FA Highlight - Interview with recent UTT Graduate, Reuben Gonzales

We introduce FA Highlights - giving designers and creatives a space to share their background, inspiration, their aesthetic and thoughts on Caribbean fashion.

“Don’t let Project Runway fool you lol!” Fashion is more than the glitz and glamor, and drawing a sketch and sew it. This is a hard industry and no place for slackers and the weak. You need to be diligent and always strive for self-betterment as a designer." - Reuben Gonzales, UTT Graduate, RG Fashion

We recently caught up with Reuben of RG Fashion, a talented UTT graduate after seeing his final thesis collection at the UTT's CAFD Fashion Show in June.

Here's what he had to share...

Why did you sign up for UTT, why fashion? Give us some of your background.

Before UTT I had completed A Levels at QRC where Art and Design was one of my majors. I was also a member of the Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago and had exhibited in a few exhibitions. I didn’t want to further Fine Arts at the tertiary level because I wanted a new experience and it was expected of me. I was juggling between Production Design, Costume Design and Fashion Design. I made up my mind to further Costume Design at TISH at NYU but was told that it was only offered as a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) so I needed to get a Bachelors in Fine Arts (BFA) first. So why not a BFA in Fashion, it is offered in Trinidad, its GATE founded and it can crossover to costume design.. So, I applied!

What do you think of the CAFD programme, what is missing, what did you enjoy?

CAFD was an experience, it had its highs and its lows. I started to enjoy the program the most coming down to the end when I had more opportunities to show myself as a creative and as a designer. I at first had issues with the program its philosophies, structure and so forth. However, that changed coming to the end, education is what you make of it and you just need to apply yourself at CAFD and the experience is worth it. CAFD isn’t as recognised and equipped as the US, UK or any top Fashion Design Schools however, it still has many resources and opportunities than people think.

What was the inspiration behind your final thesis collection?

The inspiration behind my thesis collection was my fine art background. I was asked once why haven’t I designed clothing that is inspired by my paintings. So, I decided to take that challenge for my thesis; I used a painting series named “Ixoras in Dance” which were 3 paintings of ballerinas with tutus decorated like the ixora flower. From there I build and developed my thesis also named, "Ixoras in Dance".

Describe your aesthetic and your ideal client.

I would like to be a luxury brand that is for the woman who likes that balanced mix of romance, fantasy and elegance. I tend to incorporate flora and fauna in my work so indigenous flowers and aquatics themes are very common or prominent.

What do think when you hear “Brand Caribbean”, does this represent your aesthetic and brand, do you aim to represent “Brand Caribbean”?

Whatever I design would be brand Caribbean! It’s who I am, my whole being is the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago is what has shaped me to who I am, the way I think and see the world, my influences, and culture. So, whatever I design, however it may look, it is brand Caribbean. The Caribbean brand should not be limited to a single aesthetic. I am Caribbean and wherever I go I would represent who I am, which is Caribbean.

How do you think fashion is viewed in Trinidad and the Caribbean?

Fashion in the Caribbean as an industry is view in a backward manner. There are a lot of misconceptions of what the fashion industry is and how it is run by the wider public (consumer). The most common misunderstanding is the role of a designer which is always treated like that of a stitcher.

A fashion show that is a business transaction in major fashion capitals, is viewed as recreation, “ah lime” an event to dress up in Trinidad. We need to educate the wider public about the fashion industry and what it's really about.

I also find that there are too many Fashion bodies; FashionTT, Fashion Industry Trinidad and Tobago (FITT), Fashion Focus (FF), F.A.M.E., Fashion Association of Trinidad and Tobago (FATT), all claiming to have changed or changing the landscape of Trinidad and Tobago fashion but there is little growth to show. I think more banding together as a single unit and more collaborations are needed; this goes for the designers as well, too many "one man shows". The industry is hard and tough and one can’t do everything alone.

What’s next for you and your brand?

My “Brand”, I will maintain it for now, I’m still deciding if to build myself as a br