Occasionally my work hard, play hard mantra comes through with shining results. A fortnight ago my Caribbean contact Douglas Gordon (a man that champions the islands like a trooper and taken my former MTV team out to film there on numerous occasions) reached out and asked if I’d be interested in flying out to Tobago to experience Tobago fashion week. This was not-contrary to belief- a trick question. A few days off to go visit a Caribbean country with sun, sea, sand, fashion and culture and call it work?. A no brainer. So there we were ready to jump on 3 planes after being informed we were booked American airlines to fly into Miami, to Trinidad, to Tobago. Immediately I begged they change our travel to a direct flight to Tobago with any carrier. My experience at Miami Airport has always been a negative experience with their ‘’random checks’’ always leaving you frustrated and flat before your trip has really started.
Luckily they changed our flight to a direct one via Monarch. Monarch premium class. Clearly it was not the same experience you get on virgin or BA but it has to be said- aside from the rubbery tasteless food, the flight was pleasurable. I noted that being hugely obese and booked into economy often means the passenger and all their mates get upgraded to premium/first as they don’t fit into the economy seat?!. And the government say being over weight isn’t in your favour KMT!
Anyhoo- I digress. We landed at the ANA Robinson Airport in Tobago -the usual small, quick customs experience. They looked at me suspiciously after noting I was bring in 2 huge bags full of Bassets wine gums. When I’d asked Douglas if I could bring him anything he’d requested wine gums. So in order to thank him I took him as many wine gums as we could afford and carry- that was £80 worth!. I explained to Mr customs man they were gifts for my granddad Dougie LOL.
We were whisked from the airport to our first residence, which was the beautifully chic Half Moon Blue hotel. A small, boutique hotel in a quiet, hilly countryside location with a private beach and stunning suites. The rooms were crisp, clean and beautifully orchestrated with stunning 4 poster beds and i-pod docks. I woke up on my first morning in Tobago feeling like a princess in tropical paradise. The hotel was stunning with marble glass floors and an infinity pool that leads to the ocean and private beach. With an excellent chef my only criticism is that the hotel had loads of American food like your steak, chips on the menu instead of the island fare that we had anticipated with eagerness. And they played the awful euro dance music that has currently saturated the globe when we had wanted island music like soca and reggae.
2 days later we joined the rest of the media at another hotel -Le Grand Courlan- where we spent the rest of the week. This hotel was in a busier part of the city and much bigger with a massive stunning huge sandy quiet palmed beach at its rear. It was a very nice looking hotel but often its staffs attitude made Roti Huts staff on Uxbridge Road look polite. One morning the waitress actually kissed her teeth when my mate asked for an extra order of something at breakfast. Also- whilst the hotels gym was nicer and more equipped than your average hotel gym, the spa was questionable. Our American media colleague booked in for a body massage and was appalled by the lack of experience of the beauticians. The hotel had mass potential-it just needs a strong guiding hand and it would be amazing.
Whilst out there we went on a tour of local town Scarborough, an imposing looking Fort George, long, relaxing lunches at quaint restaurants like Jemma’s tree house in Speyside-an actual restaurant in a tree! ,Kariwak Village restaurant -a fabulous straw hut roofed room, and Renmar’s in Pigeon Point eating local fair like mahi mahi, shark, crab and dumpling soup, roti’s so huge they fed two, sea moss cocktails and plenty of other mouth watering food.
One afternoon we were taken to go snorkelling in blue lagoons where we spotted multi coloured fish and coral underwater gardens and reefs. We also went to stand in the shallow nylon pool in the middle of the ocean where the water for around one square mile is waist height and warm. They say when you bath there you emerge looking 5 years younger. I attempted to visit daily so I could look 10 years old again after a couple of days!. The one thing that always happens to me abroad is the ocean likes to leave me with life long gifts. Once in Mexico whilst swimming with dolphins, a dolphin attacked me leaving me with a nice row of mini teeth marks along my arm. Another time in Anguilla whilst having ocean races with Mariah I jumped onto what I thought was a rock and left with rash all over my bottom as the rock was live coral that stung me. (mc did try and warn me but my stubborn know-it-all ass knew better!). Then in Miami on a girly holiday I kept making ‘’jaws like’’ soundtrack theme noises in the water and then got badly stung by a jellyfish. My girls ignored me as I’d cried wolf once too many times and assumed I was messing. Well this time I was snorkelling in the warm Tobagonian waters and whilst having an underwater race with my mate felt my fast moving legs scrape sharply against something underwater. I emerged from the water to find a great long bloody gash on my right thigh. My mate swum down to explore what had caused it. A big black anchor!. I’d swum across a flipping anchor! So here I was not able to recall when I’d had my last tetanus injection and wondering whether my leg would go limp and fall off. On enquiring how I could get a tetanus on the island I was constantly greeted with lethargic excuses about it being a weekend and national bank holiday and so on. Good thing I wasn’t actually dying eh!?
Anyhoo-the day continued with captain Chris guiding us through the ocean with his informative talks. Midway through the conversation I asked a question about coral and got cussed out as apparently he had already told us this info earlier and ‘’hadn’t I been listening!’’’. Oops!. Inside I sniggered as captain Chris informed us that we were sailing on the Britannia boat. The boat outside was in fact called the ‘’Bretana’’.
JASMINE BEING INTERVIEWED BY OCEAN STYLE TV PRESENTER SAMANTHA
Then it was time for the reason we were actually there- TOBAGO FASHION WEEKEND!! The first time we arrived at Pigeon Point to see the venue it made you catch your breath it was so beautiful. They had erected a full stage, rows and rows of white-caned chairs, a huge sound system and hundreds of huge mutli coloured flags at the edge of the sandy ocean where the fashion collections would be seen. The first night was the opening ceremony where the red carpet was rolled out, the music was booming along the coastline, Tobago’s finest mingled with international designers and media and everywhere was buzzing. Before every event began the Trinidad and Tobago National anthem was always played and all present were required to stand in respect to the music, which would be played by a pan steel band, sung by a local singer or played once by a very accomplished saxophonist. Like a typical western event the event had branding sponsored by the Bombay Sapphire gin beverage and others. Impressive cars, hummers and motorbikes were dotted around the beach on which partygoers jumped on, in and took pics with them. They also gave us a taste of what was to come by giving bus a mini fashion show with clothing by local designers. It was amazing to think that a fashion event on this scale was possible with such a stunning backdrop of location whilst seeing the waves roaring up behind us. Truly breath taking on another level.
The following night was day 1 of the collections featuring designers like Garnett D`Andrade, Gerard Perry, Christian Boucaud, Frances Hendy and Ivaek Archer.And what a strong start it was. After the obligatory national anthem a solo male contemporary dancer in white flares kicked off the show with a mesmerising dance routine along the catwalk after which 15 designers showed their collections. Extremely tall, svelte, glamazonian models of every hue and colour from gorgeous dark black, to coolie brown, to fair skinned models with extremely professional standards strutted their stuff. Much of the clothing was island inspired with lush, tropical floaty fabrics that fly in the wind and sexy swimwear, which had the crowd whooping in appreciation. I particularly liked the Black and cream themed pieces with frills, ruches, and sexy rain macs.
A running theme through out the fashion week event was models carrying puppies and small dogs along the catwalk to highlight an animal charity for homeless pets. It was a nice visually lingering image and concept but I wonder if it actually made a change to any canine’s lives?
There were also a few collections just for children modelled by stunning professional very young kids which had the crowd all applauding with pride and encouragement.
Amateur mistakes like models walking with the labels still on their shoe bottoms was distracting. Also some models were struggling with shoes 4 sizes too big for them but still managed the walk with grace, which was impressive. One designer had my attention with their Stripy baby doll dresses in black and white with French beret styles. Very chic. Another didn’t impress me with shiny satin and nylon suits. Also-there was a lot of very camp (some would say fitted and colourful) men’s wear. My favourite designer of day 1 was the Final designer Nigel Eastman – his line is called Zadd + Eastman. His was a beautiful capsule collection of black garments with rainbow jewel sherbet colours that would work well on a hot island or the streets of a hectic city like London. The night ended with a party on the beachside with scrumptious edible nibbles and rum cocktails and we left with a goodie bag containing great booty like lip-gloss, sun lotion and bronzer, fabulous magazines and my fave- real home made hot pepper sauce.
Day two’s show was similarly memorable with more kids fashion which unlike your average British high street store, catered for more colourful, childish and appropriate children’s wear. Not sexy-just cute and correct! Once again the dogs and puppies bounded onstage to highlight their cause and the show continued with a variety of looks from a tie dye collection. (Hate tie-dye!), a lot of floaty flowing fabrics and garish colours, and some pretty average swimwear modelled by males with had females in the audience very excited! I really like a collection by Pink lemonade which was described as resort wear. A lot of white mini dresses and backless black shorts jumpsuit and pink and lilac looks that were very fly.
One collection that had the night buzzing was by designer Iveaek Archer with his collection of Chizl underwear for men. It was introduced as playful and sexy and that you had to open your mind to appreciate it so we knew we were in for a shocking look. His very sexy male models strutted onto the catwalk in a variety of looks that was very kinky men’s wear and included eye patches. Face masks, string vest boxer shorts, towels draped over shoulders like a batman cape. The reaction from the very outraged and disgusted macho red blooded males in the audience with their heads in their hands was as entertaining as the collection!. Some of the models were rocking extremely tiny gold lame lycra hot pants, others had “Wotless’’ embroidered on their pants ( P.S ‘’Wotless’’ is the name of a very popular carnival song this year sung by Kees Dieffenthaller) , one model rocked shorts with a koala bear face on his groin with the kolas nose pack pocketing the males genitals and another was the Essex version of under pants with a pair of giant furry dice hanging from the waist band. All fantastic fun!.
The best part of the night though was when British, young designer Romero Bryan took to the stage to close the whole event with a range of uber sexy, bondage inspired very couture cut dresses. The audience sat up, the paparazzi snapped and flashed away furiously and his collection really showed that London was in the house. Even after the first 3 models walked in his collection it was clear that the standard had leapt and that he had shut it down and easily stolen the show.
After the show the paps went nuts photographing the whole of Romero’s collection alongside Romero on the sea front where his dresses with their structured tassels and boned pieces which were very reminiscent of bondage straps were the centre of attention. Post show we congratulated Romero on his moment and agreed that he had done us proud and the annual Tobago fashion week was a great time to visit the island for a vacation meets fashion fix and that we would attempt to attend next year without fail! This has really put Tobago front and centre when it’s usually its twin island Trinidad that takes centre stage.
Before we left Tobago we visited the stunning, Tobago Coca Estate- a tropical cocoa plantation where all number of tropical fruit trees like mango, cassava, guava and sugar cane were grown. No one had advised us to bring welli boots or a pair of socks so I had a diva moment when I had to put my bare foot into an oversized, crusty old boot to protect my feet. Gross!. A beautiful, sun kissed rakish, mature, strong woman in baseball cap and Wellington boots called Christina took us around the estate and showed us how the cocoa pods were grown, dried and sifted before sale. We were able to taste the cocoa pods-bitter and sweet-and enjoy some freshly baked cassava bread in the outdoor oven. If there’s one memory I will never forget its that I will never devour a bar of chocolate again without thinking of Christina and the work it takes to accumulate a few cocoa beans!
On our final day we went on a catamaran cruise on the ‘’Island Girl’’ boat where it rained torrentially all day relentlessly but the crew were so much fun they cheered us up by encouraging us to snorkel in the warm Caribbean bath water and cooked us a tasty lunch and kept the rum cocktails flowing. What could we do but get involved in the always positive island spirit. Tobago-you’ve made another friend for life!