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Carnival: Have you ever joined a mas band?

VIBRANCE IN MOTION: Colourful bespoke costumes

BRINGING THE streets of Notting Hill Carnival to life with feathers and jewels of contrasting bold colours a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to produce costumes for what is known as 'pretty mas'.

A number of designers, wire benders, costume makers, feather specialists have been working all year to make carnival the spectacular event it’s been since 1966.

The Voice's Joel Campbell speaks to Vibrance band designer Cee Bolakee about her second year designing and producing costumes for one of the worlds biggest street party.

Q: Tell me a little about Vibrance-Mas?

A: Vibrance is a new band, this is our second year on the road at Notting Hill Carnival and we are collaborating with Candy Mas. I design and produce all the costumes, this includes all the jewellery. I also wire bend to make all the wings and collars.

Q: How did you become a designer?

A: I have been playing mas in Trinidad for many years from the early band Poison to more recent bands like Yuma and Fantasy. I always went with a costume I liked, even if it meant being in a different band from my friends. I would accessorise add my own touch to costumes. Then two years ago Cocoyea London’s Dexter Khan found me. Initially I came on board as a guest designer, but directly after seeing my work, Dexter quickly helped me to become a collaborator which means I’m officially a registered band now.

BESPOKE: A Vibrance costume

Q: What are your influences?

A: Designers Minshall, MacFarlane and Darlene Beddoe, traditional mas. I’m also passionate about tribal people and upholding cultural identity regardless of where people are from, I think this shows in my designs such as the Kayapo costume and the African fabrics i.e. Kente, that feature in many of my designs. My background is art and design, I studied environmental studies at degree level so I probably also incorporate these things into my projects.

Q: There are many designers out there, what makes your designs and band stand out?

A: I aim to design for people that feel carnival isn’t for them, maybe the woman that thinks costumes are for those with a smaller chest size or the older masquerader. I tailor costumes to the individual needs, so a band member feels confident and majestic when she or he steps out on the road.

Q: Carnival preparation takes a long time to plan and orchestrate - what makes you do it?

A: I do it for the love of it, Carnival made me feel confident about my body and I can express myself freely. It’s happy music and seeing people join my band on their own having fun and feeling part of a family really makes it worth it for me. I love that for that magical few hours everyone feels beautiful and part of one big family regardless of age or what island you're repping.

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