The band launch season for Notting Hill Carnival 2017 begins early with the launch of United Colours of Mas’ (UCOM) designs and this is one band launch I always make every effort to attend every year. Now known as UCOM Carnival and Associates, the head designer and producer Paul O’Donoghue really does not require any introduction in the UK Soca community. His signature designs, good work ethic and disciplined productivity is very well known. However, for my audience unfamiliar with the UK here is a bit about UCOM Mas band and Paul O’Donoghue.
It is reported UCOM has been recognised as the largest Mas Band one the Notting Hill Carnival route and was the first band to introduce the frontline costume to the United Kingdom. UCOM launched in 2011. However this was derived from the former Bachanal Mas which began in 2007. Presently, this band is the host band for the bands Karma Infinity Mas Band, Socoholic and Hype Masqueraders. This ultra inclusive mas band is stated to welcome people from all walks of life, matter what island, race or sexuality; a band that is constantly innovating, improving their product and service. Paul O’Donoghue is the artistic director of United Colours of Mas (UCOM). Paul O’Donoghue has at least 18 years experience in costume design business. He has designed award winning presentations and costumes for various mas bands. To my knowledge, he has designed and produced costumes for other bands such as Bajan Revellers, Burrokeets, Laignappe, Tears and Cocoyea. He has also designed costumes for Trinidad and Berlin Carnival in Germany. UCOM hosts the very popular Summer Ting Friday fete in Leicester Square, London England.
There’s no mistaking it. This was an extremely well thought out band launch and a bit of a departure for UCOM as they typically have their band launches in a club venue. The venue (Porchester Hall in Bayswater) was an elegant space beginning with the entrance; the grand red carpet stairs sweeping up to the left and right lead leading to the main hall of art deco skylight, crystal chandeliers and velvet red drapes. The stage was elevated to give a good view of the costumes. The VIP area had prodigious amounts of cupcakes by Sinade and wine and Nadia was very friendly and attentive to ensure that your needs were met. At the back of the hall there were some costumes on mannequins along with Tia’s The Goddess Experience boots on display. However, masqueraders and guests (who came dressed up) came to see costumes so naturally gravitated to the front to get a good vantage point. The lighting was great and this band had extra floodlights brought in for this launch. I am always pleased for good lighting at band launches to showcase the costumes at their best as unless you are a professional photographer (which I am most certainly not!) good lighting can be an issue.
But back to the matter at hand. The DJs did a great job of getting the crowd hyped and ready for showtime. When the song ‘Ray Tay Tay’ came on? The crowd’s energy went to another level. People were dancing and wining in their spots as they waited. It’s showtime. The theme for UCOM & Carnival Associates was ‘Reflection’ celebrating ten years. The costumes were a reflection and revisit on the costumes of ten years with a bit of a twist.
In this ‘Return of the Dragon’ section, I liked the colour combination of the purple,blue and yellow. This section was designed by Loic Corvo.
I liked the headpieces of this ‘Warrior’ section and the spear was a nice touch.
Now this section, ‘Cheetah’ had me. That front line costume? Loved the design and detail of the body wear on top of the fabric. This has to be my favourite costume of the night!
The ‘Essence of Carnival’ section was colouful, vibrant and felt fresh.
The massive headpiece of the ‘Inca’ front line section was striking and lovely. It will not be missed on the road. Gotta say it. This section was designed by Alfedo Palmer.
This section all in red ‘Erotica’ was really nice. Liked the male headpiece. I especially loved the frontline. Hollie Maria killed that costume!
The colour of ‘Blue Devils’ was very striking and made for a really good looking section.
‘Green with Envy’ section was all bling, feathers and height. As usual, Ray slays the frontline.
The last section showcased, ‘Fools Paradise’ overall as section was my favorite. The variation and level of detail on these costumes I liked. I particularly fell for the male headpiece and female frontline costumes. I liked the inclusion of the corset indicating thought was given to all shapes and sizes. And that was it! Showing of costumes done!The models left the stage and came through the crowd to give everyone a closer look at the costumes and the opportunity to ask models questions! I always like that.
The costumes were as usual up to a really good standard with signature designs that we have come to know from UCOM and Paul O’Donoughue. The make-up by Rae Charles was on point. Word has it that some masqueraders had pre paid for their costumes before the show without even really knowing what their costumes would look like. That is a serious indication of trust and confidence in a designer I think. My particular favourites were the frontline Cheetah and the male Fools Paradise. UCOM has set the bench mark quite high with their band launch; great venue, a very friendly and courteous team, attention to detail and nice costumes. I really enjoyed this band launch. Can’t wait to see what the other bands of Notting Hill Carnival come up with!
For more information on UCOM carnival & Associates, please visit www.unitedcoloursofmas.com, UCOM Carnival and Associates on Facebook, Ucomcarnival on instagram and Twitter. All images in this article were taken by Ilovecarnivall. For more images of the night, please visit Ilovearnivall on Facebook and instagram. Please also see Trinis in London and Kola Grafix on Facebook for further images.