Trinidadian Marlon Smart, one of eight talented designers of top mas band, “Ramajay” got into mas at eight years old. Smart would help his great uncle, Leroy Smart make traditional Sailor mas costumes when his uncle returned to Trinidad from the United States of America. At the age of 15, he began working with Peter Minshall’s Callaloo Company in Trinidad.
Smart came to New York City to study Interior Design at FIT, but he also wanted to get involved with Trinidadian culture in the city. He worked for Poison mas band with Galvanize Entertainment which became Island People Mas. Later, he approached and worked with Sesame Flyers for four years before transitioning to “Ramajay” where he has remained for the last four years. He considers “Ramajay” his extended family. This year Smart’s costume line is called “Zulu” and the theme is “I Am Warrior” mainly because of the strength and power the tribe respresents. After doing his research, he inspired by the tribe as a whole and what they stood for, especially with their stance against European imperialism. The line is tribal with strong, rich, gold and earthy colors and uses various animal prints.
According to Smart he returns to design year after year because it is in his blood. “It’s the culture, not just Trinidadian culture, but West Indian culture. It’s a part of me,” said Smart. “Mas is who I am. None of us are getting rich off of this. We can’t say that at the end of this, we’ll be driving big cars, but it’s the love of culture.”
While, many mas bands cater to the younger generation, “Ramajay” makes it a point to ensure everyone feels confortable in their costumes. Uncle Percie, veteran costume designer of “Ramajay” believes making costumes that are only suitable to be worn by the younger generation causes alienation of the older generation from mas.
“No matter how the costumes transition and the fabric decreases, it will still go on,” says Uncle Percie. “This year I’m coming to win!” Uncle Percie usually plays the bigger pieces such as the king of the band. He said, “I won a few years ago and I pulled back, but now I’m back in the arena this year and I know I’m going to take it. Mark my words, I’m going to take it this year!”