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ISLANDISTA EXCLUSIVE: Vashtie Kola speaks for herself

photo credit:
photo credit:


Islandistas, I know it is from 19-how long that we promised you our exclusive interview with multi-talented islandista it girl and ‘Downtown’s Sweetheart’, Vashtie Kola.

But you know how it is… good things come to those who wait… and keep reading Islandista in the meantime!

So without further adieu, here are some unfiltered insights into the life and work of Vashtie Kola.

photo credit:
photo credit:

On growing up as a Trini in upstate New York:

 Both of my parents are Trinidadian. They emigrated to America in the 70s and I was born in the States. So my understanding of being Trinidadian is kind of different to most children who grew up in Trinidad.

There were also some West Indian families- mostly Jamaican or Guyanese but no Trinidadians. So growing up it was kind of me doing a lot of research to understand what it meant to be Trinidadian.

[Trying to explain her Trini heritage to those around her when she was young] It was a little confusing for them and it was confusing to me as well. I looked Indian but I wasn’t Indian. Trying to explain the culture – you knowI eat curry chicken, my mum is Hindu but my dad is Christian. …trying to explain all those different elements.  I tried to get away from it when I was younger. When I was a kid I definitely tried to be more American – I didn’t want to be Trinidadian. As I got older and started to understand my culture and my heritage, I grew to appreciate it more.

USA outside, Trini inside:

My parents are and were very Trinidadian and very traditional in that manner. For me I know that my parents would always talk about American kids and the difference in culture between there and Trinidad. We ate traditional food. My mum would show me Trinidadian music and movies. Once I walked in my door it seemed like Trinidad.

Always the artsy one:

Growing up I was always very creative. I was always making things – I would make my own clothes. I was always drawing. I felt comfortable and natural being that way. I studied directing and film in college. When I was there I was also taking film screening classes and making t-shirts. 

 The film aspect I studied because I wanted to learn every aspect. I wanted to really focus in on that. As far as drawing, I was always naturally a good artist. I always felt that making clothes and stuff would happen naturally for me.

Vashtie and Oscar picOn 1992, the party phenomenon she started with best friend, Oscar:

That was the first party that I started with my best friend, Oscar. There are so many parties going on and so many things happening and New York is also very elitist in a way. Yo u are constantly judged.  The idea was for us to do a party where it would be welcome to all people – it was not a place you would be judged. We wanted to do an event that would bring all kinds of people together.

We loved the 90s. It was organic and it grew huge. We got crazy press from the New York Times, Page 6 – that happened pretty naturally. We actually have a huge international following that plan their trips around when we have 1992. It’s been really great.

It’s funny because in the beginning we were just inviting people that we knew. We didn’t print flyers, we didn’t email blast and they knew.

Stepping out on her own:

I worked at Def Jam for a year. That was my introduction into the industry of entertainment. It was a lot of me being behind the scenes and not being as creative as I want to be. When I left Def Jam I decided I would do everything I wanted to do and stop putting it off.  I would do all the things I wanted to do and make it happen. 

It was a step out of the nest for me. My parents were very much ‘go to school, get a good job, do what you have to do.’ I played by the rules and followed their great advice.

But once I decided to just try not working for other people and work for myself, I had to put every energy forward. It’s scary at times, once you let go of that fear of the unknown.

photo credit: Amy Rollo/ Honey magazine
photo credit: Amy Rollo/ Honey magazine

Why Violette? :


I’ve been a tomboy my whole life.  The majority of my life I’ve been wearing men’s clothes, jeans, t-shirts. I never found a female brand that incorporated my style for a girl – a kind of masculine and tomboyish style. I still don’t find a voice for myself in that. I definitely want to have clothes that I can wear. I realised that other people may want to have that option.

 On bringing West Indian flavour to bear in her designs:

 As far as the designing side, I like to take a lot from my roots and put that there. For my line next season I am going to do a line of t-shirts that are going to have a focus on West Indian pride – a lot of influences from all the different islands.

By Me

island ~ ista
From Latin -ista via Portuguese -ista
one who follows a principle; an adept.

As an islandista I live, embody, exude the spirit of the Caribbean islands.

2 replies on “ISLANDISTA EXCLUSIVE: Vashtie Kola speaks for herself”

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