When you get a call from Rihanna, you answer it! For years, Lauren Austin has created iconic carnival costumes for the Bajan beauty, who never misses an opportunity to return to her hometown of Barbados to celebrate Crop Over. With days away from Kadooment Day (August 2), we decided to catch up with the mastermind behind Rih’s most iconic costumes over the years to see what projects she's currently working on.
Last year, the Government of Barbados made the difficult decision to cancel the country's Crop Over Festival in response to global efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While the conscious choice stopped the massive celebration, the spirit of carnival-goers continued to stay lit.
“I know that the majority of the Carnival diaspora were eagerly waiting to get back on the road and display their gorgeous costumes,” Austin shares with BET Style.
Although she hasn’t received an influx of orders for this year’s Crop Over in Barbados, the self-taught designer has noticed quite a substantial growth in orders for the upcoming Miami Carnival. “I was asked to design for and oversee the Mas production for Altitude Mas, so I will be traveling for the first time in close to two years. I'm very excited for the opportunity!”
Before the pandemic, Austin reveals that her focus pivoted from the forefront of Crop Over and other carnivals to dedicating time to prepping for her latest masterpiece, her daughter Rayne. “I was four months pregnant at the start of the pandemic. After Rayne’s birth, I was really motivated to open a baby and kids store at Lanterns Mall, as well as a children’s camp and workshop business, named Sapphire Ray.”
The Trinidadian entrepreneur has also been tapped by Dazed Magazine to design some special pieces for their August 2021 issue. So simply put, her carnival season is super busy. “Preparing for carnival is extremely hectic. I get less than five hours of sleep during the week before every Carnival goes on the road. Although I have a good time, I am usually too tired on the actual day(s) to fully enjoy the road experience.”
While we didn’t get any word about if she’s working on any new projects with Rihanna, we wouldn’t be surprised if the self-proclaimed Bad Gal returns to her go-to designer for eye-catching carnival costumes that can cost upwards of $2,500.
“I met Rihanna through Matthew Ashby and Rorrey Fenty in 2012, and I designed for her in 2013,” Austin told us back in 2017. “Rihanna fell in love with my aesthetic, and subsequently I was contacted to design her costume for the years she played Mas [leading the masquerade band] in Barbados, in 2015 and 2017.”
She continued, “Rihanna chose the color combination, and she advised on her preferences.”
If you are interested in learning more about Lauren and her designs, visit her on Instagram. We surely intend to continue watching Austin’s masterful journey!
* Editor's Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
(Photo via Instagram/@ljaustin110)
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