Known in the mas industry as "The Bling Kings", Richard Dookhdeen and Anthony Hall have staged yet another production coup leading up to Carnival 2013. The dynamic duo, who lead their own "one-stop shop" known as Richard and Anthony Productions and Concepts, are responsible for the overall theme, as well as the design and creation of ten of the 15 costumes forming Fantasy Carnival's 2013 presentation, Savage.
"We have a number of mas presentations in mind—already fully designed and conceptualised for the next several years," said Hall, "but right now, we can say without a doubt that this particular presentation is our best work to date."
Based on ancient Mesoamerican civilisations and cultures, Savage is described by the duo as "a fusion of the animal instinct with fashion and of course, the rich and diverse Mesoamerican culture.
"The Savage theme is something that we always wanted to do," explained Dookhdeen, "and we added our own little twist to it by going south and adding the Mesoamerican flavour because most people when they hear the word savage think of African hunters and that kind of savagery, but we felt that the South American culture would blend well with the theme and be very sexy—and that's what we're all about—sexy, fashionable, innovative Carnival wear."
Responsible for some of the most outstanding and popular mas themes of the "bikini bands" since the age of Barbarossa, Hall and Dookhdeen have conceptualised and produced themes for—and thus, helped to establish—many of the popular bands in this arena over the last 15 years.
"It's very interesting that we find ourselves in this position at this stage of our lives," said Hall, "because I come from an accounting background and Richard has an IT background. But we both love mas and we love to create, so it took us a while to get into the industry, but when we did it was with Barbarossa in their last year—and we ended up with the largest section. From there, we realised we had a good thing going and went on to work with Trini Revellers and then Poison and then, we worked with Gail Cabral and did her male costumes for Tribe and after that, we were pretty much a household name within the industry because of the range and the creativity we had shown up to that point. We went on to design and produce mas for Spice, ISLANDpeople, YUMA and now Fantasy."
"We have been able to grow a lot with Fantasy," added Dookhdeen, "because initially they asked us to create just five sections last year, but then five turned into seven, seven into 12 and we ended up doing all 13."
Teaming up with long-time friend and former ISLANDpeople and Tribe designer, Sandra Hordatt, as well as Jamilla Jeffrey, Richard and Anthony Productions and Concepts will oversee production on the 15 sections of Savage that were unveiled to the public at the band's official launch, held recently at O2 Park in Chaguaramas.
"We specialise in custom designs," informed Hall, "and we have exclusive arrangements with all our suppliers, so that it's really impossible to replicate our designs within the same time period. Some people may say, well, what's so special or creative about making a colourful bra and panty, but if you think about it: we have to find ways to give the masqueraders what they want on Monday and Tuesday—which is to look sexy and feel comfortable enough to release their inhibitions in the streets, while also striving NOT to duplicate our previous work. We have a smaller canvas to work with and a greater expectation from the masqueraders each year, so it really is very challenging, but we love a challenge and now that Carnival is no longer a seasonal enterprise, we can afford to devote our full attention and concentration to coming up with and executing these ideas."
"We were the first to do collars instead of just wire backpacks," added Dookhdeen. "We also started the use of the demi-cup and we like to say we haven't met a rhinestone that we haven't liked or found a way to use yet—that's why we're known as the Bling Kings—because we like to make our costumes sparkle and shine in the sun and under the lights on stage. Many designers can only envision the bra and the panty, whereas we come with all the accessories already thought out and designed to complement the entire costume and the body of the masquerader."
Asked about complaints about the use of Chinese labour in the manufacturing process, Hall calmly defends and compliments the Far East producers on their discipline, work ethic and attention to detail.
"We have tried to utilise local workshops in the past," he explained, "and what we got were people who come to work when they feel like and work only as long as they feel to… The Chinese people are disciplined and they get the job done exactly as instructed and on time. Still, it is important for us to employ locals and we prefer to oversee most of the production ourselves, so what we do now is, the only thing we make abroad really is the bras and the belts because the Chinese are excellent at creating these and meticulous in terms of following precise instructions. They are not designers—you can't ask them to conceptualise a band for you and expect it to look as ours do—but when you show them what you want made and how you want it made, then they go about it with precision and speed.
"Every year, we visit the factories ourselves and interact with them and every year the quality of the work we receive is amazing and to be commended. Different people are good at different things and that's just life—when anyone in the world wants the best people in the world to write a Calypso, to tune a steel pan, or to design mas, don't they come to us? So what's wrong with us using the best people for mass production?"