Anya Ayoung-Chee is a powerhouse Trinidadian fashion designer, social entrepreneur, the winner of the 2011 season of Project Runway, and an impassioned human rights activist.
With all that she has and is accomplishing, Anya could easily be consumed with self-promotion. But, instead, her greatest motivation is a quest to increase access to resources for Caribbean people, especially women, creatives and entrepreneurs.
It’s an honor to partner with Anya to feature small businesses to support in Trinidad... Though her list could go on and on, she has honed in on: Meiling, Willow and Oak, Bene Caribe and Lisa SeeTai.
“I chose these businesses because they are all products I wear myself, and love,” Anya told us. “The way in which they make their work is very considered and conscious. All of these businesses really take time and effort to ensure that what they are producing is consciously and sustainably made.”
“Meiling is my mentor and has been for many years. She mentors all of these business owners, whether formerly or not, in one way or another. I learned from her what it looks like to be a part of a community… To invest in buying each other’s products, the value of the process of seeing each other succeed, and having a hand in that in one way or another.”
Instead of becoming consumed by keeping herself afloat during this season of pandemic, Anya has instead concentrated on being of service through the development of tools that will help lift others up.
For instance, she has doubled down on a handful of projects rooted in utilizing her expansive personal base of resources to ensure that as many other small businesses, creative entrepreneurs and practitioners have more access to the support they need to grow.
“I want to create opportunities for more people who have generally less access to the types of options that would allow them to be independent in their industries. I want to help open doors of access – especially for those of Caribbean descent, women and creators.”
While many of her projects are still in the incubation stage and too young to mention, one that has begun to bloom is BANYAN – a series of conversations with creatives from all over the Caribbean.
“Banyan is a form of sharing knowledge through conversations. This will become a dynamic network to give more people a platform to share, learn, exchange, and expand on what they’re doing. The first series focused on women of Caribbean descent in creative fields who are succeeding in their various professions. The goal is to share the tools and information that allowed us to thrive in different areas,” she shares. The latest Banyan interview features rising, popular Jamaican songstress Naomi Cowan.
Anya’s other projects in the works span a plethora of technology platforms that will support small and medium-sized businesses throughout the region in various ways, such as global sales and shipping, and crowdfunding. Her vision is to elevate Caribbean voices and economic fortitude through fair and inclusive avenues.
Then there’s Wyld Flwr, a highly anticipated, breathtaking festival wear line that Anya launched this February in New York. While the timing for that launch turned out to be less than ideal, to say the least, Anya has quickly pivoted.
“Since the pandemic we’ve been using the time to focus on restructuring the team, re-identifying our purpose to align more with community-building, and creating our work from a place of giving people a sense of freedom. So, we are in a rebirth phase.”
In the meantime, Wyld Flwr has kept afloat by creating masks using materials originally purchased for its line. The masks are being sold on the Wyld Flwr website and on The Faces of Fashion – a website launched by the producers of Project Runway and Making the Cut.
Anya says that COVID has been an equally exciting and draining time for her.
“A lot of the work that I was attempting to put in place over the last couple of years has just started to have more traction. That has been exciting – something positive out of a tragic and trying time.”
“I have been working a lot. I was going nonstop and was very energized by the possibility of the world changing and what that would mean for anyone who is motivated by disruption, technology and seeing ideas through to become new ways of doing things.”
“Things have started to settle and the ideas that make sense have become clear. This has been an opportunity for me to become more focused on specific projects and areas of interest of mine… But, now I also have to focus more on taking care of myself and my family, and being more present in general. Just like everyone else, but in different ways, this has been an intense process for me. I’ve been going and going. It has been extremely hectic. Now I think it’s okay to center, be clear and see things through to the end.”
For Anya, stepping into a season of self-care will mean consistent daily routine that includes meditation, affirmations and being in gratitude.
These tools, she says, have helped her manifest her personal goals and visions in the past.
“I write down my vision, use affirmations every day to speak them into existence, and be very intentional and specific about what my goals are,” she says.
With her self-care practices steadily in place, the sky is the limit for where this conscious creative will lead her Caribbean community.