6 Carlos: Bang or Bust?

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Or equal measures of both? Sadly, not even. Or, more optimistically, not yet.

First off, we’ve got to say that we’re always excited when a new local fashion magazine with extraordinary potential magically appears on the scene, as with 6 Carlos. It was founded early last year by both Meiling and Babatu Sparrow (Meiling’s Creative Director, and a stylist and lecturer at UTT, though we’d never before heard of him), and named after Meiling’s iconic 6, Carlos St. HQ. The second issue, focused on art and beauty, is available in bookstores now. And according to the magazine’s beauty director, it’s apparently been picked up for international distribution.

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But is the magazine ready for it? No.

And therein lies a problem with Trinidad and Tobago’s fashion industry—its members trying to achieve too much, too soon, before all its wrinkles have been ironed out.

With better branding and design—we find the logo, layout and creative direction of the magazine lack polish, consistency, and sophistication—more suitable and current articles, and closer attention paid to proofreading, this magazine could really go places. And Jesus Christ, for a magazine that costs US/CAN$9.99, ya think maybe all the photos could be hi-def? This is a magazine that’s more expensive than Elle and W.

Do we think we got our money’s worth? No.

Another glaring issue is that of audience. We’re not sure who this magazine’s target audience is, and Marketing 101 will tell you the more narrowly defined the audience, the more effective the message.

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The models are young, and the fashion’s subversive; there’s compelling photography that explores gypsy culture in the UK; there are articles that feature UTT’s current crop of Fashion Design graduates, that explore ‘underground’ or ‘alternative’ aspects of Trinidad’s culture, like Medulla Gallery, which aims to showcase “unpopular art”; there’s an event recap page that shows pictures taken at an Afropunk event in NYC. These articles are all compelling and interesting, and appeal to a particular audience of creative twenty or thirty somethings.

But then, you turn to page 40, and you see an article on a largely unknown country musician. You turn to page 44, and you see an article on Phyllis Logan, an actress on Downtown Abbey. A highly distinguished actress, yes, but who is she of cultural significance to? Page 66 features an article on seven women, all magnificent in their own way—but women who would perhaps be of more interest to our mothers.

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6 Carlos needs to decide what it is trying to be, what it is trying to say, and who it is trying to reach. Is it a fashion magazine? Is it a culture magazine? Is it questioning the status quo? Is it cementing it? Is it Caribbean? It it Trinidadian? Or is it something else entirely?

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On the other hand, it’s the fashion and fashion photography that really shines—and it’s from here we think the rest of the magazine should take its cues. Sparrow, who styles all the shoots, and the photographers he directs (Laura Ferreira and Daryll Willoughby) clearly work magic together. It’s the previews of “Rough Night,” a beauty editorial that crosses creative and experimental looks with an off-beat concept (models doing time in central booking), and of “As Yet Untitled,” a fashion spread featuring the best work of UTT’s past design students, that cleverly toughens up an old-school colonial Caribbean aesthetic, that made me want to buy the magazine in the first place.

It’s a pity the rest of it is slightly disappointing.

We definitely think this magazine could succeed with a little more thought and planning. There’s definitely a space open in our market for a youthful, slightly subversive, current Caribbean fashion magazine—something that is as sleekly designed as Arc, but with content similar to what’s in Paper magazine or i-D. And the international market’s practically drooling for something that’s cool and authentically Caribbean.

Can 6 Carlos can provide this? Yes. But not yet.

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