Akimbo – an indigenous artistic experience

29 May

Featured photo of a bold piece by @alstair05 . You can find these and many other bracelets and necklaces from this amazing men’s jewelry designer at AKIMBO.

Akimbo is an old English word that means “with hands on the hips and elbows turned outwards”. It is with this identity that business partners Karen Kennedy and Kevon Foderingham enterprise on telling a Caribbean story with a fashion element. Akimbo was envisioned to be something entrenched in a community to bring about that feeling of a village. Although the initial idea was birth about three years ago, it was placed on the back burner as life happened. Then last October a space presented itself and fresh life was breathed into the idea. The platform which seeks to be an independent fashion boutique and artistic event space was launched a month later and provides an additional outlet for Caribbean makers and doers to shine.

Kevon Foderingham (co-founder of Akimbo) gives us a detailed insight into what makes Akimbo so unique.

Ken: In a few sentences, briefly tell us about yourself/team.

Team Akimbo - L to R- Kai Simon, Jabari Simon, Karen Kennedy, Kevon Foderingham

Team Akimbo: Kai Simmon, Jabari Simmon, Karen Kennedy and Kevon Foderingham

Kevon: I’ve always believed that to be human is to be multifaceted and that translates into having many interests but what makes it worthwhile is when these interests can come together to create one cohesive vision. That’s me in a nutshell and that’s Akimbo in a nutshell; many things coming together with the hope of adding value. I describe myself as a cultural vulture. I’ve always been on the periphery of fashion and art, both here and when I lived in London but most of the projects I have been involved in have always had the common theme of providing a platform for the makers and doers. Karen (my business partner) is a graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and is a seasoned marketing executive and coupled with my own experience in marketing and communications, education, hospitality management and entertainment makes us a very formidable team with a perfect combination of skills.

 

Ken: Could you expound on the Akimbo identity?

Joseph Bacchus

Collection of Sculptures by Joseph Bacchus

Kevon: The name Akimbo, came to us years ago, when we first envisioned the space. We wanted something that sounded Caribbean but also had a fashion element to it. We started brainstorming and realized the common theme with Caribbean people is how animated we are, how much we use our hands and bodies to tell a story, how much we pose. So we looked for a word that sounded Caribbean and one that was used more often by our parents and grandparents. We were adamant that we had to be located outside of Port-of-Spain. Having been born and bred in Arima, (East Trinidad), I was happy we found a space in my home town. When we hear people saying things like “Akimbo is bringing culture back to Arima,” we know that we are adding value.

 

Ken: How did you become interested in Caribbean arts and fashion?

Kevon: I was brought up in a family where my father was a tailor and aunt and grandmother were both seamstresses so I’ve always been exposed to fashion. “At different points in my childhood my family had opened boutiques in Arima  in which I spent a lot of time, unknowingly absorbing all the information.” Though exposed to fashion at a young age, a career in fashion was not on the top of my list of career choices. While studying in the UK, I modeled a bit and began working in the hospitality and entertainment sector in London. When I returned home my brother and I along with a team of talented, passionate young people founded a magazine called R.A.S.H (Rage Art Soul Heart) which highlighted local fashion, art, entertainment and social causes and produced an open mic event dubbed “Eu-phorum” which again provided a platform for local talent. Last year, I put on another hat, that of a designer. I knew I was a creative thinker but never saw myself as a maker. I started making jewelry for myself and other people got interested and so Green Violet was born which now operates out of Akimbo.

 

Midnight by Green Violet

The new capsule collection, Midnight by Green Violet features each unique piece fused with wood, leather, silver and stainless steel to mimic the beauty of the midnight sky.

Green Violet is a social enterprise that is a multi-pronged work in progress which includes a custom jewellery line and menswear fashion and will later delve more broadly into lifestyle products such as signature teas, spices and wellness coaching.

 

Ken: What has been the biggest challenge for you/your team?

Kevon: Akimbo is in essence a family business; Karen is one of my dearest friends who has become like family and as such her children; Jabari and Kai are helping us run Akimbo as we both still have full time jobs. So the biggest challenge right now is multitasking. Like any new business, revenue generation and resource allocation is always at the top of the list. We have only been open for 6 months and sometimes we forget that. So the grand plans have to wait a bit, as we find our footing and ensure that we can continue to add value by providing this space and at the same time generating enough revenue to do so.

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Business partners Karen Kennedy and Kevon Foderingham hosting an art exhibition

Ken: If you had the opportunity to change something about the fashion industry and arts in the region what would it be?

Kevon: That’s an easy one! Let me talk about fashion. Our ability to manufacture is a problem. In many instances we have lost this. As I mentioned I grew up around sewing. I was recently speaking with my aunt who is now in her 70’s and is still running a successful sewing trade. She has orders for hundreds of school uniforms from local school supply stores in Arima and has just a few weeks to complete. Her team was bigger in the past but now it’s just a team of two and she manages to fulfill these types of orders on time. So it saddens me that many of our young designers struggle to complete a collection or fulfill orders for local retail. Only doing trade locally, will not grow the industry, export of quality clothing with a quick turn-around is essential. We need to find a way manufacture at home, ensuring that both local and export markets are able to access Caribbean fashion.

 

Ken: Art & fashion has an impact on both young and old, so what advice do you have for the youth of today?

Express yourself, don’t repress yourself LOL!

Kevon: In the Caribbean, we have seen that tourism, the mainstay of many economies, has contracted. In Trinidad and Tobago we’re experiencing the ramifications of the decline in oil prices. I believe the creative sector is the key and many discussions have been had around this. Fashion alone is a $1.2 trillion global industry. We don’t only have fashion in the Caribbean; we have music, festivals, art and culture in general. These are untapped natural resource. If our young people are taught how to take that creative expression and monetize it and if more systems are put in place in better support the creative sector I think the Caribbean as a region, can become a global player.

Akimbo provides a platform for creative souls to express themselves. Here is Zliazia ‘Chelz’ Pegus performing an acoustic cover of Olatunji’s ‘With Meh’  on @amillienconcepts YouTube Channel. Chelz is wearing a Royal Blue Strap Long Asymmetric Flirty Dress by @rastachiqcreationz and multi-coloured headband by @benecaribe all found at AKIMBO

 

Ken: What are your immediate goals for the next 1 to 3 years?

Kevon: My immediate goals are to continue working with Karen and the team to grow Akimbo to accomplish our mission; To pour a lot of my effort into the initiatives of Green Violet, not just designing but also building on Green Violet’s, Violet Vision project which hopes to genuinely position itself to assist young creative individuals in realizing their dreams, aspirations and to develop their true potential with the overall objective to provide youth with practical skills and job opportunities in the creative sector.

 

Violet’s Vision offers a series of workshop to help hone your craft

 

Just for fun… fill in the blanks!

Without art, I would be searching for other avenues to experience creativity.

Fashion is what offers you the tools to create personal style.

My fashion makes me feel somewhat unique as I think I have a style that is recognizably me.

Support fashion because we live our lives in clothes.

 

 

Here are some of what you expect to see at Akimbo!

Written by: Kenrife ‘VincyVoice’ Matthias

 

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