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Anya Ayoung Chee

Anya Ayoung-Chee, Project Runway winner and entrepreneur, has led a team of Caribbean artists to produce a groundbreaking campaign for her brand of festival wear, WYLD FLWR.

WYLD TING, the burlesque-inspired capsule collection set to launch tomorrow will utilise NFTs as a way to revolutionise the way Caribbean creatives monetise their offerings. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have been hailed as the future of art—enabling digital works to be invested in, owned and traded similarly to its physical counterparts.

“NFTs allow for immutable digital ownership over an asset, as well as the ability to transfer or sell that exclusive ownership to a new owner,” explains Stephen Hadeed Jr of Creator Labs, a leading Caribbean specialist in NFT production.

Hadeed Jr, along with NFT consultant Christian Salloum, have been channeling their expertise into the launch of WYLD FLWR’s genesis NFT collection, WYLD TING.

In March 2021, the Barbadian singer Shontelle auctioned off a single as an NFT. The highest bid was US$15,000.

“NFTs have become a really powerful force in the world for sharing work,” states Rodell Warner, who has worked with Ayoung-Chee to create stunning animations to augment each of the collection’s ten looks.

Warner, a Trinidadian artist who has exhibited at Art Basel and the Whitney Museum of Art, has joined a dream team of creatives, including celebrated reggae/R&B singer/songwriter Naomi Cowan, creative director Safia Ali of SafiaElena, noted Jamaican photographer Marlon James, videographer Gemini, fine artist Khaffi Beckles, sound engineer Andrew McIntosh, graphic designer Tanya-Marie Williams and Ayoung-Chee herself, to collaborate on a campaign for WYLD FLWR that itself serves as collectible artwork.

Earnings from the campaign will be distributed among the artists and used to fund “spöol,” an initiative Ayoung-Chee is developing together with Inter-American Development Bank’s IDB Lab, NGO Living Water Community, the Digicel Foundation, Ernst and Young, and Anya’s own Together WI Foundation.

Spöol will teach garment construction, entrepreneurship and empowerment to a selection of women, who are both Trinidadians and Venezuelan migrants and refugees, in order to build solidarity and provide livelihood opportunities in the fashion and Carnival industries.

WYLD FLWR is, in fact, the pilot for the project—produced entirely by sewists from Trinidad, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic, with expert guidance from local Carnival designers such as Sheena Ali and Trinidadian fashion veteran Meiling.

“The brand is about freedom,” Ayoung-Chee enthuses. “Freedom of expression for those who wear it, freedom of expression for those who create it, and economic freedom for those who make it.”

Technology lead for WYLD FLWR, Mark Pereira, agrees, emphasising NFTs’ ability to propel Caribbean economies into the future.

“The technology used will pave the way forward for our industries as standards will be built from this collection,” he states. “NFTs will pave the way forward for digital goods sales, rewards, loyalty programmes and even event ticketing.”

Zed, co-founded by Pereira and marketing/PR consultant, Arrianne Talma, specialises in Blockchain and is collaborating with WYLD FLWR to bring forth a digital experience that exemplifies the empowering mission behind the brand.

“This will be the first major fashion NFT project that has emerged from the Caribbean,” Ayoung-Chee states, “and we hope that it inspires many more creatives to participate in this new technology.”

The noted designer and entrepreneur sees the collaborative process as hearkening back to T&T Carnival’s glory days, when stalwarts like Peter Minshall, Wendell Manwarren, Roger Roberts, and Meiling collaborated on masmaking. Astutely, she points out that the sketches of mas designers were themselves covetable pieces of art. With this project, she sees the NFTs as no different.

“What I witnessed,” Ayoung-Chee adds, “was the most beautiful of collaborations between interdisciplinary Caribbean artists.”