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Tribe: Mythical magic

September 19, 2007

Tribe bandleader Dean Ackin (back centre) stands behind his team of in-house designers, while the women, from left, Lana Nobrega, Gail Cabral and Monique Nobrega lean against Douglas John.

COME Carnival Monday and Tuesday 2008, when the fairytale characters of Tribe’s 2008 presentation Myths and Magic invade the streets of Port-of-Spain, it certainly will not be with the simple wave of a wand.

For while the only thing some masqueraders have to do is wonder where they will find the cash to fork out to pay for their costumes, the four Tribe in-house designers are diligently spinning and combining their creative spells to come up with a web of costume designs for nine of the band’s 16 sections.

United for a common goal

The collaborative effort of sisters Monique and Lana Nobrega together with Gail Cabral and Douglas John has resulted in costumes that would make the mythical creatures of the imaginations of writer Enid Blyton and fantasy movie producer Mark Johnson green with envy. Well, at least those that are not already green.

Costume designing is not a novelty to the awesome foursome, with Cabral and the Nobrega sisters being veteran designers for the now defunct Poison band, and John claiming he was “forced” into his family’s costume designing tradition from a tender age. They agreed, however, that experience in and love for the trade do not mean that it is not hard work, and they liken their united efforts to that of “the knights of the round table.”

A woman’s work

The task of designing the nine costumes were evenly distributed among the three women, while John, the newest addition to the design team and whose expertise lies in the designing of headpieces, worked along with the trio.

“I had the most difficult job,” John said, “The ladies each had different ideas and I had to try to get each person’s personality in the headpieces, especially in the frontline. Also, my style is a little different. Not far fetched, but different nevertheless.”

When Cabral’s vivid imagination and raw talent kicked in, it took her one week to create Titania, Water Nymph and Butterfly Bliss. “I like pretty things and make believe appealed to me. Because of what is happening in our country, I decided to go with light things,” she said.

She said she deliberately chose soothing colours like turquoise blue and green, pink, white and crystal, and light blue sea foam.

Monique, whose designs usually undergo a series of changes, is the mastermind behind Black Magic, Am Althea, and Lady of the Lake.

Of Black Magic she said, “I definitely wanted a black costume and I found some black and silver material I loved.” She said shopping for the right materials for her costumes usually takes a while, so she fully utilises the travel opportunities that come with her job as a pilot.

Lana, the creator of Pixie Dust, Autumn Spirit, and Mystique, was not hesitant to disclose that her designs were usually on the skimpy side.

“I like skimpy. It appeals to me and it enhances my designs.”

In fact, Mystique, the costume in which the least amount of material is used, is her preferred choice to parade the streets in 2008. “I got the concept from a Chinese myth in which a fish would turn into a bird. I used fuchsia pink, purple and gold. It’s skimpy and my choice to play,” she chuckled.

Head of the tale

John’s input in completing their designs and in designing their headpieces, all three women agreed, was indispensable.

“Douglas has a talent for manipulating material and has good design ideas,” Monique said, and Lana admitted that he was instrumental in her decision to design Autumn Spirit. “I have collaborated with several designers, and he is the best. He took my ideas and materialised them,” Lana said. “Using your own ideas alone doesn’t always work. Collaboration is important. You end up with a better product,” she added.

Of his work with the ladies, John said working with them was easy, sometimes. “Lana is able to express exactly what she wants in words. Mystique definitely described Lana. You never know what will come out of that girl design wise or verbally,” he joked.

Cabral, he said, had the ability to sketch whatever she wanted. “Eventually she will design her own headpieces,” was his prediction.

Cabral, however, could not resist the urge to tease him about his first attempt at the unicorn headpiece for one of her designs. “He wanted to put a whole horse on people’s head,” she giggled uncontrollable, prompting a similar reaction from her colleagues. John admitted that headpiece was the most difficult of the lot to design, but they eventually got it right.

Back to bikinis, beads and feathers

The designers are satisfied with the finished products of their creativity, especially after they withstood the scrutiny of the design board. “About ten costumes were discarded because they did not make the grade,” Monique admitted, adding that the existing nine were tweaked to their best.

But how do these costumes measure up to their designs for C2K7? According to Cabral, fantasy characters leaves the imagination free to go wild. “Last Carnival we tried to be culturally conscious and we were somewhat restricted. We were severely criticised but criticism is good. We used it as fuel. As much as masqueraders say they want change, they don’t. They want to be skimpy.”

“2007 was hard, so for 2008 its bikinis, beads and feathers,” Monique chipped in.

The Tribe designing team unanimously agreed that it was all about pleasing the masqueraders, and giving them exactly what they wanted.


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