Andrea King is a woman who wears many hats. Not only was she the former Director of the Barbados Cultural Industries Development Authority, but she is also the Chief Creative Officer of Fifth Element Designs Inc and the Instagram boutique 5th Element Experience. She is also the founder of Culture and Arts for Love and Living (CALL).
Positive Vibes sat down with King to discuss her various roles and to learn a bit more about who she is as a businesswoman who is passionate about developing the creative industries in Barbados.
Q: What is your mantra for life?
A: Gosh! I have so many! I think the top are “Gye Nyame”- nothing without God and “Let reason be the master of your passion.” These are taken from the Fourth Book of Maccabees, Chapter 1, from The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden. Nyame is the God of the Akan people of Ashanteland of Ghana. His name means “He who knows and sees everything” and “omniscient, omnipotent sky God” in the Akan language.
Q: If you could be the Prime Minister of Barbados for a day, what would you change and why?
A: One day is hardly enough, but if it was, I would update all the archaic laws so we have a more equitable and just society, especially those laws which pertain to what we consider petty crimes. I would also establish a revolving fund exclusively for the cultural and creative industries and shepherd to success businesses which are approved for loans, because in order to scale up towards more domestic consumption and export businesses creatives need cash.
Q: What is one thing you would like to accomplish before you leave the earth?
A: I would love to live on the African continent for a period of time. Ghana would be the first choice.
Q: You are the founder of CALL. What led to that development?
A: Culture and Arts for Love and Living is an arts organization dedicated to improving business-to-business opportunities and south-south collaboration towards advancing the development of the creative and cultural industries in Barbados and the Global South. In this regard, CALL works with rapidly expanding groups of artists, writers, designers and other creative professionals particularly in Barbados. All my life, I have worked in some capacity with artists/artistes, always in an administrative or management position. CALL is a formalization of that work. As the representative from Barbados on the UNESCO Expert Facility on Diversity of Cultural Expressions, developing and improving the status of artists is part of the critical work I am compelled to do.
Q: You are also very passionate about the creative industries in Barbados. How do you think they can be developed?
A: Like any other industry, the cultural and creative industries need an investment of MONEY. Barbadian people have the creativity;we have the talent; we need the means to produce in quantities relevant to consumption towards making a profit like any other business. We have to identify and cultivate the markets for our products. So, Barbados and the Caribbean diaspora are obvious markets. So are our Caribbean neighbours including Brazil and, of course, the largest market in the world which shares our heritage which has at least 20 of the 54 countries on the African continent. But if the producers of cultural goods and services do not have money to research, develop and scale up their production to export, the enabling legislative environment will not mean much or be as effective as it can be.
Q: You are also the Chief Creative Officer of Fifth Element Designs Inc and the IG boutique 5th Element Experience. Were you always involved in fashion?
A: I have three sisters and my mother used to make our church clothes, going out clothes and school uniforms. I loved dolls and used to take her scrap material and make dolly clothes. When I became a journalist covering Culture and Entertainment, I had to go to lots of different events, sometimes two or three a day and I never wanted people to see me in the same clothes more than once, nor be seen in the same clothes as other women. So, I started designing and got my seamstress to make them. Soon, my colleagues and other people used to ask me where I got whatever I was wearing and that started me off. I registered the company in 2000 and incorporated in 2014. As an arts administrator, it became critical for me to not only talk the talk but walk the walk. I have received assistance in my business from the Barbados Investment Development Corporation, Caribbean Export, The Cherry Tree Trust, some very close friends and of course, my family.
Q: What advice would you have for any young fashion designers?
A: You will save a lot of money if you learn to sew your own samples. Identify the market you want to sell to and research that market very carefully. Know everything there is to know about your customer. Be consistent in your brand story. Do not fall victim to the western notion of fashion seasons unless your passion is designing winter coats or working with wool. Whatever the weather, people have to wear clothes.
Q: What is one thing that you would like to see improved in the fashion industry?
A: I would really love to see the traders of clothing which are the boutiques and stores selling more Barbadian designs. Barbadian designers simply cannot compete in terms of the price of imported clothing, so I would like to see a policy or legislation specific to developing the fashion manufacturing industry which encourages all stores which sell clothing to stock more Barbadian designs. That may look like a higher tax on the importation of ready-to-wear clothing which would make doing business with local designers more attractive coupled with relevant concessions to stores which stock Barbadian designs. Think about it – a fashion manufacturing sector will employ more people than the supporting retail industry.
Q: What advice would you have for any young artiste seeking to make their mark in Barbados and the world by extension?
A: Know your culture and heritage. Be true to yourself. Be genuine in your expression. If you want to make a mark, utilize the media wisely. If you want to make a decent living or get rich, identify your market and target it relentlessly. I take it as a given the young artiste is talented.
Q: Where can people follow you online?
A: I can be found by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or on Facebook and Instagram @the5thelementexperience. (LG)