Caribbean’s Newest Fashion Brand: BENE CARIBE

12 Aug

In January 2015, a new Caribbean fashion brand was launched; Bene Caribe not only a unique name but of unique style. Bene (Latin) means well or good, Caribe (Spanish) meaning Caribbean hence the slogan “Good for the Caribbean”. Bene Caribe is a social enterprise that aims to provide resources to effective non-profit organizations in the Caribbean through the creation and sale of unique, ready-to-wear designs.

Abby Charles is the founder and lead designer of Bene Caribe, located in the beautiful twin country, Trinidad and Tobago. She launched the company, which specializes in ready-to-wear designs  quickly gaining recognition although only launching a few months ago. MetroCaribbean had the opportunity of asking a few questions of the rising new Caribbean fashion brand and being a successful Caribbean woman.

Tell us about yourself; what inspired you to found Bene Caribe? What is Bene Caribe?

I have worked with non-profits since 2006 and through my work I developed an interest in finding ways to sustain non-profit funding. I see fashion as way great way to develop resources for the causes that I believe in. Bene Caribe is not a non-profit organization, but we are a company that contributes to causes in our community through funds raised from a social cost that’s included in all of our pieces. Launched in January 2015 , we believe in investing in fellow Caribbean entrepreneurs, especially women entrepreneurs (For example, we recently worked with Colour Riot Jewellery and we’re getting ready to launch some new pieces from artisans working with Nature Seekers in Matura Trinidad). Our goal is to partner with different designers as we grow so that we can continuously fund causes that are doing “good for the Caribbean” – giving back to our community and our Caribbean people.

What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion is an opportunity to express myself; it is an external expression. It is also an avenue for social change! Through Fashion we promote messages, fund causes, and support economic development.

How will you describe Bene Caribe amongst other fashion houses/organizations?

I personally love prints and bold colors such as African wax, and Caribbean batik.  As such, our Bene Caribe creations are made of prints, bold colors and traditional batiks created with a fresh, modern feel for any customer who wears our clothes. We also utilize some fabrics that are designed locally (hand painted and batik) as we want to highlight that the quality of our fabric artists’ work is as great as other fabrics sold abroad. Bene Caribe aims to produce well-made and affordable clothing making bold statements; it is a must have piece for anyone living within the Caribbean or visiting the Caribbean.

What does it mean to do or be ‘Good for the Caribbean’?

Doing or Being ‘Good for the Caribbean’ means doing the best that you can and working together to build the “brand” of the  Caribbean as one of excellence. As a person living abroad, I am more likely to see negative profiles of the Caribbean highlighted than the positive aspects of the Caribbean such as the great young athletes who compete locally and internationally and represent the Caribbean, the persons and organizations working in communities to address social challenges, the environmentalists making a difference every day, the artists, dancers, musicians, filmmakers and other creatives making a Caribbean stamp across the globe. There is a lot of good happening in the Caribbean daily, and we have to highlight it so that the “good” becomes more and more pervasive.

 As a young business woman , what advice will you give to female entrepreneurs relating to the fashion industry?

First of all I’m not that young (laughs). My advice to female entrepreneurs in the fashion industry is to share as much as you can, form collaborations with other persons within the industry and work together toward excellence. It is also really important to take and give feedback in a constructive way. I know that I don’t know everything and can’t do everything. So I’ve developed the practice of sharing my lessons learned, challenges, successes within my networks to develop the support that I need.

Often times, the fashion industry is viewed as a “hobby or extra activity” requiring talent/skills rather than academics; it is viewed with less value than any other career. With such criticism in mind, what advice will you give to persons who aspire to pursue a career within the fashion industry?

One of the best pieces of advice I have gotten in this field is that “Fashion is a business and you are creating a brand”. While fashion can be a hobby, if you want to build your business through fashion then you have to build it with a business mindset. Build your knowledge on how the fashion industry works; attend training courses, speak with persons already in the industry or attend fashion workshops and do your research, be clear of who you are and what message you want to share, have a full understanding of what you are investing in and take it seriously; register your business, be professional about the brand you are creating and the quality of work you produce. I think our governments should also be involved by facilitating an environment for the fashion industry (through policy) that is conducive to business and trade.

To whom/what do you most attribute your success? What would you say are five key elements of founding and managing a successful business?

I always say that children learn from what they see and what they are taught. That said I attribute my success to my family. My parents and grand-parents being hard- workers taught me about work ethic and to always work for what I want. My brother is one of the hardest workers I know. He continues to teach me to be focused on what you want to accomplish. While I don’t know that I’m successful as yet, I’d say five key elements that I have found to help me get to where I am right now are:

  • Know the history of who came before you and let it inspire you to where you are going.
  • Always have a goal; although it will constantly evolve be clear of what you intentionally want to accomplish.
  • Have people around you; you cannot succeed alone. Network, be cognizant to what your strengths and weaknesses are, and ask for help.
  • Be aware of legal structures of having a business and gain experience which can relate to managerial skills.
  • Make room for mistakes; embrace them enough to learn and grow from them.

How has your Caribbean background played a part in your success?

Growing up with Caribbean parents I was taught to always value faith, family, education and community. Those values walk with me through every personal and professional experience and can be attributed to my success. As a person from the Caribbean I believe we have a great deal to share with the world. I am inspired daily by the essence of the Caribbean: the passion, warmth, camaraderie and rhythm of our people and by the Caribbean environment (our waters, sun, forests, and flora). What we have is truly unique. There is so much about the Caribbean that I am still learning, so I know that there is a lot for people who are not from the Caribbean to learn as well.  I hope that Bene Caribe serves as a vehicle to bring more awareness to the positive aspects of our Caribbean essence that the Caribbean diaspora and the wider world needs to know!

 As a business-oriented woman, how will you describe your lifestyle in terms of balance?

I will say I live a busy life; I do have a full time job in Public Health and on evenings or after work and weekends I focus on my brand Bene Caribe. Add to that the time I spend dancing and performing and my volunteer roles and I have no free time. I am constantly on the go. However I make time for regular exercise (through dance) and value spending time with my family and friends. That helps me to stay grounded and relieves stress. I try to schedule time to unwind and interact with my friends at least once a month. And I love Carnival! Carnival, and the release that comes with it, helps me to maintain balance.

Fun Facts:

If you had the opportunity to work with any celebrity/celebrities of your choice, who will you choose?

I want Bene Caribe to be seen as an accessible brand, so I want every woman to feel like this brand is for them. However, if I am to work with any celebrity I would really love for them to be of Caribbean descent. I will say Rihanna (her being from Barbados and one of the world’s renowned Caribbean artists), Allison Hinds, Fay-Ann Lyons, Destra Garcia and any other persons of Caribbean heritage seen as celebrity within their community.

What are five things you cannot live most without?

Family, Friends, Travel, GOOD FOOD (with pepper sauce) and Technology (must be able to communicate lol).

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy dancing. I consider myself a semi-professional dancer with a love for afro-modern and Caribbean dance and I also spend a significant amount of my free time volunteering with different non-profit organizations.

What aspect(s) of being a Caribbean native do you enjoy most?

WARM WEATHER all year round. Speaking a common language with words such as ‘bacchanal’ that other Caribbean people can relate to and being able to wine (I love to party and Caribbean people wine, not twerk!)

What is/are your most favorite thing(s) to eat?

Ahh.,,I love Callaloo, Curry Crab and Dumplin, Oil down, Roti and Bake and Shark (I love to eat lol).

What is/are your favorite song(s) of 2015?

That’s a hard one, I have so many that I liked this year, but ‘Like a Boss’ by Machel Montano was great on the road and the message relates to more than just carnival: everything you do, you must do with full potential and confidence ‘like a boss’. ‘No Apology’ by Kerwin DuBois which translates to me as everything you do be the best at it and be unapologetic about it; never apologize for who you are and what you do.Both songs characterize who a Bene Caribe woman is.

(MP)

Photographs By: Marlon James

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Source: Bene Caribe

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One Response to “Caribbean’s Newest Fashion Brand: BENE CARIBE”

  1. sr katrina charles August 15, 2015 at 5:40 am #

    Hi francis and vicky. Congratulations..fantastic designs……inspiring and wholesome healthy and big hearted interview,…,thanks for sharing. Blessings katrina

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