Turners Falls pursues twinning with Trinidad and Tobago neighborhood

  • Richie Richardson, fashion designer and owner of Fab Fashion, is helping to coordinate a cultural exchange between Turners Falls and his home country of Trinidad and Tobago. “The potential is enormous,” he said. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/18/2019 9:38:25 PM
Modified: 7/18/2019 9:38:15 PM

MONTAGUE — Turners Falls is on its way to twinning with a neighborhood in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, for purposes of cultural exchange.

The story of how the connection came about starts with local fashion designer Richie Richardson, who owns Fab Fashion in Turners Falls. Richardson is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and lived there until moving to New York City in 1990 to advance his career. He now divides his time between New York City and Turners Falls.

Last September, Richardson organized “Fashion Passion,” a first-of-its-kind fashion show in Turners Falls. Richardson hopes that over time, the event will develop into a fashion week, similar to what happens in large cities with fashion industries.

Earlier this year, when Richardson was talking to Montague Cultural Coordinator Suzanne LoManto about planning a second “Fashion Passion” for this September, they wondered if Richardson’s connections with his native country could be used to expand the event.

As it happens, Trinidad and Tobago’s Consulate General André Laveau knows Richardson, and knows of his work in fashion. In May, Richardson met with him at his New York City office and brought up the idea of some sort of cultural exchange.

“I saw his eyes light up,” Richardson said.

The consulate general visited Turners Falls in June to tour the village and meet with some of the stakeholders, including town officials and representatives of Native American groups. The meetings went well, say Richardson, LoManto and Montague Town Planner Walter Ramsey. The Selectboard was apprised of it two weeks ago, and formally committed to pursuing some sort of twinning with a community in Trinidad and Tobago.

“There are a lot of potential upsides and no potential downsides,” Ramsey said. “It sets up an avenue for cultural exchange and educational exchange. It doesn’t mean that officials are going to be flying back and forth to Trinidad.”

As for where in Trinidad and Tobago is to be twinned with Turners Falls, Laveau asked Richardson for input. Richardson answered with Woodbrook, a neighborhood in the capital city of Port of Spain that is known for its creative residents and businesspeople.

The twinning will take about a year, Richardson said. From here on out, it mainly requires input from the consulate general and the mayor of Port of Spain. It isn’t set in stone yet, but Richardson is confident that it will happen.

So far, the consulate general is sponsoring the Trinidadian creative director of Fashion Passion, Richard Young, on his visit to Turners Falls this fall.

By this time next year, when the twinning will likely be formalized, the exchanges might be more substantial than just the yearly fashion events. Richardson said that conversations around the subject are promising.

“We are on the cusp of something really special,” Richardson said. “I can’t tell you what that means … but the potential is enormous.”

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.

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