Trini model opens boutique in NYC

MICHELENE AUGUSTE, IMG (International Management Group) model and now entrepreneur, recently threw open the doors of her Dem Golden Heritage Vintage Boutique in New York City and is excited about making her a name for herself in the fashion industry through her new venture.

Auguste is the daughter of Gabrielle Ahye who was a top TT model and flight attendant, and television engineer Grantley Auguste. She is also the granddaughter of late dancer and teacher, Iya L’Orisha Molly Ahye. Auguste lauded her family support for Dem, her short name for her travel inspired vintage boutique. She said: “My family has played a big role in my career. They keep me grounded. They are my biggest supporters. They inspire me to go after everything I want. My grandmother was a cultural icon in Trinidad, and my mother is and has always been my idol. Having these strong women to look up to has made me fearless.” She added, her boyfriend and artist Jordan Sullivan has also been a big supporter of her journey. “He’s opened me up to a lot of the art world over the years and continues to inspire me daily,” she said.

Her boutique is situated in the lower Eastside Manhattan, 113 Division Street ans since opening, she said, the flow has been great. Its visitors are attracted to either the music, the art, and/or are just generally interested in what it even is. Auguste mainly sells vintage pieces or new pieces crafted from vintage material. “I have pieces from Trinidadian makers Anya Ayoung Chee, jewellery by Willow and Oak, prints from Che Love Lace, Brendan Delzin and books by Various Caribbean authors. I also collaborated with Jordan on some painted pieces for the store,” said Auguste.

She said she sourced her store items from everywhere. “As a model I’ve travelled a lot and whenever I go somewhere I look for vintage....throughout Europe, America, the Middle East.”

Auguste had always dreamt of a vintage Caribbean concept store. She had been selling vintage pieces for about three years online before opening the store. Seeing the abundance of talent the Caribbean possessed, she felt she had to create a platform to showcase that to the world.

Michelene Auguste struts her stuff at her NYC boutique.

“When I left Trinidad I entered this fashion world that I couldn’t relate to. I didn’t do any research because I thought I should just be myself and that would allow me to shine. I showed up the first day to my agency in a purple turtle neck and a yellow cardigan. I thought I was in fashion. I was told to head to American Apparel for a white tee and black jeans. After that my agency made me come in before every casting to make sure I was dressed appropriately. I quickly learned that I had to adapt and follow suit. At the same time, when I didn’t have to be on as a model, I was finding my personal style. I knew I wanted to keep my heritage with me. I say all of this because Dem is something that I was craving when I first left Trinidad. I wanted to see African things, Caribbean things, Caribbean creatives.”

Over the course of her modelling career, she has worked for such brands as Issey Miyake, Harrods, Louis Vuitton, DKNY, Duro Olowu, Maybeline, Nars and Google after first being scouted by IMG Models at Caribbean Fashion week Jamaica.

IMG Models is an international modelling agency operating in New York City, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Milan, and Sydney.

At an early age, Auguste had a love for fashion. “Before I was scouted I wanted to study fashion design. I put that on hold to model, which in turn became an education.

“The modelling world has helped me learn the ins and outs of the fashion industry. While modelling I started collecting vintage from all over the world. Soon after I opened my online vintage shop. I love the process of finding vintage clothes, the hunt, and the stories that can be told through clothes. The idea of storytelling is what lead me to open a physical space for Dem. I love curating the store and mixing in pieces of my history and my culture. In this way Dem is a self-portrait and more of an art project or an installation than just a vintage store. I have a deep connection to everything I find and sell. It’s always about the journey and the story.”

Auguste says Dem targets everybody. “We are all connected. Everything and everyone has a history, and I want to highlight that through the store.” As for her immediate goal, she said it is to continue to grow Dem and to share her culture and her story with the world, while her ultimate goal would be to design a sustainable clothing line, using all vintage and recycled fabrics.

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