Designer Apprentice Scores Project Runway 9

I was an accidental tourist,” recaps Anthony Reid of his first encounter with women’s wear designer Meiling .  “The association with Meiling grew out of me running an errand for her in New York in 1996.”  That led to an invite to her show.  One of his brutal and honest critiques of a Meiling collection made its way to her ears.  She responded by asking Reid to ‘come see the next collection before it’s shown and offer ideas.’  Soon he was styling for Meiling.  He says he was “humbled and magnified” by Meiling’s gesture.

Anthony Reid menswear shot at Erotic Art Week TT. Photos: SeanDrakes.com

A decade later, Reid, a flight attendant since 1991, is also a designer apprentice.  “Four years ago [Meiling] encouraged me to step onto the ramp to say this is who you are,” reveals Reid.  They’re now a dynamic fashion duo.  Their process: Reid distills his collection from the essence of Meiling’s women’s line, and they often show in immediate succession.  Reid builds his brand on exquisite tailoring and select fabrics, and embellishments are rendered with ribbon, intricate stitching or layered fabrics.

The other breakout apprentice from the Meiling camp is Anya Ayoung-Chee.  She launched her Pilar label in 2009 with a youthful, vibrant and afrocentric collection influenced by the Bobo Shanti.  For her sophomore collection, Anya trained her eye on uniformity.  This collection melds the functionality and notions attached to conventional, rigid and loose-fit uniforms to “make a statement about uniformity and what uniformity is about,” explains Anya.

Bobo Shanti-influenced collection by Anya Ayoung-Chee. Photos: Sean Drakes.

“I grew up with this idea that you must wear jeans and a tank-top to go to the mall,” shares Anya, a native of New York based in Trinidad.  Her mission is to challenge the encoded dress code.  “I am committed to informing Caribbean women that there is no need to dress by occasion.”  She designs clothes that are separates with multiple applications, “it’s the essence of what I am trying to do to encourage individuality.”

Anya's inaugural collection at Fashion Week Trinidad 2009. Photos: SeanDrakes.com

“I’ve had the extreme benefit of having Meiling as a mentor, she’s been my foundation when it comes to figuring out the process.  She doesn’t steer me creatively [and] she’s extremely open,” attests Anya who has a degree in graphic design.  “If Fashion Week TT can mimic that…maybe a mentorship program is something they could look into.  I stand to shoot myself in the foot when I say this, I think the standard for entry (into FWTT) has to be strict.  If I apply this year and get rejected because of certain standards, then there should be programs or resources to help you figure out how to go from A to B to C.”

Designs from Anya's 2010 collection, shot at Erotic Art Week. Photos: SeanDrakes.com

Anya encourages established designers to realize the value of giving back.  “It’s very important that they open their doors to young designers, the most important contribution to the industry is their knowledge and experience.”

Crystal Cunningham with designer Anya Ayoung-Chee. Photo: Sean Drakes.

Crystal + Anya. Photo: SeanDrakes.com

“My inspiration continues to be drawn from [the streets],” says Anya.  “The Sartorialist has made street fashion, the fashion!  What he was seeing is what I’m seeing, but I’m seeing it in an environment where it’s not cognitive.  As opposed to the streets of Manhattan, Paris, Milan and Tokyo where it’s entirely cognitive.  At the same time, I remain committed to finding it where I’m from and merging it with elements I have the opportunity to see.  Being on the streets of New York, Paris and Tokyo is always inspiring, but Trinidad continues to feed me with the best material I could ask for.”

Last night the edgy and exotic former beauty queen stitched her ass off in the first challenge of Project Runway season 9 on Lifetime, and secured a slot as a contender to watch.  And eyeballs are glued to her.  Anya’s Project Runway Facebook page has clocked 5,500 fans, while other contenders are yet to score 500.  Perhaps viewers support Heidi Klum‘s faith in the apprentice who may be fashion’s rising star.

(This essay was updated and expanded on 8.1.11)

Erotic Art Week credits (from top left):  Jerome wears black jumpsuit with hand-dyed hoody.  Installation: “Cc: Everybody“ by Rodell Warner & Brianna McCarthy, shot at Brooklyn Bar.  Pictured right: Keive wears black suit with base stitching paired with black and claret polka-dot shirt with pleated organdy trim, designs by Anthony Reid.  Installation: “Mine“ by Chris Alexis, shot at Bohemia.

Denim half-corset with camouflage detail, silver triangle bra with velvet lining and black net circle shawl by Anya de Rogue, necklace and bracelet by Chejo.  Installation by Lisa Moore for Lismoore Drapery & Interiors, shot at Alice Yard.  Pictured right: Black net hoody and black triangle top bra by Anya de Rogue.  Patterned pleated mini skirt by Pilar by Anya.  Makeup: Kirk Thomas. Installation: “selfphone” by Palaver Pachenko Machocher George & Nadella Riley.

Erotic Art Week in Trinidad, curated by choreographer Dave Williams, is an art festival  conceived by visual and performing artists to provoke exploration and discussion of sexual identities.

© SEAN DRAKES

[ 404.654.0859  |  SEANDRAKESPHOTO@gmail.com ]

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5 Comments on “Designer Apprentice Scores Project Runway 9

  1. Pingback: 15 Minutes: Meiling on Mentoring Anya | SEAN DRAKES

    • Thanks for reading the piece and posting a comment. What’s published is what subjects provided at audio taped interviews and deemed accurate unless otherwise advised by subject(s). Earlier versions of this essay have been published in two separate publications. (sd)

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