Reisha Maynard-Holder meticulously cut patterns for a collar out of foam rubber as a fan whirred in the sweltering heat. Next, she turned her attention to feathers, attaching them to the collars one at a time with a glue gun. It was another grueling evening in a monthslong effort to create some of the most elaborate and spectacular costumes seen on the streets of New York.
“These are our summers,” said Mrs. Maynard-Holder, one of hundreds of people who prepare the costumes worn in the West Indian American Day Parade, scheduled for Monday morning. More than 5,000 people were expected to take part in the parade, a tradition known as “playing mas.” And, over a million people are expected to gather on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn for the event, which celebrates Caribbean culture with food and music. But the real stars of the parade are the bright array of costumes, visually stunning concoctions of feathers and beads, with headdresses often rising several feet in the air.
“The costumes are a symbol of the flair and vibrancy of the culture and demonstrate the pride of the Caribbean,” Jamell Henderson, spokesman for Karma Carnival NYC Band, said. “They are the centerpiece and main attraction.”
Making the costumes often begins a year in advance, shortly after the parade ends, with the bands — as the groups that participate are called — selecting themes in the fall and fabric samples in the spring. Fashion shows displaying prototypes are held in early summer, followed by production until Labor Day.
From the Great Pyramids of Giza to the rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia; the Swahili stone houses of Kenya to the Bedouin tents of Morocco — indigenous African design bespeaks grace, style, imagination and verve. Over hundreds of years, the continent has also absorbed layers of influence from other cultures through explorers, invaders, soldiers, stonemasons, merchants and missionaries hailing from such far-flung places as Turkey, India, Europe, China and Arabia. Today’s architecture and interior design draws on this variegated past, often fusing local, hand-crafted elements with modern technology to create an aesthetic that is absolutely African.
One example is pictured – North Island Lodge (www.north-island.org). The Lodge opened 10 years ago on a private paradise island in the Seychelles and caters to the ecologically-minded. The entire place was built after extensive coordination with the government to make certain the environment was not only undisturbed, but preserved. The owners’ philosophy is to rehabilitate habitats and reintroduce the critically endangered flora and fauna of Seychelles.
Designers Idyl Mohallim (L) and Ayaan Mohallim (R) walk the runway at the Mataano spring 2013 presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Landmark on the Park on September 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)