As founder of Caribbean Fashion and Arts Feature Festival and co-founder of AKIMBO, Kevon considers himself to be a social entrepreneur who provides a platform for creatives. He also designs jewelry and dabbles in menswear under the Green Violet banner. Following is his many shades.
How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
Creativity to me is not limited to just artistic prowess. It is a mindset, a skill, a modus operndi that allows us to think on our feet, solve problems, re-purpose something or create something out of nothing. I think creativity is essential and is something that we should hone.
How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
Creativity is innate and manifests itself differently in everyone. I think of the phrase 'necessity is the mother of all invention,' meaning that we all have it in us but for some it takes a little more to bring it out.
For me it has always been there and first presented itself as an affinity for writing, the love of art and fashion and has since developed into what it is today.
When did you realize that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
My father has always been good with his hands and at different periods was a mas maker, tailor and DJ, an all round renaissance man. While growing up, he and my aunt owned fashion boutiques in Arima and my siblings and I were around that creative energy.
So when I told my parents I wanted to be a 'fashion designer-chef-politician' no one bat an eyelid LOL. I ended up working in hospitality, PR/Marketing and education. In the last few years, I found myself venturing into creative enterprise.
What is your standard for evaluating your own creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are monetary rewards relevant to your own work?
AKIMBO is an independent boutique and artistic event space in Arima that I co-founded with Karen Kennedy and evaluating the work of other creatives comes with the territory, as we currently stock the work of over 30 local and regional designers as well as artisans and host regular art exhibitions. I'd rather use the word curate than evaluate as it is my job to look at the work presented and together with the creator select their best work.
It sometimes means pushing people out of their comfort zones and asking them to do something or create something that will take a little more thought. As facilitator it is also my job to make creatives feel safe enough to share their talent with the public. For instance many of the artists who have exhibited at AKIMBO, had the opportunity to host their first solo exhibitions in the space.
Caribbean Fashion and Arts Feature Festival was no different, as many of the participants had never produced a fashion film and through a little pushing and guidance they created beautiful films and benefited from the experience.
As far as my own creative process is concerned, I don't spend too much time on conceptualizing a design, meaning that I sit and start sketching or working and go where the process takes me. It has to be organic and not feel like i'm overthinking it. Usually if I trust the process, the end result is favourable.
As a retailer on different levels, monetary reward is very important. If anyone decides to make the leap into being a full time creative, then monetizing their talent is crucial. So yes, monetary reward has to be compatible.
Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavors are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
If you are creating something for sale, then somewhere along the creative process outside influences will be factored in as you will be creating something with a demographic in mind. If you are creating for the love of it, then outside influences are not important.
For me culture plays an important role in my creative efforts. When I design the aesthetic is unmistakably Caribbean. You my ask what is the Caribbean aesthetic? The Caribbean aesthetic is visible in our food, our music our language and the way we dance. Our ancestors were brought here or came here and had to make do with what they found here. They had to be creative and so the Caribbean is the unique hybrid of African, Asian and European culture. My design work is the same and so influenced by and represents that hybrid.
What do you do when you experience a creative block?
Whether it's while planning an event, writing an article or making a piece of jewelry, if creative blocks occur I stop and leave it alone. You can only do what you can do. I leave it alone for an hour, a day or a week and then come back to it with fresh eyes and mind.
How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
My friends tease me saying I should be the poster child for NIKE as I 'just do it.' We launched AKIMBO one month after securing a space, Caribbean Fashion and Arts Feature Festival was planned and executed in three months and Green Violet just happened overnight when I decided to make jewelry to sell.
Fear of failure is not in my DNA, so just taking the leap is what has to be done and you can contort and twist and adjust your body on the way down to ensure you have a soft landing. If you don't jump you're just standing there on a ledge looking at other people jumping into their destiny.
Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?
I do a lot of my 'brain work' from home. So if my house is not spotless before I start conceptualizing something, nothing will happen. I cannot create in chaos. So usually my surroundings need to be clean and clutter free before I can sit down to create.
Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?
I would say I have learnt how to merge the different facets of my creativity into a more synergistic whole. Writing is my first and probably strongest talent and over the years I have been able to use it as a marketing and comms professional and freelance writer. I even use it now as an entrepreneur to inform business plans, creative briefs and proposals, which serve the root of all my creative ventures. I have to write it down and ensure the skeleton is in order before I start creating anything to 'flesh' it out.
What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
Up until September of this year I was employed full time as a Marketing and Communications Manager and simultaneously had my fingers in these different pies, meaning I've had to sacrifice a lot of personal time. Down time, alone time, proper nutrition and exercise have taken a back seat over the past year. It is my mission to resolve this, as without a healthy me, creativity will in the long run stop anyway.
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
My mother was always on me to see things through until the end. As with many other creatives I'm sure it is easy to get distracted and start something else before finishing the first or losing interests etc. She saw that tendency in me early on and drilled it in me to finish what I started and I guess it stuck :)
Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
Again, if you are creating for you and doing it for the love of it and using it as your outlet then by all means create and don't give a damn about what anyone thinks.
If you decide to let the public experience your work and offer it for sale then it has to be accepted by someone or it will not sell. So it's not really about letting anyone's opinion justify your work, but more about finding your niche and audience who appreciate your work and building on that.
Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.
I would say yes and define rejection in different ways. When sales dip at AKIMBO that can be seen as rejection of what we offer, so we have had to at times come up with new creative ways to boost sales.
My first line of Green Violet jewelry was made available for sale at the Hotel Normandie last year and quite a few pieces sold but the ones I loved the most, the ones that I thought were the most creative and 'boundary pushing' didn't sell. That can be considered rejection and so I removed them and brought something else that would appeal more to everyone and they have been selling.
If your creative process is set up to be monetized then rejection will lead you to make adjustments. And that's OK.
Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?:
I would not change anything. All the past creations are building blocks for the present and ones to come.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
I always secretly doubt myself but for me just doing it and doing it to the best of my ability is the most important thing.
Just last week I was watching a Meryl Streep movie where she portrayed Florence Foster Jenkins an American amateur operatic soprano who was known for her poor singing ability. On Florence's death bed she uttered " People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."
That's my new favorite quote LOL. So really it all boils down again to just doing it.
What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?
I am most proud of the Caribbean Fashion and Arts Feature Festival. I don't have children but I guess this close to what it feels like to having one. The joy that this 'little festival that could' brought to participants makes me feel like I have achieved something substantial and impactful.
What is the best advice you've received that helped you move forward on your creative journey?
The age old "What ever you choose to do, do your best at it. Give it 100% or don't bother doing it." That was advice from my father growing up.
To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?
Be the best chef-author-painter-accountant you can be. Do not feel you need to limit yourself to any one thing or path. You really can do it all and do it well. Do not be afraid of failure because failure is a mindset. It is impossible to fail at something you are creating because you are the one in the driver seat and it's OK to make pit stops, detours and U-turns along the way before reaching your destination.
What would you most like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for helping provide additional platforms for creatives to share their talent with the world and holding their hands while we together jump into greatness.
If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
Shooting Star Scarlet Red.
We thank Kevon for sharing with us and creating a platform whereby other creative individual can display and sell their work. To stay in touch with Kevon's work visit caribbeanfaff.com for his jewellery go here greenviolet.org. Follow Kevon as well as Akimbo on Instagram.