More than 300 spectators sat expectantly in the Grand Ballroom of the world famous Kerry Hotel in Beijing, China. Every eye glued to the runway, as award-winning Bahamian designer Theodore Elyett translated the magic and splendour of Junkanoo into a ten-piece collection for a crowd of diplomats, business executives, fashion and film industry consultants and Bahamians studying in China.
Mr Elyett was invited to participate in the Cultural Fashion Event organised by Ellen Barron, a noted Chinese designer, and the Embassy of the Bahamas in Beijing. The fashion showcase held on May 26 was designed to highlight the beauty of Asian and Bahamian culture through fashion.
“I was introduced to Theodore’s work by the Bahamas Embassy here in China,” said Ms Barron. “After viewing his portfolio, I knew that our design aesthetic would be a great match, so I invited him to be a guest designer in the fashion showcase.”
Five Bahamian models showed off Mr Elyett’s wearable art which he created under the theme of “Junkanoo: Bahamian Opulence”.
Oversized fringe silhouettes reminiscent of the fringe style popular in Junkanoo costumes of the 1970s were juxtaposed with bursts of colourful textiles. The presentation of the collection was punctuated with iconic Bahamian hits like “Funky Nassau” and “Goombay Medley” performed live by Bahamian entertainer Fred Munnings Jr.
This was Mr Elyett’s first showcase in Asia in his 20-year career.
“When I received the invitation from Ambassador (Andy) Gomez and Ellen Barron to showcase in China, I knew immediately that I wanted to present a collection which highlighted our rich culture,” he said.
“During my research I fell in love with the aesthetic of old Junkanoo and immediately got to work. I wanted to show that Junkanoo could also be wearable and beautiful when translated into garments. I created a collection of ten pieces that highlighted some of the most exciting elements of our Junkanoo celebration. Bold colours, stripes, a play of textures, fluid silhouettes, a lot of sparkle, shine and drama.
“I am extremely thankful to Ellen and the embassy for the opportunity to showcase in China. I am also grateful to Equity Bank & Trust Bahamas Ltd for funding the entire project. The event was such a success that both Ellen and I have agreed to work together again in the very near future.”
Mr Elyett’s collection inspired Éclat Beijing Hotel, a top luxury boutique hotel in Beijing, to extend an invitation to him to shoot the entire collection on their property, an invitation the Bahamian designer accepted.
“Theodore’s fashion showcase in Beijing was outstanding,” said Kaouther Ghariani, Éclat Beijing’s business development manager.
“We loved the colours, the freshness and the glamorous looks. His design aesthetic matches the style and sophistication that we aim for with our Éclat properties. We knew right away when we saw the collection that we wanted to organise a photo shoot and it turned out to be such a success.”
A team of five Bahamian models travelled with Mr Elyett for the cultural presentation. Ashley Hamilton, Erika Adderley and Shanae Strachan, all based in Nassau, were joined by New York City based model Kamela Forbes, and Grand Bahama based model Tomii Culmer. Licenced professional makeup artist Nestaea Sealy also accompanied the team.
The Cultural Fashion Event was just one in a series of events hosted by the Bahamas Embassy in China to commemorate 20 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The event included a charitable element and raised more than $33,000 to benefit the New Day Foster Home in China which provides care and funding for medical operations for mentally and physically disabled Chinese youth.