Lisa-Marie Daniel is no typical woman; although at first glance, she may be seemingly quiet and shy, she is certainly very far from that. After engaging in conversations with this silent powerhouse, I gathered that she is not only assertive and confident, but is charged with the great responsibility of managing the state-appointed agency - The Trinidad and Tobago Fashion Company Limited (FashionTT).
FashionTT was established in 2013 with the mandate to stimulate and facilitate the business development and export activity of the fashion industry in Trinidad and Tobago to generate national wealth. As a subsidiary of the Trinidad and Tobago Creative Industries Company Limited (CreativeTT), FashionTT provides services for local fashion industry stakeholders, primarily fashion designers in the areas of fashion apparel, functional apparel, accessories and support.
After completing Ordinary Level (now called CSEC) at Diego Martin Secondary School, Lisa-Marie went on to complete her Advanced Level education at Polytechnic Sixth Form School, then pursued a degree at the University of the West Indies (UWI). Since graduating from UWI, she has been making waves in her career within the Business and Finance sectors for over 10 years. She has held senior positions within both the private and public sectors at local and international banks, managing portfolios comprising of conglomerates and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). Prior to taking on the General Manager post at FashionTT, she was the Financial Comptroller at the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB)
Lisa-Marie explained, that following the formulation of FashionTT’s strategic plan, which was rolled out in 2015, it is under her stewardship to implement this plan which has three developmental goals – to foster export-ready products, to create jobs and to further develop capacity. She said, “This plan will position Trinidad and Tobago as a major fashion hub, strengthen the capacity of fashion practitioners to participate in the international market and increase growth and revenue at the national and firm levels.”
She also pointed out that under the strategic plan there is also a programme called the Value Chain Investment Programme (VCIP), which she considers the cornerstone of the plan. This programme assesses local firms by an independent international panel that will categorise firms into one of the four levels of the VCIP - The Global Value Chain (GVC), Non-Global Value Chain, Business Advisory and the Strategic Training.
The expectations of the strategic plan also include the realisation of at least two firms in the fashion/apparel sector achieving international sales in excess of $10 million, and collective sales across the industry of $75 million. In addition, the goal is to empower in excess of 300 fashion service companies and fashion companies in the exporting of their products.
While Lisa-Marie admitted that managing an important mandate and portfolio such as the one given in the Strategic Plan of FashionTT is not no easy one; her love for fashion coupled with her extensive professional work experience has equipped her for the serious tasks and responsibilities of her position. “I’ve always had a love towards fashion and I especially love to support local fashion. My passion for fashion does not require that I know how to make a garment, but rather to understand the business aspect of it - how to develop the brand and person behind it, market it, develop business plans and promote the industry to a level where it can become globally viable.”
The Santa Cruz resident also noted that she is a living testament that one does not have to attend a “prestige school” to determine one’s success. Hard work, ambition and determination are the qualities that will help one to succeed. “Generally I do have those long 12-hour days more as a rule than an exception. However, what we are doing here is creating a genuine impact and changing people’s lives while also working to change an industry. Designers on average have reported an increase in sales to the tune of 32 per cent since starting with us but some have seen that figure go as high as 162 per cent. We’ve seen talent emerge in Sangre Grande and go on to supply markets in distant parts of the world – so it’s work that I enjoy,” she said.
Lisa-Marie continues to invest in self-development and education even with a hectic career. In addition to having a Bachelor’s degree and an MBA, she is currently embarking on her Doctorate in Business Administration. When she is not working, Lisa Marie enjoys spending her time with her fiancé, her daughter Drisana as well as with her parents and her dogs. Most recently, she has started to dabble in the culinary arts, cooking up a storm with her fiancé in the kitchen. Check out my Q & A with Lisa-Marie.
1) What key challenges and issues within the fashion sector can you say is being addressed with the assistance of your organisation?
The key challenges and issues as highlighted by the strategic plan for the fashion industry and stakeholders are in Business Acumen, Financing, Retail Distribution and Production.
The organisation has been addressing these challenges via the administration and execution of the Value Chain Investment Programme (VCIP), which supports an estimated 100 local designers annually.
2) Where would you like to see the fashion industry in Trinidad and Tobago within the next five years?
Firstly, I would like to see the industry being recognised locally, whereby everyone buys local and has an appreciation for our talent and culture; for our industry to stand out and be known on a vast regional and global scale for our unique and beautiful aesthetic which comes with a premium quality and for our industry to meaningfully contribute to our country’s wealth and GDP.
3) How would you define your personal sense of style?
I would say modern, minimal, sophisticated but fun.
4) What do you like about Fashion?
From a very young age, I always loved to dress up in attractive clothes, accessories and shoes. I have also designed some of the clothing in my closet, which was thereafter produced by local designers. I think fashion forms a very important role for an individual. When you look and feel good, it boosts your self-confidence in your personal and professional life.
5) Do you think the private sector should play a role or be involved in building the advancement of the fashion industry in T&T?
Yes, there are so many opportunities for the private sector to collaborate and invest in paths such as Manufacturing, Retail Distribution, Marketing and Equity Engagements. The fashion industry is a lucrative one and can deliver the desired ROI.
6) What do you enjoy the most about your job?
I really love to make a positive difference in persons’ lives and to see the industry progress (revenue and efficiency wise) because of the initiatives FashionTT has been implementing.
7) What advice do you have for budding fashion designers who are trying to build a viable business within the industry?
Stay focused, work hard, deliver on time and most importantly, know your customer. Though the path may seem long, through consistency and determination, success is imminent.
8) Do you think enough respect is given to creatives in T&T? Yes or No and why?
Yes, I do believe respect is given by those who are aware of our local skill and talent. However, I think a lot more marketing and promotion should be done by our creatives to sensitise the public, as this would lead to a more widespread appreciation.
9) What else should we know about Lisa-Marie Daniel and or Fashion TT?
We are a hardworking team, at FashionTT; we are always open to speaking with stakeholders on avenues in which FashionTT can help. Give us a call at 628-1156 or email [email protected]