Interview by Kendra Dennis/Photos by Jonathan Mannion
This past Thursday night, we kicked off New York City Fashion Week with Trinidadian designer Anya Ayoung-Chee. It had been three years—Fashion Week 2011, to be exact—since we sat down with Anya for a two-part conversation about her life as a Trini beauty queen turned fashion designer and reality show contestant, and a lot has changed for her since then. She won the season of Project Runway she was starring in at the time (a moment we celebrated with her), and has become one of the first names in Caribbean fashion. Last year Anya launched The cANYAval Shop, an online store store featuring Carnival attire from herself as well as other Trini and Caribbean designers, with an emphasis on so-called Monday Wear: embellished, high-end bathing suits worn at Trinidad Carnival ahead of the traditional masquerade costumes donned on Carnival Tuesday.
Several months after a New York launch event at Milk Studios in June (that served as the backdrop for Kes the Band’s”Endless Summer” video), Anya and fellow cANYAval designers Delia Alleyne and Keisha Als returned to NYC for a brand showcase and Fashion Week kick-off party at Miss Lily’s. Kendra Dennis sat down with Anya to get the story behind cANYAval and the designer’s plans to grow carnival-inspired Caribbean fashion into a worldwide phenomenon.