For the sake of art
THE FASHION DESIGNS of Carol Cadogan were once the most sought-after styles by discerning fashionistas. From her Petticoat Lane Boutique she turned out “wearable art”?designs, which were a wardrobe must for high-profile women on the local social circuit with a constant need for something different, given their busy social calendar.
She had finally discovered an outlet for expression of the creative talent she was aware she possessed but which she had never sought to explore and develop.
“I love art; I love fashion; I love architecture and I love painting,” is the statement which first greets patrons walking into the Gallery of Caribbean Art in Speightstown, where Carol has mounted her first-ever art exhibition. It is a daring and ambitious venture that former client Petra Roach described with excitement as “unique, captivating and inspirational all at the same time”.
Recalling the days when she saved feverishly “just to buy a Carol Cadogan design”, Petra gushed to EASY Magazine after viewing the art exhibition: “Carol was [Italian fashion designer] Cavalli before Cavalli happened.”
And Carol Cadogan-Fox readily admits to “an exciting life” in which she has had the opportunity to travel extensively, meet interesting people and make many friends.
She left school in 1959 and worked for a short while with the Barbados Board of Tourism at Seawell Airport before migrating to New York. There she studied business at the New York School of Business and at Hunter College. She worked with the Board of Tourism’s New York office, eventually becoming manager of that office, a position she held up till 1973.
As a fashion designer, Carol created new interest in wearing cotton. Using this fabric and other natural fibres, along with other fine trimmings and materials, she fashioned collages which fashion-conscious women of the 1970s and 1980s were proud to wear. They made their own individual fashion statement, to Carol’s delight and satisfaction.
Some of those unique pieces have stood the test of time, and people visiting the exhibition are still marvelling at their durability and, most of all, “the incredible work” that went into them, as they look at the pieces on show, loaned by owners who are still turning heads in their Cotton Days originals.
Carol’s designs have been featured in prestigious magazines like Vogue, Essence, Elle, Bride and Glamour – a commendable achievement for a woman who confesses, “I never studied anything to do with creativity. My only studies were in business.”
But she did study art at Queen’s College under the tutelage of Kathleen Hawkins.
“In those days they did not encourage art as a career, but I always had the interest. It fell by the wayside because that was the end of that when I left school.”
Leading hotels like the Hilton and Almond and others, as well as upscale homes, have been the beneficiaries of another one of Carol’s boundless, unschooled talents: interior design. Fashion patrons had always pressed her to extend her creative ideas to this area, and she finally gave in, adding her special flair to many a private homes and hotels in the process.
That was until she became Carol Cadogan-Fox.
She told EASY magazine marrying Peter Fox “was probably the best thing that ever happened to me”. It happened later than expected, as up to then there had always been public perception of an attractive, desirable career woman who should have had many likely suitors knocking on her door.
In this new chapter of her life, the hectic early days of fashion design behind her and with demand for interior design services on the decline, Carol made the decision to retire, happily transitioning to the role of wife and homemaker, much to her husband’s delight.
She figured there would have been more than enough in their lives together to fill her days.
The creative bug inside her figured otherwise.
“I needed to do something else to keep myself more occupied,” she said, so the chance meeting with artist Indrani Whittingham could not have come soon enough.
Two years on, an art exhibition that is winning her acclaim is the outcome. She has fittingly named it The Rare Bird Art Experience, a selection of paintings and pieces of her fine vintage art-to-wear ensembles. She has captured experiences, situations, people and places that have been part of her life’s journey, hence the exhibition’s presentation in seven sections.
People And Places In Barbados features scenes from horticulturalist Anthony Hunte’s magnificent gardens at Castle Grant, St Joseph, and the splendour of the Jacobean mansion St Nicholas Abbey in St Peter. The colour and gaiety of the atmosphere at the annual Sandy Lane Gold Cup race day is depicted in the painting with that title, in which Carol selects a few women from the air-conditioned boxes and places them up front in the parade square to highlight their fashion aplomb on a day known for fashion.
“I really paint what I like,” says Carol.
As an example, in the section Travels With My Camera she showcases paintings of sights that have impressed her. “When I am away, there are lots of things I love” – like the three Soho buildings “that I absolutely adore” and whose majestic chandeliers and rustic facade caught her attention while visiting SoHo in New York one day. She also captures the magic of the American Indian influence and Navaho impressions in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Gracie Mansion, official residence of New York’s mayor, where she was once a cocktail party guest.
Carol’s medium is mainly acrylic, but only watercolour could so effectively capture the serenity of life in her scenes of the French countryside with its quaint houses and beautiful small gardens.
The exhibition is merely the first step on a new path for Carol Cadogan-Fox’s life with divided loyalties to a husband to whom she is devoted and the art she will continue to explore.