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Nassau To Join The Fashion Elite

10/24/2007 12:00:00 AM
Nassau to join fashion elite Economic inflows likely byproduct of international event By VERNON CLEMENT JONES and INDERIA SAUNDERS Guardian Business Desk vernon@nasguard.com; inderia@nasguard.com

Nassau will soon be strutting its stuff alongside Paris, Milan, New York, London — and every other stop on the international fashion calendar. The potential economic benefits attached to joining that elite group are millions in tourism inflows and the kind of PR you just can't buy. They all hinge on the success of an inaugural event meant to draw fashion designers from "the islands of the world" to Nassau, along with the international buyers, celebrities, journalists and paparazzi who follow every move the models make on the catwalk.

"Once I started to work with it, the response has been so overwhelming that it has become larger than initially envisioned," said the man behind the event, Montaque Securities President Owen Bethel. His idea was simple enough: Make Nassau the place for a showcase of designer clothing, much like the big fashion week of Manhattan or Rome. His particular show will focus on the collections of designers who themselves are from island nations. They include, but are not limited to, Caribbean artists.

While Bethel has won the sanction and support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — UNESCO, for short — the event is very much a business venture. "The idea is to promote cultural diversity and to give designers who wouldn't otherwise have had the exposure to international press, buyers or agents," he told The Guardian Tuesday. "It will be a venue where they can meet that market and therefore be able to launch their designs or lines internationally."

Among those buyers are expected to be some of the industry's biggest fashion houses, which often acquire the designs of a relative newcomer and stamp their big brand names on that work. But as a juried event — designers will, in fact, compete for the 30 or so available spots — several world-renowned designers are expected themselves take to the catwalk. Bethel's goal is to see the show grow in stature and eventually assume its place on the recognized fashion calendar. Garnering that spot would add to this destination's cachet among the well-heeled North Americans and Europeans who follow the fashion circuit as it winds its way across both continents. "It is essentially free advertising for The Bahamas," said Linda Palmer, a freelance fashion writer in Toronto, home to its own highly publicized fashion week. "TV and print converge on the city, cover the event and in the mean time Nassau is the backdrop. "If the event has legs and grows and grows then Nassau gets the kind of snob-appeal that London or Milan has with the rich, which I believe is your key market." Indeed.

With a glut of $10 billion in luxury resort development projected for the next five years, the country continues its climb to tourism's high-end. Atlantis and the British Colonial will, in fact, play host to the Nov. 2008 event. The number of venues is likely to grow beyond those hotels as the production moves beyond its initial few years. That growth isn't being left to chance. "We have already on board a public relations firm out of California, which is responsible for coordinating the international press," said Bethel, no stranger to international high-profile events. His company routinely performs a treasury function for Hollywood film producers shooting in The Bahamas.

The Montaque group was involved with both the Pirates of the Caribbean II and III and Casino Royale. While the promotion of designers from as far away as Cypress, Fiji and the Azores is prime objective, said the businessman, the potential to lift this country's bottom-line through increased tourism is undeniable.
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