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Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Design Duo Behind K2K Alliance

Lots of people have been asking WHO is K2K Alliance and what is their history in Carnival? Well, I just happened to bounce up this Trinidad Express interview  from 2006 in the internet archives and think it is very interesting, sharing some more on K2K:

The front line of "La Dolce Vita", a K and K design.
Wall Street is a world away from the Savannah stage. Sixteen-hour-long work days. Papers and presentations. Meetings ad nauseam.

Twenty-six-year-old twins, Kathy and Karen Norman, are running the rat race at flat out speed. The sisters are a pair of Trinidad-raised, Howard-schooled investment bankers and financial analysts. And they are prepared to pay the dues that the world's greatest financial hub demands.

Trinis know about parties that promise to pump from 9 p.m. till. Try having "9 a.m. till..." preface every work day. It's enough, one imagines, to squeeze the spirit out of any Carnival child. But these two have managed to keep their essence intact. So when they met with an impressed assistant vice-president after their summer internships, they struck a hard bargain: if you want us to "sign our lives away to this financial institution" (their words) you have to promise to join us in T&T for Carnival.

"She giggled, we signed and we held her to her promise," Kathy said. "She ended up on the centrefold of one of our local newspapers wearing a two-piece costume which she swore she would never wear."

And this year, propelled by their hankering for home, the girls designed a section for Poison's Carnival Monday and Tuesday offering from their NYC apartment. It sounds like a stretch, eh? They may be able to analyse data and dish out advice about mergers and debt. But what makes the Manhattan duo think that they could make women feel like tropical divas on Frederick Street? Fortunately, there's more to the two than a knack with numbers.

"We have always been into creativity and design," Karen submitted. The evidence corroborates.

In 1997, Karen and Kathy copped the top two marks respectively at CXC art. They took on Cambridge's art syllabus as a fifth subject and were both recognised by that Examination Board in '99. Their father happens to work in the local textile industry. That gave them additional insight into the realm of fabric and design. In fact, years ago, after a client visited their father at home and happened upon a few of their pieces, the girls began designing textile prints for Queensway. That relationship endured for five years.

In a late-night telephone interview from their office, the pair explained that while they've embraced the two-piece-head-piece-band-for-the-arm-band-for-the-leg mas-making formula, they wanted to add something new.

"The element we want to bring to the table is more fashion. Yes, it's a two-piece. And there are constraints with that. But we tried to create something fashionable instead of a plain bikini," one said. (Truth be told, throughout most of the interview I wasn't certain about who said what. Forgive me for not specifying.)

"Carnival is a very short time," the other mellow voice chimed in. "People take out loans to play mas. The idea is to give the masquerader elements that they can use afterward." The front line of "La Dolce Vita" is targeted toward those who are turned on by sparkle. It prominently features a new material to T&T mas-Swarovski rhinestones (the same material cited during last September's controversy over Tribe's size restrictions in two of its sections). A note next to the costume on Poison's website advises masqueraders: "Please note that all sizes of crystal bra are available so please register early so that we can accommodate you to have the correct size of bra made."

The girls carefully side step bacchanal, confirming only that the material is indeed very costly and that a bigger cup size means more money for the producers. They prefer to harp on their offering. It provides masqueraders, they said, with "tangible assets". That is, bits and pieces that can be taken apart and used Ash Wednesday and beyond. The costume includes jewelry-a crystal necklace and earrings that won't attract questioning glances at dinner in September or at a club in July, let's say. Plumage detaches, leaving you with a crystal beret and bra set. (Presumably there are women who can find uses for such things.) Think of it as glam recycling-a sensible and chic departure from beads, feathers and fluorescent Spandex.

Predictably, it's an expensive costume. One that comes with all the all-inclusive trimmings of modern day mas. So when (one of) the girls launched into a monologue about using Carnival to create unity and integration, I pointed out the irony that there is increasingly a chasm between this band and that band, this fete and that fete, this person and that person.

"To a certain extent there is some realism in that. But you can always find a cheap section in all of these bands," one submitted. "Our section is quite expensive but not because we want to divide people. A lot of the newer people entering the market are really trying to find a happy medium."
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