Searlina Bodden, editor of lifestyle Instagram edit Blacktie and Barefoot talks lifestyle consumerism in the Caribbean, why brands and bloggers need to take a look at the tropical career woman and introduces us to the muses behind the movement.
A few weeks ago, a fashion and philanthropy event organized by the Cayman chapter of 100 Women In Hedge Funds, an influential industry organization with a chapter in Grand Cayman received coverage, very positive coverage, on MSNBC. Having covered the event for B+B, as well as assisted with some of the logistics, I was delighted.
In the interview on the Squawk Box that addressed the health of the boutique business, CEO of Nicole Miller Bud Konheim referenced the designer’s recent trunk show and spring collection showing in Cayman. Mr. Konheim expressed his pleasant surprise that a boutique in the Cayman Islands could generate what was apparently huge volume over a two-day event, relative to the size of the market. Out of all the boutiques in the world where Nicole Miller’s designs have been thriving for 30 years, he chose to mention the Cayman Islands.
National pride was just a small part of what started buzzing in my brain. What was a small comment on national television had inadvertently given credence to an idea that had been taking shape for the past nine months on Blacktie + Barefoot.
I started B+B on accident. One day, I made the decision to stop editing on my own feed and dedicate an Instagram account solely to interpreting global lifestyle trends for Caribbean working women. I started posting. I attended Create + Cultivate Chicago. I made a commitment to experiment with the idea for one year, spending no money on advertising. I didn’t even link it to my own personal social feeds.
I knew that women in the Caribbean faced an interesting challenge with accessing global lifestyle trends. We depend on import from “mainland” big markets like the US and the UK for our goods from fashion to food. And while online shopping and now shoppable editorial feeds close the purchasing gap, that satisfies only one part of the online lifestyle experience. In fact, from a consumer standpoint, the shoppable element is great but the truth is Caribbean women love to travel. A lot. We get island fever and we travel for fun. For food. For nightlife. And we travel for clothes.
This woman, or Blacktie Lady as I fondly call her, is a high potential prospect not simply because she can afford items on the luxury lifestyle market, but also because if she is approached in the right way, she will hop a plane to come and have the experience you have sold to her via your feed or your blog. You can take her past the online purchase into the brick and mortar experience, which will inevitably create new behaviors that bring her back again and again.
However, in order for both the brands and the bloggers to see the buying power behind the Blacktie lady, it became clear to me that Blacktie had to be more than simply a trend edit. I now needed to tell a story.
So I took to my surroundings; the very group of women who inspired me to start broadcasting tailored content in the first place; females who reflect the diversity, purchasing power and influence of the Caribbean career woman.
As for what is next for Blacktie and Barefoot, there are many exciting developments in the works including our web launch and extended shopping features tailored specifically for the offshore customer. What I am more excited about, however, is continuing to tell stories of women across the Caribbean and perhaps even being a small part of a movement that gives them an even richer, even more relevant online experience with the tools to design their best life.
For now, meet three women who have inspired this journey thus far.
Christina Bodden – 46, philanthropist, mother of 2, art enthusiast, avid reader and book collector, style enthusiast with a penchant for handbags, classic silhouettes and timeless beauty looks
Occupation: Partner, global law firm
Side Hustle: Board member of the Cayman Islands National Gallery, Global Counsel Member of 100 Women in Hedge Funds
Day Dream: Art, literature and vintage fashion dealer
Travels to: New York, Miami, Dallas, London
Wears: Theory, Nicole Miller, Diane Von Furtstenburg, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Prada, Gap jeans, Lululemon & Nike activewear
Eats: Power smoothies in the AM, farm to table salads with fresh fish and chicken, typically light breakfast for dinner
Lives for: Her sons, beauty and art
Isy Obi - 36, Fashion designer with a love of modern design, art and architecture, eternal shoe addict and recovering finance professional.
Occupation: Creative Director and Fashion Designer, Isy B.
Side Hustle: Shoe blogger at isybshoes.com, writer, contributor at Real Life Magazine, Board Member - Cayman Tennis Academy Fund and a huge supporter of Caymanian and Caribbean artists.
Day Dream: Yay! I live my dream everyday.
Travels to: Wherever my dreams take me - in 2016 I'm heading to Singapore, Indonesia, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Park City, New York, Miami, South Africa, Botswana, London, and Paris
Wears: Diane Von Furstenberg, Marchesa, Marc Jacobs, Isy B., Tamara Mellon
Eats: Slow Food (Member of Slow Food Cayman). Avid locavore and supporter of the local farm-to-table movement.
Lives for: Travel and adventure with my explorer husband, early morning yoga and meditation practice on the beach, letting go of false limitations and living my highest potential, my family and good friends.
Amanda Kong – 31, kite boarder, travel enthusiast, soul searcher, a woman of many styles and many eyes, an imbiber of my surroundings, a cat of 9 lives (maybe 7 left), eclectic to the core
Occupation: Financial Regulatory Consultant
Side hustle: a friendly ear, a kind word, a humanitarian consideration, a perpetuator of health and fitness in balance
Day dream: to see the world - all of it – and to see its history played out before me
Travels to: From the deserts of Rajasthan to the shores of Mauritius, I've had a kaleidoscope of experiences yet so much more remains. I want to travel to have an experience - the culture and food, style, cinema is all rolled up into it. So I've been around the world and still have a long way to go.
Wears: Anything I like. I gravitate towards a sporty, casual look with good quality classics for work. On the weekends, I live in a bikini and cur offs, if I am not in the gym.
Eats: Protein shakes, salads, and MEAT! But I always leave space to try something new.
Lives for: The roller coaster that is life.
Searlina Bodden is the founder of @blacktieandbarefoot
Photos: Kenroy Lumdsen Photography @kenroylumsden; Hair and Makeup: Steven Jensen of The Salon Cayman @feelinvybz and Ruthanna Young-Hull of Renaissance Salon Cayman @renaissancesaloncayman; Nails: Ann-Marie Bryan of Polished Cayman @chunnyb2