For T&T’s Meiling, fashion is her passion

By RON FANFAIR

The colour black is often associated with power and authority and it is popular in fashion because it tends to make the wearer appear to be thinner.

It’s also stylish and timeless.

Meiling will attest to this. She has been wearing black-only apparel for the past 15 years while asserting herself as one of the leading fashion designers, not only in her native Trinidad & Tobago, but in the wider Caribbean where she has been recognized with many awards.

Meiling said she established her signature black wardrobe because she hated the spotlight and she wanted to make her life less complicated.

“Many years ago, I wore colour and I found I would get up in the morning and say I would wear either a blue or pink shirt, then the next thing you know I would say I don’t feel for this colour anymore and I would end up in black,” said Meiling, who was in Toronto recently for the second annual T & T Republic Day Cuttin’ Style fashion show.

“I feel more confident in black. Also, my fitting room is very small so if I am fitting a client, I want to almost disappear so just my hands are seen and I don’t compete with the image I am looking at in the mirror. I also feel that when I am in black that I blend.”

Meiling has followed in the footsteps of her mother, Evelyn Achong, who was one of the twin-island’s republic’s top seamstresses.

“I was born into the industry,” she said. “I literally grew up in my mother’s sewing room dressing my dolls and my toys with the trimmings and the scrapings on the ground. I taught myself to make this my life and enjoy myself in a sewing room.

“When I was 11 years of age, I remembered asking myself what I wanted to do when I grew up and I said a fashion designer. My father (Herman Achong) was an academic and could not understand me because there were no boutiques or notable designers in Trinidad at the time. But I think my mother was living vicariously through me so she was there in my corner always rooting for me.”

Recognized internationally for her work in fine linens and natural fabrics, Meiling says she still has the same passion for fashion she had over four decades ago when she entered the industry.

“I work, I go to yoga classes and then I go home and get ready for the next day. I am in my office at 5:45 every morning. Fashion is the passion of my life.

“Thank God I am my own boss and I am doing what I want to do and enjoying it regardless of whether we are in an economic downturn and times are stressful. I don’t think I can do anything else.”

Armed with a diploma she received from the Lucie Clayton School of Design in England, Meiling returned to T & T in the early 1970s and set up her first studio and retail outlet in a renovated garage.

Opportunities to enhance her professional career did not exist in T & T at the time and that’s why she supports the establishment of the Caribbean Academy of Fashion and Design at the University of Trinidad & Tobago, which is dedicated to offering tertiary education to undergraduates.

“Many youths (in Trinidad & Tobago) aspire to be designers, but they can’t afford the fees to go overseas,” she said. “That’s why this academy is a step in the right direction. They have amazing teachers, some of whom come in from abroad. There are also local teachers who have studied in other countries and are vastly experienced.”

Meiling said she’s impressed by the emergence of innovative Canadian fashion designers.

“Alfred Sung was the one designer that I really paid attention to a few years back,” she said. “I still see his name from time to time. But today I was taken around the city to some very extremely interesting shops here showcasing work of designers from Montreal and Vancouver. I am impressed with the many new designers and they are out of the box. I definitely think I am going to make this a yearly visit.”

 

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