Roaring Creek native, Rebecca Stirm emerged the winner in a culture-inspired challenge in the second episode of Caribbean fashion designer reality series Mission Catwalk, filmed in Kingston Jamaica.
Stirm and 14 other designers were challenged by host and executive-producer Keenea Linton-George to "create an outfit that reflects the style and culture" of their individual countries joined by "the common thread of independence." The designers who hail from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad were challenged to work within a short time frame and with a US$20 budget.
Stirm, 18, used Belize Hispanic and Mayan culture as inspiration for her design worn by model Abenah Gonzalez
"We are nestled in between two Hispanic speaking countries so unlike the rest of the English speaking Caribbean we have a lot of Hispanic influence. So I chose the cut of my dress from kind of that quince anos bigger skirt (full skirt) small bodice and then chose to do the embroidery based on more of the Maya culture. I really wanted my piece to have a lot of oomph out on the runway so I wanted a lot of material, so I actually looked in the curtain section for material. I was able to get a lot of this very, very light; airy fabric for a little bit of money since we were on a tight budget. I added embroidery to give it some detail and intricacy."
Stirm was the first of the show's designers to win a challenge as no winner was declared in the first episode where five contestants went home.
She describes her win as exciting, "I was really, really excited to be the first to win something, that's really huge and I got so excited that when I went to leave the stage I tripped on my model's dress and kinda fell on her. It was really funny. I was over excited definitely!
Rebeca, who calls her fashion label Fancy Purple Paint says she has enjoyed the intense experience of the reality show.
"The experience so far I've had to learn how to definitely think on my feet very quickly. Like we get a challenge and we have to execute it all in a very short period of time, so I've had to choose fabric quickly sketch quickly, sew quickly everything has been fast I've really enjoyed meeting the people, the internationals and the Jamaicans, it's been great connecting and getting to know everyone. I really like Jamaica so far it's very similar to Belize actually it's kinda like being at home but just different people"
Stirm and the remaining 13 contestants are vying for JA$3 million in prizes including the chance to show at London Fashion Week.
Mission Catwalk is a fashion reality series created by Jamaican fashion designer Keneea Linton-George aimed at discovering and developing new talent. The Kingston based show tests the creativity and skill of each contestant through various challenges. On each episode, a guest judge joins Linton-George (who also serves as host and executive producer), menswear designer Carlton Brown and Jamaica Observer, Lifestyle editor Novia MacDonald-Whyte to critique the designs and eliminate one designer. Mission Catwalk is directed and edited by Mykal Cushnie.
Going into the second season of Mission Catwalk, executive producer Keneea Linton-George and her colleagues were determined to make it more than just another reality show.
The 2012 renewal of the hour-long programme launched two weeks ago on Television Jamaica with 15 fashion designers from across the Caribbean competing for the top spot as well as an attractive winners' package.
Though Mission Catwalk comes with some of the drama associated with reality shows, Linton-George says the show's main objective is discovering the next generation of Caribbean fashion designers.
"We go all out not to make it unpredictable. One week, we might ask them to design a little black dress or design a suit for the prime minister," she told the Jamaica Observer. "We have different elements to restrict them so we can score them accordingly."
Seven of the 14 designers still in the running are from Jamaica, two each from Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados and one each from Guyana and Belize.
One contestant represents Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.
Shenna Carby won the inaugural season which featured only Jamaicans. For the sophomore season, producers widened the field to include Caribbean designers.
Linton-George said the response was enthusiastic with 30 designers sending in applications. Producers settled on 15 competitors who will compete for a winner's package of US$50,000, equipment from Singer, display of their designs in Ocean Style magazine, getting their collection shown at London Fashion Week and an opportunity to study at the London College of Fashion.
The winner will be selected in June during Caribbean Fashion Week in Kingston.
"What we are pleased about most of all is that the show gives them (designers) a lot of exposure," said Linton-George. "Also, the show is aired throughout the Caribbean and a lot of people are excited about seeing their designers."
The world of high fashion has not escaped the reality show concept which first exploded on cable television in the United States 15 years ago.
Supermodel Tyra Banks gathered a list of high-profile fashionistas to make her show, America's Next Top Model, a ratings buster in the US.
Linton-George, a designer herself, believes if Mission Catwalk stays the course it can achieve similar success.