* Editor's note: People have said we're too shady so we're attempting to dial it down. For this review we promise #noteanoshade
Did Krave really #giveyouwhatyoukrave with its launch for Crop Over 2018? The band that won Best Party Band in 2015 and came second in the Republic Bank Large Band of the Year category in 2017 set its sights firmly on Barbados on the advent of its 5th anniversary.
Krave holds the dubious honour of being dubbed “the most expensive Crop Over band”, a fact seemingly cemented by its record of having the most expensive Kadooment costume to date. A vocal set of Bajans became incensed at the band about its costume prices, with some frontline costumes selling for as high as $5000 BBD last year, but in our opinion, what people choose to spend their money on is their business. The flip side to this was that Krave's advocates, models and some committee members were staunch defenders of the brand, lashing out viciously online against critics, sometimes swarming them in Beyhive style attacks to silence them. There was even rumoured to be the 'Four Horsemen of Krave', a set of guys who would peruse their Facebooks daily to behave like savages once they saw any anti-Krave rhetoric on their timelines, much to the annoyance of their online friends. How droll.
Regardless of any opinion on the matter, it is ultimately the market that would determine if there is a niche for Krave’s prices or not. The band repeatedly sells out its sections year after year so there must be something it’s doing right.
The band primarily appeals to Americans and has a large following out of the United States, drawing in much needed foreign exchange to Barbadian shores. Krave was determined to appeal to its foreign base and so in 2016 it launched first in New York then Barbados, followed up by a New York only launch in 2017. After staunchly defending its overseas launches, the band has had a volte-face and for Crop Over 2018 it announced, with much fanfare, that it was returning home for a Barbados launch. It was rumoured that the band wanted a chance to attract more locals to jump as its American masqueraders wanted to jump with Bajans as opposed to other Americans. Still, no doubt that Bajan Kravers and casual Cropoverites were excited and impressed at having the chance to see Krave’s traditionally gorgeous costumes up close and personal once again.
Krave has set the bar very high for itself as it prides itself on its quality, craftsmanship and unique designs. The brand knows what it offers, knows what it brings to the table and is unapologetic about having customers pay for quality. With a mobile air-conditioned VIP truck on the road, chefs serving food and treats all day, drink runners and celebrities, Krave puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to Kadooment and makes sure to cement the brand's luxury status.
For this review, let’s change things up a bit. We’ll break down our review into three sections:
• The Bad – No Please
• The Inbetween – We Doh Business
• The Good – Give Jack 'e Jacket
Are you ready?
The Bad - No Please
Krave surpassed itself with the late start of its launch, coasting in at a record time – 2:31 A.M.
At least the costumes were gorgeous but good gosh man. Many people waiting up online for the launch opted to go to bed and see the costumes in the morning. Maybe next time Krave should forego the night launch and set history again by being the first band to do a breakfast launch party.
Ignite should have organized the performances earlier and closed out the show with the launch. We highkey stan Lil Natty & Thunda but we left when their performance started around 3.30 A.M. Middle aged white women need their beauty sleep. It really seemed like a disservice to them and Iwer George to miss when the party was in full swing because many other people left as soon as the band launch was finished.
From nine sections overall in the entire band you get only two male sections? Three male costumes in total? Really? In big big 2018?
Krave is known for producing well rounded sections with great costumes for both men and women so it was surprising and disappointing to see such a lackluster effort this time around. One commentator surmised that Krave must be cutting down due to lack of demand for male costumes but that sounds
like horseshit impractical to us.
As an aside and to be fair, this is a trend that is not unique to Krave and we have seen it worse in other bands. There is an entire, much larger, much wider conversation to be had about the way men are being pushed out of mas. As usual, with all Caribbean carnival changes, this one started in Trinidad and spread across the region. Trinidadian cultural carnival hegemony means that when they sneeze, we catch the cold. We are 100% not here for the false narrative that "men don't play mas like that" and we believe it is an idea that needs to be stamped out. It is one part bandleader cheapness, one part laziness meets one part increasingly narrow view on what it means to be a man in a Caribbean society. Real men play mas full stop. Don't let these bands mamaguy you into paying $500 - $700 for an armband, lil arm piece and a Rossi pants.
Before you know it, next thing bands gonna be doing a #WristbandSpecial and charging men $500 for a wristband to wear you own clothes and jump in the band. Men gonna be paying through the nose under the guise of "men don't wear costumes" and "Men don want nain so dem just wanna jump down de road and juk down bumpers" while the bands gonna be laughing all the way to the bank. The rot needs to stop now before it sets in and gets out of hand.
Anyway back to our review.
Critics of the band have pointed out that the costumes for this year mimic either Krave's previous designs...
or designs from other bands, notably how 'Beautiful Savage' bears notable resemblance to Erup's 'Majestic' from its Crop Over 2016 presentation, from the colours chosen to elements of the design used. Hashtag yikes.
Surely Krave's band leader and lead designer Tracy Boyce and her design team couldn't have run out of inspiration so soon that they are recycling old designs? Iskaba's design proves they haven't so what could be the cause? Laziness? If the male costumes this year are anything to go by then yes. Some have suggested that perhaps the Queen of Bling is stretched thin due to all the carnivals across the world that Krave is involved in. With reference to the Erup similarities what can we say? As the legendary artist Picasso once said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal".
While the costumes this year were gorgeous, by far this was not the self-styled Queen of Bling's best collection to date. She has not surpassed herself, such as when she made the stunningly unique costumes for Krave's 2015 Crop Over presentation 'Wild Wild West'. We still get our everlasting life from these costumes and we don't think any band to date has transcended these beauties. The good old days when that red costume with the massive headpiece was actually a midline piece.
Also, how do you have a section called 'Beautiful Savage' featuring Indian Mas? Granted Barbados has no historical background in Indian Mas and Krave could arguably be said to be portraying Fancy Indian, an imaginative form of Indian Mas. Cultural
appropriation embracement aside, we are sure we don't have to go into the reasons why naming a section that features Native American-inspired designs "beautiful savage" is insensitive, deeply problematic and rooted in colonial ideas of non-Western people, even if one is arguably trying to glamorize the culture and not denigrate it.
Another minus was the way some of the larger headpieces for the women kept leaning as though they were about to fall. This meant the models would have to reach up to hold them in place, which was not cute. It seemed like a design flaw because we have seen this already at previous launches. Additionally it does not reflect well on Krave. Who wants to spend the majority of the jump using one hand to hold your headpiece in place? Forget the launch, imagine how the headpiece would fare at the Stadium with them winds coming across Waterford Bottom. No boah that would mek ya shame. Whether it was how the models were walking or how the headpieces were put on or fitted them was anyone's guess. Still, it just wasn't a good look for such a seasoned brand.
The Inbetween - We Doh Business
In the grand scheme of things, these points explored here don't really matter in how we view the band or truly matter one way or the next but they were eyebrow-raising enough for us to have to discuss them.
While the models were gorgeous and all toned, tanned, fit and ready, we wondered if there really a point of bringing them. With a slew of imported Instagram models on deck, we fully expected an all-out glitzy Crop Over-meets-Victoria Secret runway stomping high energy affair where models would have effortlessly slayed the stage and shut down the party. Sadly, what we got fell short of that. Alas, perhaps our fault for expecting too much. Some of the girls couldn’t even walk properly and only a few were memorable. With regard to the much hyped Hungarian model we expected too much. We expected height like the Kékes mountain, glittering blue eyes like Lake Balaton on a crisp sunny winter morning and curves like the Danube. We expected her to be serving looks the same way popular restaurants in Budapest serve Hungarian goulash but again, we expected too much.
The imported models din really cutting nuh styles that markedly set them above the Bajan ones so the effort and hype seemed pointless. In fact there was one Bajan model who was definitely a cut above all the rest and she was a showstopper in her individual costume. Krave needs to never let her go.
At the end of the day come Krave would gaw know what it doing and if it get value for money with its models. We just believe #homedrumsbeatfirst and #caribbeangirlsruntings.
Truly we expected Ignite to be brek back but in a shocking twist, the band launch was actually not full. Ignite is already a heavy hitting brand on the party scene that is accustomed to drawing large crowds. Krave is known for producing gorgeous mesmerizing costumes that people love to see and has drawn massive crowds on its own. It made perfect sense for the two partners to join forces and launch together but surprisingly the market did not respond in the expected way. Whether this was in direct response to Krave or Ignite is unknown. Perhaps people balked at paying $80 for what they basically saw as a band launch, even with live performances and free drinks included (free beer, free rum, free vodka). Perhaps they didn’t know about the drinks inclusive part early enough. Who knows yes?
We didn't like the fact that it was hard to tell which section belonged to which brand until after the launch on social media. Krave and Ignite could have utilized the big screen on stage far better to display section names and section leaders.
That Queen of the Band costume, oy vey.
While parts of it were amazing in the way some of the gems gleamed with an iridescent sheen once the light hit them the right way, definitely in a way we had not seen before, it was also mediocre in other ways. It felt as though the bad parts pulled down what could have been an exceptional costume. Simply put it left a lot to be desired because we expect so much more from Krave's Queen of Bling. It was good as a concept but it definitely felt like a prototype and not a finished product. Perhaps the Queen of Bling is her own worst enemy because how do you constantly best yourself each and every time? How do you keep clearing the bar each time you set it higher and higher?
But to each their own.
How the costume will work on the road is another question, especially with Barbados' high winds. It seemed completely impractical. The wind gine mek dah body backpack and headpiece snort and gih dah body hell oh hell crossing that stage. Anyway what do Krave care? Last time we checked the costume had been sold.
The Good - Give Jack 'e Jacket
A launch party with free rum and vodka? Don't mind if we do, thank you very much. Shoutoout to the Absolut bar and their cocktails all night long. Shoutout to all the sponsors who made this a possibility.
To Krave's credit, as usual the costumes were gorgeous and did not disappoint many people waiting. We love how without much fanfare, Krave completely moved away from bead & feather mas with the Iskaba frontline and backline, with the individual costume adding feathers for an even more gorgeous display. The plumage added perfectly adds to the costume and elevates it to another level. The headpiece done for the frontline is also an impressive display of creativity and thinking outside the box. The beadwork done on the Iskaba backline is beyond phenomenal and we absolutely love it. We stan for a backline costume that shows quality, craftsmanship and can even rival the frontlines.
It was electric to watch the costumes come out, including those section that had midlines, frontline and individuals. One thing Krave knows how to do is excite a crowd. A pity the front lighting on the stage wasn't as great as it could be based on how the venue was set up. The Rituals section and Chameleon section were gorgeous and we loved how Krave played around with different shaped and silhouettes in its costumes.
Though the selection of male costumes was reductive, to Krave's credit it remained consistent and didn't disappoint. At least they presented proper male costumes which were consistent with the theme, along with gorgeous plumage and accessories that seemed worth value for money. Every year Krave has at least one male costume with a big headpiece and this year didn't disappoint.
Even though the presentation started late, it was a nice touch that it flowed super smoothly. Model transitions were fantastic and it felt like Krave never took its foot off your neck as gorgeous costume after gorgeous costume came down the runway, a controlled whirlwind of colours, patterns, designs and gems, each more thrilling than the last.
While the lighting onto the stage was not the most ideal, stage lighting was awesome and there was still a good setup for the launch, where the stage was the central focus even though it was a party. The runway was setup to make sure everyone had a direct line of sight to the costumes while being just the right height.
We loved the fact that the presentation used mainly soca music and that there was also a majority of soca music playing throughout the night. This helped keep the feeling that we were at a band launch and built the excitement for Crop Over. We also loved how the music for the Iskaba section already had a song and we loved the injection of Afrobeats to reflect the diversity of the theme.
The high energy closeout to the band launch with Lil Natty & Thunda as well as Iwer George brought back memories of Krave's power finishes at previous band launches. Like we said before, it was a pity that the late start for the launch delayed the performances but as always the artists did not disappoint. All it was missing was fireworks but who got time (and money) for that!? We know we missed Lil Natty & Thunda but undoubtedly we will see them again across the season. Soca on de Hill perhaps?
Watching the relief on the designers faces when they were presented to the crowd was also heartwarming. It must be a nerve-wracking and amazingly stressful affair to have to create something and then to put it out on stage in front of a crowd and wonder if people will like it or not. Ya gotta give Cora she coat too because at least Krave went to the trouble of showcasing their design ability and prowess by creating nine sections AND a Queen of the Band costume. Other designers or bands don't showcase that type of versatility or ability and seemingly shy away from it.
Another aspect which will be interesting to watch evolve is Krave's partnerships with many brands, including Baewatch Events, Medz, Revel Nation out of Miami, OC Events from New York, Ignite Bim and Xaymaca International out of Jamaica. We eagerly await to see if Krave will take notes from Xaymaca's superior smooth setup at its distribution and lunch stop. We also wonder what TRIBE will be teaching the brand with regard to logistics for the band house, distribution and the road. All areas where Krave can comfortably surpass its rivals. Given some reviews Krave can definitely use the help in steamlining its distribution process so we look forward to seeing how Krave utilizes the resources at its fingertips.
As is standard, Krave did not disappoint in producing a spectacular array of dazzling costumes. Stunning costumes, pretty models, a great party style launch, all fit firmly within the Krave brand, making for a great night out. Definitely worth the wait and the money spent. Nobody who left the launch can say they did not have a good time that night. Ignite remained true to its brand by throwing an excellent party and Krave's launch was only the icing on an already wonderful cake. Without a doubt, these are some of the best costumes to date for the Crop Over festival, easily beating out other contenders. For now, Krave sits firmly on the Crop Over throne as creative costume maestros.
That is, for now. Talented designer Lauren Austin has yet to produce her costumes for Aura, Blue Box Cart has been steadily increasing in costume offerings for the past 5 years, new band Eunoia has yet to launch as well as Baje, Colorz, Kontact and LUX. We can't afford to discount any one because this just may be the year they step up and show out.
Krave launched their 5th anniversary collection in fine style and no doubt created lots of excitement for the road which they sustained through their social media content. It remains to be see if the band can successfully fend off opposition to rule the roost for Kadooment 2018 but for now it looks like they have a good head start.