Crop Over, the annual harvest festival celebrating the end of a successful sugar cane season in Barbados, has been around for a long time. But we can thank Bajan queen of fashion, Rihanna, for bringing it to a wider audience than ever before.
“Over the years, Crop Over has grown so much as a festival. More and more tourists are traveling to Barbados for it, especially given the increase in celebrities coming to the island for the parties and the main events,” says Lauren Austin, co-founder, director, and head designer of Aura Experience and the designer behind Rihanna’s looks over the years. “Everyone wants a costume, and they want their costumes to look like what the celebrities are wearing.”
Seriously though. Who wouldn’t want to look like RiRi for a day?
For six weeks, Crop Over festivities take over Barbados. From Caribbean music, parades, and fêtes that rage on all day and all night (when one party stops, another one starts) to Bajan food fairs and sprawling arts and crafts markets, the rum-fueled fest is a partying marathon of epic proportions.
The biggest, most incredible display of Bajan culture takes place on Grand Kadooment Day, which marks the end of Crop Over. Revelers come decked out in everything from feathers, jewels, and glitter to headpieces and bedazzled bras to whine the day away to soca and calypso music.
“With any era in the fashion world, there is change, and you can definitely see the difference in the style of costumes at Crop Over,” Austin says. “From the designs and the types of colors paired together to the increase in the number of feathers on each costume.”
Rihanna has participated four times and absolutely stunned with her incredible festival looks each year. I mean, who could forget last year’s look? With her turquoise hair, jewel-encrusted bikini-shoulder pad combo, and massive pink-, green-, and blue-feather plumage framing her radiant body, she looked incredible. And Austin was responsible for it.
Austin hails from Trinidad and has been creating eye-catching costumes for over eight years now. Before building her rep as the go-to designer for carnival fashion, she spent time as a makeup artist, hair stylist, and nail technician. Austin found success as a stylist and designer after zeroing in on the niche market of costume design for large festivals including Carnival in Trinidad. Today she’s worked with some major celebs including Mia, V. Bozeman, Beenie Man, and Lewis Hamilton.
In 2000, Austin moved to Barbados, and in 2013, she formed her first Crop Over band (during Kadooment Day, every attendee walks with a band which plays the music, provides the rum, and keeps the party going), and now has a new one she started with a friend, which they called Aura Experience. The is the band Rhianna jumped with last year. Austin has also designed for bands such as Bacchanal Jamaica Mas Camp, Bajan Fuh Evah Eva in Miami, Rogue Tribe in Trinidad, Party Nation Vincent Mas, and Labor Day in NYC.
Many of Lauren austins designs can be found on her Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/lauren_bylaurenaustin/