Updated: Feb 24
We took the time to interview Trinibagonian designer, Atiba Borde to learn more about a designer's perspective of the Carnival industry
"I believe the Caribbean should OWN carnival fully."
Atiba was born in Sande Grande, Trinidad but spent his last 17 years living in Arouca, Trinidad. We were surprised to learn about Atiba's multifaceted background which includes a degree in Biochemistry and Biology before becoming full-time designer. Two years into his design career, Atiba's boasts beautiful designs in bands like Lost Tribe (Trinidad), Revelmas, and luxury carnival band: Revelnation (Miami). You can also spot some of his work in local film/theatre productions.
We got the opportunity to hop on a call together to discuss his thoughts on Carnival and it's sustainability from a designer's point of view.
Carnicycle: It's lovely to meet you! Your bio is amazing. How did you pursue a degree in science yet end up designing? Did you see yourself designing just costumes or also every day clothing?
Atiba: I was always interested in design. I had tons of sketches of costumes that I would keep to myself. Designing costumes have always been my passion, whether it was for Carnival, theatre or film. I never saw himself as a fashion designer.
Carnicycle: We admire people who pursue their passion! When was your first break in the carnival scene?
Atiba: Thanks! I started designing for the Tribe Family of Bands about two years ago. They asked me to design for them after following my social media for a while and viewing the sketches that I would post.
Carnicycle: Is that how designers are usually on-boarded to design for a band?
Atiba: Well you can say that I was a rare case. But the process includes a mixture of Tribe Family of Bands seeking out unique and innovative designers as well as designers submitting their work consistently to Tribe. A lot of designers without an art background may create a prototype (fully produced costume) in hopes of being selected by the band.
Atiba's section, Àgunfon, in Lost Tribe Carnival band for Trinidad Carnival 2020
Carnicycle: That's amazing and you're teaching us a lot here. Since the world is moving towards the use of more technology, have you used technology to make your designs more innovative?
Atiba: This is a great question! I think there are many different ways to apply or incorporate technology into a design. It can range from the tools or software used to design or actual, physical pieces of technology in costumes.
I believe that designers should push to use technology. One of the designers in Lost Tribe designed a costume (Firefly) that glows in the dark because of a fabric used. Another uses backpacks open like a peacock. In one of my latest designs I used materials to allow the headpiece to move like a giraffe. I thought it was cool.
I try to create designs that masqueraders would want to incorporate into their wardrobe so that costume is not a single-use piece
Carnicycle: A moving giraffe seems so fun and playful. We're glad to here that designers are breaking the envelope with technology. Do you incorporate sustainability into your designs?
Atiba: Well I design for Lost Tribe, among other bands. Over the last 5 years, the band has become a featherless band- prohibiting the use of feathers in designs. This allowed designers like myself to be more sustainable and creative when procuring materials. I try to replicate this way of designing when designing for other bands. I also try to create designs that masqueraders would want to incorporate into their wardrobe so that costume is not a single-use piece.
Carnicycle: Speaking of materials, how do you or other designers currently source items like feathers. wire framing, etc. for your business. Is it hard to source?
Atiba: A lot of the designers travel to seek out fabric for their costumes. There are benefits to this as it allows us to build a global brand. Things like wire-framing are made here in Trinidad. Unfortunately. the production of a lot of pieces of the costume are outsourced. However, Lost Tribe has initiatives to always have the final costume stitch made in Trinidad and Tobago.
Carnicycle: We have to ask, What do you think of our cause? Would you be interested in recycled feathers?
Atiba: I think your initiative is great! I'm interested in Eco Tourism and this is a great way to boost Eco-tourism. I would definitely buy the feathers, assuming they come at a cheaper price point. Designers are always struggling to purchase feathers or find more innovative ways to use the feathers because they are so expensive.
Carnicycle: Thanks so much for the feedback and interviewing with us. Here's our last question... What are some improvements to be made in the carnival industry?
Atiba: I believe the Caribbean should OWN carnival fully. We should be the business hub for all things pertaining to carnival. This would allow us to export carnival to the rest of the world, from costume production to accessories and music. Trinidad should rightfully be the centre of the carnival hub/ business cluster in my biased opinion. However all of this can happen if the government and corporate customers become more involved.