Fashion for livelihoods: a collaboration between Caribbean islands

Commonwealth Fashion Council

Explore the exchange story of designer Meiling from Trinidad & Tobago and artisans Dominica Arts & Crafts Producers Association from Dominica and find out how they created their look for The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, 2018. 

“This project confirmed something I have always believed; that collaboration must be encouraged and engaged.”
Meiling Esau
The Exchange: Trinidad and Tobago x Dominica
For The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange 2018, designer Meiling exchanged with Vanessa Winston to create a look that was inspired by butterflies. The look was unveiled at Buckingham Palace on February 19, 2018, and later moved to the Australian High Commission, London, where it was open to the public in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, April 2018.
Trinidad and Tobago: Designer Meiling
Meiling Esau is the brains behind Trinidad’s favourite fashion brand, Meiling. For the last thirty years, she has dedicated herself to her brand and has won many accolades over the years culminating in the Chaconia Silver Medal, a national award given to the designer for her long and meritorious service to Trinidad & Tobago’s business sector.
Vanessa Winston
Dominica born Vanessa Winston works hard to keep the craft industry in Dominica alive and strong by undertaking regular training programs to teach craft from natural and recycled materials and promoting other local crafts. It is from this passion that the New Beginning Craft Workshop was set up, as a social-economic project for experienced craftsmen and artisans teach craft modules to at risk and unemployed youth. Working alongside Meiling, Vanessa has created a leather corset belt, hand-tooled with butterflies.
The story behind the look
Meiling designed a hand embroidered gown of organdie, silk and leather, matched with a leather corset belt, tooled with butterflies from Dominica Arts & Crafts Producers Association. 

Illustration of the look

“Collaboration in the Caribbean is natural. In fact, the region itself is born out of a melding of various cultures, each bringing its own traditions and techniques.” 

Leather corset belt tooled with butterflies created by artisan Vanessa Winston from Dominica to complete the look

"My partnership with Ms. Vanessa Winston of Dominica is very much a representation of this. Due to the region recently uniting to endure a tumultuous hurricane season, the spirit of fraternity has never been more relevant. Since I am known for my hand-detailed and embroidered garments, it felt natural that I worked with Vanessa who is an expert in handmade crafts and leather goods. As a result of designing the actual garment, I led the creative process. Although we maintained our positions on our respective islands throughout the design phase, technology greatly facilitated communication…I hope to collaborate again with Vanessa in the near future.”

Designer Meiling

Final look on display at Buckingham Palace, 19 February 2018

Final look on display at the Australian High Commission, London, 22 February 2018

Credits: Story

This content has been specifically curated for the Google Arts & Culture platform on behalf of the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange exhibition that launched on the 19th of February at Buckingham Palace in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and MATCHESFASHION.COM.

The project, created and managed by Eco-Age, with the support of The Commonwealth Fashion Council and The British Fashion Council.

More information about the images is available by clicking on them.
Read more about the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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