The fashion forward, number one show, Project Runway is known for its fierce competition amongst their creative contestants but in its ninth season the talented Trini designer, Anya Ayoung-Chee is stealing the show. In a two part series (Part1 & Part 2) with LargeUp, the former beauty pageant queen gave an exclusive interview about her upbringing, drawing inspiration from her deceased brother and representing the Caribbean. Here’s some Q & A from both serious. Check out the links for more…
LargeUp: Did the [Project Runway] producers prep you for what life would be like after the show airs, with people coming up to you?
Anya Ayoung-Chee: We did have a meeting at the very end. Just so you know, we all are there to the end. I’m not allowed to talk about where we are at. We all go to the finale. So if I mention anything about that, it’s a sort of universal thing. And they do meet with all of us and they say, this is going to be a little weird going back to normal life because we are sequestered for the entire time.
LU: So you’re not just the designer, you’re the West Indian designer, you carry that weight on your shoulders…
AAC: Yeah, that’s my impression but I will say that aware of that because that’s what I choose. If I sat down and started to read, I know there’s a lot of other stuff going on that’s not so positive. The [sex] tapes thing is there, that’s real. People don’t believe that I’ve actually just learned to sew. Which is actually in a twisted way sort of a compliment because I really did. There are things I choose not to engage in. But I really genuinely feel a lot of love, a lot of support. There’s a sense that maybe there’s a chance for us people who come from a small place to make it. And it’s true. And that’s nice. I didn’t intend on that. I did this for me as a designer. And if all that comes with it, I am proud of that. I became Miss Trinidad & Tobago really so that I could rep the Caribbean.
LU: There are a lot of Caribbean designers now. There’s Caribbean Fashion Week in Jamaica, T&T Fashion Week…
AAC: It’s not like it doesn’t exist. Everybody from throughout the Caribbean shows [at T&T]. I’m not saying it’s all great but it’s not supported. It’s entertainment. Buyers don’t come, press doesn’t come. In Trinidad, it’s an insecurity. If we were a little more secure and owned our identity then we would dress a different way.
LU: Do you think young designers from T&T can thrive if they stay or do they need to come here?
AAC: Because I’ve sort of becoming the young designer in Trinidad, people ask me things like that. And I think that if you can, it will always benefit you to be exposed to something else, whether the “something else” is Timbuktu or New York. It’s the “something else” that always triggers more thought and generates more ideas. Living in and working in New York introduces you to the pace of work that doesn’t exist in the Caribbean, generally. Everyone’s content to work just so much there. Here, that doesn’t cut it. For me, I have seen my capacity for work. If I didn’t live here and work to that extent, I would never know I was capable of that. I had to be pushed that hard. I wasn’t doing that for myself voluntarily. But it’s like you lose your job or you’re gonna keep your job–OK, I’ll work. And in Trinidad and probably most of the Caribbean who’s studying that? You got a nice job or you’re gonna going to the beach.