Photographs of models in swimsuits walking down the aisle of the Holy Trinity Cathedral went viral on social media as people questioned the appropriateness of the situation. The photographs were taken during a fashion show which took place at the main church of the Anglican diocese in T&T was as part of Style Week, Port-of-Spain. Flags advertising the event’s main sponsor, the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), were also displayed on the church’s fence. Despite the online backlash, however, another Style Week runway show was held at the church Cathedral which included online swimwear boutique, Genesis Swim.
Ellis Briggs, chairman of Zetick Caribbean Limited, the organiser of Style Week, told Guardian Media those having an issue with the fashion show at the church were just being “hypersensitive”. “There is a lot of talk about a photo of a model in a bathing suit. I didn’t realise that the human body was something to be ashamed of. I didn’t realise that we as human beings were born with clothes. I think people are just hypersensitive,” Briggs said.
“This is the era we live in. We live in this era where you put something on the internet and it goes viral and it becomes a big controversy and that’s that. Nobody really cares about the fashion designers who are struggling or the models who are getting an avenue to showcase their talents. Nobody cares about that what they care about is just this little sensation for the moment. In a couple of weeks they will forget about that,” he said. Zetick Caribbean Limited’s chief executive officer Shunnel Roopchand commended the Anglican church for being “forward-thinking and very progress by allowing the show to take place there. “Style Week is about highlighting talents that are given to us by God, creative talents and that was the position of the church as well,” Roopchand said. Roopchand said a portion of the proceeds from the show will go the church to aid in their restoration works. “Our agreement with the church is dual purposed. While they are very, very happy to accommodate us, we would also be assisting in their restoration,” she said.
Last August, the Holy Trinity Cathedral sustained structural damage as a result of a massive earthquake that hit Port-of-Spain. Roopchand said funds required for this restoration has been valued at $5 million. “So hopefully we can get people perhaps interested—maybe some of those same people on social media—to come in and chip in something to help the restoration efforts of the church,” Briggs said. Briggs said Style Week did not start a trend by holding a fashion show in a church. “This is nothing new. We didn’t set any trend. This has gone on internationally already,” he said.
“They (naysayers) like a cause. They are home right now sitting down trying to figure out what the next cause is, where can I make a bacchanal,” he said. “Ask one of them to come out and support fashion or come out and support models, or support local designers, you will not hear anything. They will not retweet, they will not repost something a designer puts up but this is what catches their attention and the only thing they see is a model in a bathing suit in a church. They are not seeing the creativity of the people, they are not seeing all the other hard work that goes on behind the scene to raise the bar in fashion in Trinidad,” Briggs said.
“I wish the photo goes viral to the point where the international community sees it and starts to recognise that fashion is happening in Trinidad and Tobago in a serious way,” he said. Briggs said footage of the event will soon be on the Apple streaming service and available to 20 territories, including five cities in the United States. “We are glad we are creating some waves, that our message is being transferred because our fashion industry has so much to offer,” he said. Briggs said T&T born model Naomi Chin Wing, who is currently making waves internationally, graduated from Style Week. “We are not too caught up with all of that. We like the publicity but we are not too concerned about a picture of a model in a bathing suit becoming an issue,” Briggs said. He said the church is one of the most beautiful places he has ever seen.
“The venue is one of the most beautiful locations that I have seen in this country. That is a 200-year-old church with architecture that you can’t find anywhere else and for me, as a filmmaker, it’s aesthetically pleasing to what we are doing and it is a nice contrast to some of the fashion that we have on display,” he said. In 2018, Carnival band K2K Alliance & Partners’ launched its presentation Through the Stained Glass Windows at the All Saints Anglican Church in Port-of-Spain.