Oct. 5, 2007 — While the territory is often characterized by its white sandy beaches and bright blue turquoise waters, one St. Thomas resident is out to promote another aspect of the islands' economy: fashion tourism.
According to Henry Marcham, chief executive officer and producer of V.I. Fashion Week 2007, the territory is behind the eight ball in promoting fashion tourism, which he defined as an influx of people — including national and international designers and models — coming in to take part in fashion events, as well as creating and promoting seasonal collections unique to the territory and surrounding region. Seeking to bridge the gap between the Virgin Islands and fashion havens such as New York and Paris, Marcham has organized the first annual V.I. Fashion Week, which kicked off with much fanfare at the Yacht Haven Grande on Thursday evening.
Speaking to a large crowd of community members decked out in their finest gear — including sparkling strap-dresses, casual suits and cultural shirt and skirt sets — Marcham said the fashion wave has already hit neighboring islands such as Jamaica and Dominica. With the recent influx of high-end stores and large-scale developments into the territory, there's no reason the Virgin Islands shouldn't follow the example, he said.
"From now on, our islands will play host to an annual fashion spectacular," he said. "And this event, which will draw in locals and visitors alike, will be marked on everyone's yearly calendars."
Speaking later in the evening, Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone recalled a time when portions of Charlotte Amalie resembled Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, populated with well-known designer stores that eventually pulled out of the territory.
"Now we're seeing them slowly come back, and we need to take advantage of that," he said. "We need to connect the dots between these high end labels and our tourism product, and make people from around the world interested in our designs."
In addition to designers from St. Thomas and St. Croix, the V.I. Fashion Week card features world-renowned labels from locales such as Antigua, Guyana, Bermuda and Africa. Residents got a preview of the grand finale show — to be held Sunday evening — on Thursday, as several designers showcased one piece each, ranging from evening gowns and swimsuits, to flashy couture pieces.
In between the fashion shows, the audience was treated to live steel pan performances and dance numbers by the V.I. Heritage Dancers.
Along with the designers, local and regional models will also be showcased throughout the week, Marcham said. Strutting down the make-shift runway in a silver swim suit, Miss USVI 2007 Renata Christian was among the series of local models making their debut on Thursday evening, walking in to the cheers of the crowd and a barrage of flashes from fashion photographers.
Marcham said that representatives from at least one modeling agency based in New York will be attending the week's events, looking for fresh faces for the upcoming season.
Fashion Week will continue with events held throughout the weekend at Tutu Park Mall on St. Thomas — a Caribbean Marketplace and mini fashion show beginning at 12 p.m. — and ends with a swimsuit fashion show at Magens Bay Beach on Oct. 8. The main show — dubbed "the Caribbean Catwalk" — will be held at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef on Oct. 7 at 6 p.m.
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