Trinidadian fashion designer and social entrepreneur Anya Ayoung Chee had the Caribbean cheering when she won Project Runway in 2011. Since then, she has been starting small businesses and venturing into more purpose-driven projects. On June 25th, she was one of the panelists at the Carib Biz Network Momentum 2022 Business and Culture Expo. Anya was one of the industry professionals speaking on strategies for building Caribbean small business opportunities. Anya has also been in web 3 technology and NFTs. We were able to chat with Anya about her work before the start of the panel: Walk Like A Champion: The Cost To Be Ah Boss.
ANYA: Oh my God, not only Trinidad but the whole region. Just incredibly supportive is the wrong word. It felt like I was representing something much bigger than myself. It was incredibly overwhelming. People who said they never even thought they could become a designer became a designer people who didn’t know they had this inner desire to be part of the industry not even in fashion but creativity, in general, I get messages up till today. It’s been 11 years and still, people tell me how inspired they were to go after their dream, whatever that dream was.
POSH: How has your work evolved since then?
ANYA: It’s been quite a journey since then. For a few years after Project Runway, I took the traditional fashion route. I had my clothing line that was primarily resort wear. Then I opened a co-working space HOME) with a boutique representing all the Caribbean designers across the region, and a variety of other brands. It was a venue, it was also a café, and we were incubating young creative talents.
POSH: how did this influence the direction of your work in the industry?
ANYA: I started a foundation called Together Wi. I became very involved in activism and raising awareness about socialist views in the Caribbean; that was around 2016. That was an amazing experience. I got to know what it felt like to do more purpose-driven work.
POSH: How did you fuse your fashion for activism with your work in fashion?
ANYA: I knew that was the direction I wanted to go in, but I wanted to do it in my own field. So, right now I’ve developed a Woman’s Livelihood Initiative that’s supporting women in both Trinidad and Venezuelan migrants teaching women how to sew for carnival, and for fashion.
POSH: How has the emerging new web technology influenced your work?
ANYA: I also have a clothing line called WYLD FLWR which is festival wear. It’s evolved a lot over the pandemic into being a digital fashion brand. More recently I’ve been very involved in web 3 technology. We’re sort of all in with the Meta-verse fashion arena and bringing more and more designers into that space. That’s directly connected to the Livelihood Initiative
POSH: What motivated your participation in the Momentum 2022 event?
ANYA: I’m here today at Momentum because I also co-founded an entity called Nudge Caribbean. That is an MSMEs; micro small and medium support business network with Massy, which is a very large company in the Caribbean. That’s the mainstay of my work at the moment; supporting entrepreneurs.
POSH: How important are partnerships of this kind to the work you are doing in the region?
ANYA: Over 12 years of being an entrepreneur myself, starting many small businesses; I know the struggle of trying to bring a company to life. We have quite a lot of resources in the Caribbean that is not necessarily being directed in the right ways.
So I’m very lucky to be working with a great partner like Massy.
*Caribbean POSH Magazine extends our thanks to Anya for making time for this interview
Websites: http://www.anyaayoungchee.com | www.wyldflwr.com | www.nudgecaribbean.com | www.togetherwi.org | www.islnd.io