the images for a week or more. (If you haven't seen the pics yet, they're coming up in the next post).

What I want to highlight in this post is the behind the scenes amazingness that went on with this shoot. I don't even know if I think that the final images truly illustrate the synergy that went  on on set. Everyone present was truly invested in creating great results, from photographer, to Risanne's wonderful and supportive team of friends that she brought to assist us.

Risanne has an energy as well that is perfect for a production set of any nature. She easily diffuses tensions, makes sure that everyone is on equal footing and she FEEDS YOU!!!! A LOT! WITH WINE! I would be blessed if every shoot I worked on in Trinidad could be as professional and well organized as the one I did with her team.

Special mention also goes out to Ms. Kimi See Tai who literally had just come from a party and really was a trouper all day long. Thank you so much Kimi for making this shoot as beautiful as it was.

Photography: Kyle Walcott

SHOOT CREDITS

Designer: Brown Cotton by Risanne Martin

Photography: Justin Ifill-Forbes

Stylist: Kathryn Nurse

Makeup: Arry Cruickshank

Hair: Kimbalene Blackman

Nail Art: Solange Richardson

All Jewelry by Rachel Rochford Jewelry

Flower Crowns: Sasha Ann Clement

 

 

Know Your Country 2014 - Mate-Not

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Not that they're wrong. Living on a small island will always leave you faced with very limited options.

But it could be worse. We could be in St. Kitts. I'm sure there's much less to do in St. Kitts. (To anyone reading this from St. Kitts, I apologize, I don't actually mean that).

Living on a small island sometimes leaves you very limited in scope and creativity as well, however. And lazy. You can get very lazy. If it's not within 12 minutes of your house, you refuse to go. "I don't go past the lighthouse" is a real mindset. But as I've said on this blog, when you place those silly limitations on what you're willing to do, then you will find yourself in a trap.

Anyway, it should be little surprise that when my friend Sean suggested we do a Know Your Country trip to Matelot I didn't think twice. A whole group of us jumped on a maxi early one Saturday morning and headed off on on adventure.

First we stopped at the Galera Lighthouse in Toco, which I had never been to but have to return in some long dress diaphanous dress that blows in the wind. It's literally the end of the island romantic and terrifying all at the same time. Selfies were taken,  and then we headed to our primary destination...

We really intended to reach Matelot eh, we really did.  But the road gods were against us. Forced to turn back,  we had lunch and a nap at Mission Bay followed by some deep existential convo and plenty sandfly bites. My friend Ryan Lee, whose birthday we were also celebrating, offered me these pics for the blog, which I gladly accepted.

By the end of the day it barely mattered that we hadn't reached Matelot. Who can be disappointed when you've been drinking all day, your belly is full, and you'd listened to back to back  old school dancehall and 90's R & B (my personal favorite genre) mixes all day? And now we have a reason to do another KYC ASAP.

 

Photography: Ryan Lee

Top & Pants both by Meiling.

Lopinot

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Every child remembers going to at least one field trip during their primary school career to the Lopinot Historical Complex. Very little stuck out in my head from these trips. I couldn't remember how far it was (further than expected) or how long it took to get there (longer than expected). I forgot what I did when I got there. Not being the most physically active child (okay, adult, person. As I write this post I am actually procrastinating going to the gym), I couldn't imagine strapping on a pair of sneakers and kicking a ball down on the football fields. So when Kyle and I got there, a couple of weeks ago, though the former estate was devastatingly beautiful and meticulously maintained (seriously that first shot doesn't even look real to me and I was there!), pretty soon after we snapped a couple of pics, I kind of thought, "Okay soooo, what now?" I had not packed a lunch of multi coloured cheese paste sandwiches as I undoubtedly had when I was seven. I was unprepared.

One thing miniature primary school-sized Nervous Nancy did remember, however, was ghosts. Each time we were taken to Lopinot in our yellow band maxis we were regaled by tales of the phantom of the cocoa plantation owner riding through the estate and neighbouring towns on a spectral horse.

NOTE: Somehow, in my memory I conflated this story with Sleepy Hollow's Ichabod Crane and the ghost became headless. I found no evidence of this in my research. By all reports, the ghost does indeed have a head. I also have never read Sleepy Hollow. Lol.

Anyway, up at Lopinot, we had no tour guide, and the "museum" didn't provide much information in the way of ghost stories. So I had to revert to my old friend the Internet to refresh my memory of the legends that surround the plantation. Apparently, as the story goes, the Count of Loppinot, after whom the area and plantation are named (the museum is his former house), wasn't the most lovey dovey slave owner (as so many were?) when he established his plantation in 1800. Apparently the cashew tree where he hanged his slaves is said to bleed their blood, and Lopinot himself is said to ride through the village on stormy full moon nights. There is even a soucouyant thrown into the mix.

So strong is this ghost story that apparently, Ghost Hunters International came to film an episode at the plantation in 2011! Please avail yourself of the comments of some Trinidadians on said episode:

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We. Are. Hilarious. I do agree though, this type of international exposure does draw a new wave of interest to our lesser known tourist sites. However, I also believe that it's our job to carry on the awareness of these places domestically.The Lopinot ghost stories are an important part of our oral tradition that are slowly fading out. I hope that primary schools are still taking their students here so that they can not only experience the beauty of the area, and the freedom of running kinda wild in the recreational grounds, but also to carry on the stories of our history.

 

Photography: Kyle Walcott Photography

Sources: Entertainment from d' Net, Paranormal Stories, The Rough Guide to Trinidad & Tobago

Top, Zara; Shorts, Nastygal; Sandals, Zara; Handbag, Michael Kors; Rings, Rachel Rochford; Watch, Michael Kors.

Temple In The Sea: Trini Style Perseverance

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Last weekend Kyle and I headed down to Waterloo, in Central Trinidad (an area I'm not familiar with at all, so level cuss on the road), in search of the Temple in the Sea, a Hindu temple built over water.

I was really initially inspired to go because of the beautiful photography of the location at nighttime that I had seen on the internet. It's only when I started researching the temple after my visit, I realized the importance of this site as a symbol of tenacity and perseverance.

For those of you who don't know, Trinidad is an extremely multicultural nation. Because of colonialism, slavery, and periods of indentured labour, our modern population consists of a blend of black, Indian, Chinese, Syrian, indigenous and European peoples and every possible mixture in between. While I would love to say that we always live in harmony, we really don't and suffer from the same stereotyping and prejudice that other nations do, especially at times of political upheaval...like right now. However, we do maintain a basic respect for the many various religions that are practised here, particularly because this respect allows us at least 15 public holidays a year.

But anyway, back to the temple. The temple you see above was built by one man (and then later restored in 1994). Siewdass Sadhu, a devout Hindu, decided to build a temple of worship in Trinidad, where he was a sugar cane labourer, when he could no longer afford to make pilgrimages back to his native India to worship at the shrines there. He first built it in 1947 on the lands of the Caroni sugar company, who were understandably not too happy.

What followed, is a story that seems taken straight from the pages of a favourite Caribbean history novel. Sadhu was sent to jail and forced to pay a fine of $500, two years wages and the site was demolished. No local would dare carry out the demolition, so the job was done by a European...who was struck dead a month later. The man who granted the court order for demolition also died of mysterious reasons.

Completely undeterred by his stint in prison, Sadhu was released and was determined to build a temple, in a place where no one could stop him, and so he decided to construct it in the sea. By hand. He created the causeway bit by bit with broken bricks, sand and cement. Oil drums filled with cement  connected with steel became the foundation.

Of course, in true Trinidad fashion, he was ridiculed for months, until it was completed in beautiful fashion, at which point everyone rushed to see it.

But what a lesson to be learnt from this true Trini tale! I know those working in innovative and creative fields have often felt like they could be working against the tide here, and any time any progress is made something comes to wash it all away (or bulldoze it to the ground). If one man could make something so beautiful by himself, with just the materials that were available to him, who are we to complain about tight deadlines, early call times, lack of resources.... The answer is always, "It Can Be Done (yes, even in Trinidad)".

To this day, Hindus still use the temple for puja ceremonies, weddings and funerals. Indeed, the day I was there a group was preparing a ceremony inside the temple and a cremation was happening at the cremation grounds not too far off.

The temple, damaged by erosion from the salt and the sea, was restored in 1994 for Indian Arrival Day, exactly 20 years ago. This Friday we once again celebrate the arrival of Indian labourers to our shores, and with them an enriching and deepening of our collective cultural heritage.

Photography: Kyle Walcott

Shirt: H&M; Pants: Meiling x ANYA for the cANYAval shop; Shoes: Jeffrey Campbell; Bag: Michael Kors; Sunglasses: Marc by Marc Jacobs

Sources: Destination360.com; Caribbean Beat Online

The OTHER #islandlife

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Trinidadians are really some of the luckiest people in the world. To all my foreign friends, one of the beautiful things about being from Trinidad & Tobago is Tobago itself.

A 15 minute flight to Tobago is always $300 TTD (around $48 USD, no blackout dates here) or $50TTD for a 2 hour ferry trip, and as soon as you land, you feel your heartrate slow, you forget to look at your watch. You take your time. It's the kind of place that as soon as you get there you think, "Why don't I come here more often?"

Kyle, my photographer, is actually from Tobago, and is there many weekends shooting footage for his upcoming documentary, so I decided to steal him away while I was there for work.

We had grand plans of going all over the place to shoot cool, undiscovered Tobago locations, but as I explained, Tobago is not about grand plans.

We ended up shooting at my hotel (because I was too lazy tranquil to leave), Kariwak Village, which takes a holistic approach to hospitality and does a really great breakfast (included in the rate every day). And the grotto!! As relaxing as Tobago is in general, Kariwak is the place to come for daily yoga and massage therapy, food seasoned with herbs grown on site in their greenhouse, meditation, and nature (a variety of tropical birds are your breakfast buddies. Don't let them steal your watermelon!)

Tobago has recently seen a decrease in international tourism, however our domestic tourism has seen a surge. Every long weekend (of which we have many) tickets, hotels and rental cars are extremely hard to come by. I already have plans of coming back twice (maybe three times) in the next few months, so hopefully Kyle and I can get to some of those grand plans. Or whatever. Lol.

UPDATE: Special thanks to my Tobago girl trip buddies Thais and Rianna without whom this post would not be possible and whom I originally egregiously neglected to mention.

 

 Photography: Kyle Walcott

Cover up: The Trunk Show, Ellerslie Plaza; Bikini Top: American Apparel; Bikini Bottom: Liilah Resort Wear; Shoes: Sandalias.

Jus Chillin on the Block with the Boys

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So my list of side projects grows (and my gym visits have evaporated). I am now working with my friend, Keegan Simon, and his business The 1ndividual Aesthetic. For those of you who aren't familiar with Keegan's great work see Machel Montano's album artwork for Carnival 2014, and also his Addy Award Winning spraycan t-shirt packaging. Anyway, Keegan's influences include pop art and street art and our collaboration is making me pay attention to the 'graffiti' around Port of Spain a little bit more.

 

I was walking to my car from a restaurant and was literally arrested by these charcoal (?) drawings of faces on a wall in the veritable ruins of an old Newtown house (foundation, fence and front steps are all that's left). It was really the first time I'd seen street art in which the images looked so decidedly and unapologetically Caribbean. I couldn't wait to come back to shoot with  "the boys" (do you get it? It's like they're my friends...that's why I'm waving lol). And of course put on my new grafitti dress (isn't this the most literal outfit you can imagine! lol. No points for creativity for me here).

 

What do you think? Art or eyesore?

 

Photography: Kyle Walcott

Dress: Zara, Boots: Steve Madden, Identity Necklace: Nastygal

Mistress of My Domain: 100 Posts

IMG_5149 IMG_5162 (1) IMG_5168 (1) IMG_5181 IMG_5199 IMG_5202 IMG_5207 IMG_5215 (1) IMG_5218 (1)IMG_5225 (1) This is officially my 100th post on what once was http://whirldwind.wordpress.com and is now, officially, www.citiesandislands.com (for those who have wondered, I do in fact know how to spell whirlwind btw. The original URL was a cheeky play on a common Trini malapropism.)

Anyway I've been super grateful and excited about the positive feedback both Kyle and I have been getting on the site so far and I'm excited for the opportunities that the blog is starting to offer us. We were getting to a point where I think it could only benefit us to formalize things a little bit, so that we can continue on the path that we're going on.

We felt like we should do something celebratory and experimental to mark the milestone, and so we went to Movietowne's Green Park, the newest addition to which is the Enchanted Carousel to try and take some long exposure photos with the carousel (orrr merry-go-round as I grew up knowing it).

Seeing all the parents with young kids, and teenagers with their first puppy love crushes gathering around the carousel on a pretty Saturday night was heartwarming. It reminded me of the simple experiences we had growing up, going to Kay Donna drive in or even going by ourselves to Pizza Hut after a football match and mulling over Cheesy or Cinnamon breadsticks. It was nice to see that in a country that is changing so quickly (and not always for the better), there are still wholesome and warm spaces for our young people and families to go to. It's kind of why the last picture in this post is my personal fave :)

Photography: Kyle Walcott

Special thanks to Ryan Lee

Gold Ribbon Knit Sweater - H&M. Leggings (worn as pants *shame*) - Zara. Heels - Zara (similar here). 

Carnival Prep Part 2

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Feathers! Gems! Trims! Oh My!

Though we had a long Carnival season this year, Carnival week still managed to sneak up on me. As I mentioned before, I  I had purchased all my materials in January, but by the Sunday before Carnival I had a completely sheer monokini as my costume base and nothing attached to it.

Instead, I was busy working on a friend's Monday wear. Thank God for Featheration Motif. The new trim store  opened in the middle of February on Bournes Road in St. James. It stocks a great selection of trims and a SUPER extensive variety of gems in a spectrum of colours and styles that will either render you completely inspired or completely overwhelmed. Luckily the store also boasts great organization in a clean space and helpful and friendly staff, led by proprietor Tisha Neilson, who never complain about their painstaking efforts counting out gems for you (me). They're open year round but definitely keep them in mind for Carnival 2015.

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A lot of my costume work was done at the Liilah Workshop, which was bustling out Monday Wear and bathing suits throughout the Carnival season. Designer Lisa Marie Henry, sewed my monokini out of a nude sheer mesh that she hand dyed to match my skin tone. I was so impressed with Lisa this season and how she was able to not only bring together my monokini from a handful of disparate images that I gave to her, but do the same for countless other clients, and manage her time to make sure it was all complete by Carnival Sunday night. Big up to her assistants Vanessa, Ornella and Aquila who all kept me laughing throughout the entire process.

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The colours of my costume were inspired by the pastel peaches, pinks and purples of the gorgeous foil fabric used in Anya Ayoung Chee's Cheyenne costume. I played off of this with peach and rose gold trims and chains and lots of fantastic gems. Lisa and Anya both helped me mastermind construction of the costume with extremely helpful hints along the way  ("I need to add another ring here for support", "Sew the feathers to this seam for the angle you want" etc.) to help me bring the design ideas to life.

And all praises are due to Gem-Tac, the new glue specifically for gems that I just discovered. Basically, throughout this entire process I didn't pick up a glue gun ONCE. Gem-Tac (also available at Featheration btw), delivered the cleanest look I have ever achieved when applying gems to fabric and it lasted. I was super nervous all of Carnival Tuesday because I only used gems to cover my sheer-fabric-ed ass but literally I only lost one gem during the whole day, and honestly I don't even know from where.

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And then, just like that it was Carnival Tuesday morning. As usual I commissioned my father to help with tying of straps, spraying of sunscreen, and, yes, last minute trim sewing lol. After a quick photoshoot with Kyle at the house, I was ready!

The only issue I had with the costume was that my collar trim dug into my neck leaving some great Ash Wednesday battle scars, but of course, I have noone to blame for that but myself!

I missed Carnival last year but 2014 was an amazing return to the road for me. I had literally no complaints (okay except that the big men monopolizing the bars with their height and breadth really annoy me. Next year can we have a girls only bar truck TRIBE??). I can't wait for Carnival 2015 and I hope everyone had an amazing, safe and enjoyable Carnival season as well.

Photography: Kyle Walcott

Makeup: Natalie Simone Miles of Miles of Beauty

Carnival Prep Part 1

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Photography: Kyle Walcott

#islandlife Series: New Hair...New Gear

IMG_2680 IMG_2677 IMG_2663IMG_2687 (2) IMG_2654 IMG_2652 IMG_2645 IMG_2641 IMG_2638 IMG_2634 IMG_2632IMG_2690 IMG_2705 IMG_2702 IMG_2699 IMG_2697 IMG_2696 As soon as my father sees this post I know exactly what he's going to say. "So you couldn't pass a lil iron on that dress?" (Romper.)

So I spent all of the past year and a half taking gorgeous pics of cities around the world, but while I'm home for the next few months I wanted to turn the focus to the beauty of the island(s) where I'm from. This post is the first in a new series that I will be doing showcasing my experience over the next few months in Trinidad. I'm calling it the #islandlife Series.

It's so interesting to me how Chaguaramas has turned into a complete playground. I got reacquainted with the activities there when I went ziplining at ZipITT a couple of weekends ago, but there's all sorts of other fun things to do as well from bike riding to water jetpack-ing (???). I couldn't wait to come back and explore some of the places I've always driven by in passing, or haven't been to in a minute like the arresting Bamboo Cathedral, Samaan Park and creepy old St. Chad's Church. The best part of it for me was treading barefoot over fallen Immortelle blossoms (my company is named after the Immortelle tree, which you can see up there as well).

Of course, I'm an extremely anxious person, however, so a lot of the exploration consisted of me peeking down tracks hoping that no wild animals would come charging out the bush at me Puumba style.

Aaaanndddd I have new hair. I started experimenting with this hairstyle last month in a copper colour but now it's the perfect golden shade. It gives me a very monochromatic look so I like doing neutral makeup and starkly contrasting outfits like black or this white layered romper.

Photography: Kyle Walcott Photography. 

Romper: Tobi still available here. Shoes: Zara. Similar here. Clutch: American Apparel. Lots of colours hereRings: H&M, Nastygal. Gold Wire Ring: Red Fire Innovations by Rachel Rochford (LOCAL!). Chain Bracelets: H&MWraparound watch: Michael Kors. Similar here.

Nails: Solange Richardson. Nail Wraps: Melody Ehsani for NCLA in Masai.

The Girl Who Was Never Satisfied

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Photography by BBS

Eyelet dress - Forever 21. Leopard flats - Steve Madden. Orange stone necklace at Fashion IS

Went down to the Savannah to take a few pics with those familiar clues that let us know Carnival soon approaches. I think my face shows the requisite combination of longing and "Lawd dis sun hot!" I'm now in Italy but after a beautiful three weeks at home I'm longing for the things I won't be a part of and the people I can't be with. One of the biggest lessons a spoil chile can learn is that you can't. Have. Everything.

Oh. Btw. I loved this outfit so much I wanted to wear it all day including to dinner that night. That is, until my father looked at me and said "Am girl please go an bathe an change your clothes. Ent u want to be in fashion??!" Shame.