St.Lucian Carnival Designer Claude Desir Talks Carnival

Over the weekend, I divulged my sentiments below to my Facebook friends and fans of The Sweet 7:

While the most popular St.Lucian carnival bands continue to align with Trinidadian designers, check our very own St.Lucian, Claude Desir's designs for OTHER island carnivals. I really do not want to have to start an album to show ALL of his work. To prove my point, take a look at his most recent design for the Cayman Islands (seen below). Claude designs for Trinidad (even has a 2015 BLISS design - Ring of Fire), Barbados, Jamaica, Miami, NYC carnivals etc. And once again, another year … *side eye* St.Lucian bands are passing him by for Trini designed costumes that have left many and I … unimpressed, especially for a theme so rich as 'Out of Africa'. 




The response was surprising. Many of you 'liked' and some left a comment with overwhelming support for the NYC based - St.Lucian designer, Claude Desir, no stranger to The Sweet 7. One friend quickly put together a collage of some (cause truly it is SOME) of Claude's past designs.



Claude tried to post an essay comment response on Facebook and was unable due to its length, so he instead chose to email me. While his email was an enlightening read and probably for most of you, he admits "Nyree, for years you and I have had our fair share of discussions in the past about this and a host of other carnival related discussions. LOL. I do believe we've touched on every aspect of carnival in most everywhere we've had any exposure to."

I gloat ... I've not only been of support, but I've been one of Claude's confidants for about seven years now. He even reminded me that the two of us have still never even met in person. Yet, he bounces his ideas, materials, etc and reveals designs to me long before his costumes hit the streets of any regional or international carnival. So it is as much my pleasure to finally see revelers bring his designs to life for various carnivals!  SMH ... and sadly, not our own St.Lucian carnival.

With reason, I am of firm belief that Claude Desir's design craftsmanship tell his best tale. ... And wait till you see Claude Desir designs that St.Lucian Carnival bands are blatantly choosing to forego. Apart from the pictures seen in this post, I have included links to his albums!


Claude expressed his gratitude not only to me, but also to everyone who has given him the opportunity to design:

As always Nyree, I'm greatly appreciative of the love & support you've always shown for my work. Thank you. I am just extremely grateful for those bands that have given me the opportunity & saw worth in my talent to have secured my services in the past & continue to do so. 

Last year especially was a great year for me. I had 5 designs in Trinidad; designed 85% of the entire Jamaica Carnival; 13 designs in two of the biggest bands in Barbados; designed for Notting Hill Carnival, Labor Day in NY & Miami carnival. This year is already shaping up to be equally successful as I have a design in one of Trinidad's most sought after & widely recognized bands Bliss Carnival. As well as 1 in Ronnie & Caro; I have an individual design in the Cayman Islands (the white costume pictured above in this post); & I've been diligently working on my 12 Crop Over 2015 designs since September of last year.




The question still remains "why hasn't Claude been approached by St Lucian bands to design for them?" Despite Claude presenting his work portfolio and basically offering his services in capacity beyond just designing which have resulted in naught. He admits to recently discovering:

Someone contacted one of these St Lucian bands and posed that question, the response was that 1) my style was more the style of another St Lucian band; & 2) I wouldn't be able to meet their mass production. 



Claude confidently responds and reassures ...

I'd like to think my style as being clean, sexy, thoughtfully crafted, & with precise attention paid to detailed workmanship. I'm a perfectionist at heart. So I wouldn't let any design out of my hands & into the hands of a client if I didn't think it lived up to that distinction which I've set for myself & in turn my work.

... And he laughs off the insinuation that he cannot meet this St.Lucian band's mass production:

I have direct access to one of the best producers in the carnival industry, with whom I've built a friendship beyond work. His company handles the production of some of the biggest & best bands around the world. I'm confident that the execution of the final product will be impeccable.


Claude explains a little of the business side of carnival production:

So confident am I in this company's work that for all of my clients it's a prerequisite that carnival bands that hire me must utilize this company to do the mass production of the designs I provide them. The other prerequisite of course is my fee. 

When you have a production company that can handle the work load of just one band with 7000 masqueraders (note: that's just one of many carnival bands with 1000+ masqueraders that this company provides service for). Trust me, this company can handle the production capacity of the all the bands in St Lucia combined ten times over, because they do just that on a yearly basis. 

So yes, I can meet a St.Lucian band's mass production. And not only meet it but meet it with the only company I trust to handle some of the extremely intricate detailing in most of my designs.


He further expressed his thoughts on St.Lucian costumes and production:

I browse the pages of some of the St Lucian bands periodically. I read for how many St Lucian masqueraders it's almost expected that the finished product won't match the prototype launched and was photographed. It's perplexing how for so many, this is not only expected but to them it's ok. 

Let me assure you, it's not ok for the product for which you've shelled out upwards of EC $750 to be anything less than what was advertised. It's not ok in any other industry & it's certainly not ok in carnival. 

Newsflash, getting the costume you paid for is just as big a part of the experience as is all the other elements like drinks, food & music. 




... And Claude bluntly replies:

Step your St.Lucian carnival band's mass production game up before you question my ability to meet your mass production!



A friend of mine asked, "do bands in St Lucia probably inadvertently end up using Claude's designs that they purchased from Trinidad designers without knowing that those designs were sourced from him, Claude Desir?" Claude's response to that question:

I laughed when I saw that! This hadn't happened yet but since I'm on this subject I feel I should share. Just today, I got one such call from a Trinidadian designer who has been hired by another carnival band in St Lucia to design 2015 costumes for them. This designer has in turn sought out my services to do these designs for her.

I had to turn her down however for two reasons. Well three really but the first isn't necessarily a deal breaker: 1) She wishes to purchase two designs from me for which she would assume full design credit for (in other words I'd be a ghost designer); 2) She wants to take on the mass production of those designs, that I would have created, herself & again, whether or not my name is directly attached to any of my work, if the mass production isn't handled by the only production company I trust to effectively reproduce my work then that puts you at very close to a deal breaker; & 3) She needs those two designs in (spoiler alert) 2 weeks for this band's sneak peek presentation, which given my current workload would be impossible for me to accomplish even if the first two reasons didn't exist. 



Claude explains why this is a problem in the final St.Lucian carnival costume product ...

There are several things wrong here. I'll just focus on two. 

How is it that two weeks out from your sneak peek the designer that you've placed your trust in is only now trying to find someone to do her work for you on her behalf? Since I can't do it she'll either have to do it herself (in the height of the carnival season in Trinidad where if she's not swamped dealing with last minute issues down there it's fete after fete after fete for her) or find someone else to do those designs for her. 

Then there you are two weeks from today launching something you think is designed by one person when its actually been designed by a completely different person. 

On top of that, either way you look at it this work is going to be rushed or look eerily familiar to something else that's out there because the easiest route for whomever will be creating those two designs in two weeks maybe to get this done quickly as time is of the essence or knock off/take inspiration from another design (I've seen that 2nd scenario play itself out many times in one band in particular in St Lucia). 

Bottom-line is, around the time St Lucian bands require their costumes for launch or sneak peeks (because they're doing that earlier now as the years progress, which I believe is a great move on the part of the bands) most Trinidadian designers primary focus is on Trinidad carnival for which they would be preparing for at the time. So yes, Trinidad designers may take your business (money is a great motivator you know) but don't be surprised if the work is half-assed, a knock off, or designed by someone else. 



Claude does the MATH:

Instead, a St.Lucian carnival band could come directly to me to design as far back as when they may have gone to this particular Trinidad designer. Costume design by me would've been given its due priority and not put on the back burner until two weeks before a sneak peek to then scramble to get the work passed off to someone else. 

Also if this Trinidad designer were to pay me X amount for these two designs, how much do you think she'd charge you? Less or more than X amount? No need to whip out a calculator, the answer is more than X amount. So rather than come to me directly and pay the X amount I'd charge, you'd instead go to this Trinidad designer, so she could eventually charge you more than X amount for the same product. Things that make you go HMM!!! 



He graciously continues ...

Thankfully I've found success and acceptance elsewhere. There are people and bands out there who appreciate my talent, creativity & work enough to utilize my services. Again, for that I'm extremely grateful for the opportunities they've afforded me. ... I suppose the same could be said for seeking out a St Lucian designer over one of their own.


Here are albums of Claude's Desirable Designs 2014 portfolio, revelers on the road in 2014 in his designs for BAJE International (Barbados Cropover) and his introductory first year design for BLISS 2015, one of Trinidad & Tobago's most leading carnival bands, under the TRIBE Carnival band umbrella.


Even Barbadian Youtube style blogger Charmsie was wukkin' up in a Claude design for Cropver 2014 with Baje International. Charmsie did admit to adding the feathers on her bumcee (derriere) but I love this video because you get a glimpse of the movement of a Claude Desir design.

A photo posted by Charmaine J. Daudu 🚺πŸ’ͺπŸŽ¨πŸŒ΄πŸ’† (@charmsie) on


A photo posted by Charmaine J. Daudu 🚺πŸ’ͺπŸŽ¨πŸŒ΄πŸ’† (@charmsie) on

Yeah man Claude, forward and upward ... unto bigger and better. And partly, here lies within why St.Lucian Carnival will not elevate. - And I'm saying it! 


7 comments

  1. Nyree I remember you posting a pic of a corset that he decorated for you a couple years ago, since then I have always been on the look out for his designs. In my opinion his designs are far superior to many of those which we are presented with in St. Lucia year after year. Claude I wish you the best of luck and maybe hopefully one day I will be fortunate enough to wear one of your fantastic costumes.

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  2. First of all that individual costume for Cayman Islands???? 😍😍😍😍😍 Sooooo amazing!
    I have also looked out for his designs and saw the beautiful one a Charmsie wore for cropover.
    Initially I thought perhaps bands just couldn't afford him because his work is impeccable, unique and looks EXPENSIVE! 😍😍😍 ... After that breakdown of the math though (with the situation where the designer needs two designs in two weeks plus the probability that masqueraders will ultimately pay more than they expected to pay) my mind is just boggled.... This may just be that common scenario where folks wait for others to praise their own before they are on board and its truly unfortunate! Great read TheSweet7 ....

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  3. I think he is sooooo talented and would love to work with him on some stuff. Its a shame how we fight down our own people but applaud others. He doesn't need any band approval, his work speaks volumes and I'm sure they are kicking themselves in the butt right now with the production they received.

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  4. I have to agree with Anonymous above... It really is shameful how we fight down our own people, especially those in the diaspora. Reasons why certain aspects of St. Lucia will never change for the better. Hats off to Claude, I've played in his designs before and they really have been wonderfully designed QUALITY costumes!

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  5. That Moment when his costumes are better than many st.lucian carnival costumes Start Your own Band ! ^_^

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  6. Wow! So ridiculous!!! I've loved his designs from the first time you showcased it on here! What a disservice to us, Lucian revelers! As a Just4Funner, I'm so disappointed in my band. Truly eyeopening, thanks for sharing.

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  7. Nyree, excellent post by you. You know I'm not into the revelry but got to give Claude props for his art. Good work never stays down. It is eventually recognized by someone, somewhere.
    Love your writing, girl!

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