- Soca 2018! -

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The cost of Caribana

Do we all have fabulously feathered, diamond and gold crown dreams like Rio Carnivale Samba Queen Luiza Brune?

I remember in 2008 when the A band costume price jumped from $110-$120 to $140, and being shocked. So costumes are maxing at $185 now. Some front lines and ultras are $500. What are these expensive mas materials that have resulted in such a price increase? 24 carat gold wiring? Swarovski crystals, not rhinestones? Um, no, the usual feathers and plumes. Last year I honestly couldn’t get over how some front lines were actually called front lines when they were seriously lacking in any extras. Are we getting something else that we didn’t get 3 years ago? No, only one band provides extras such as port-a-potties, an air conditioned bus, & the top soca star Machel. (and Toronto Revellers costumes are $10 less.)

For Trinidad Carnival, where Caribana takes its cues from, masqueraders like to justify paying $500+ because they have 2 days of playing mas (although many don’t wear their costume on both days, resulting in another expense, Monday wear). Many bands are all inclusive, so you have endless alcohol & some food.

But Caribana isn’t Carnival. We can’t serve liquor, and ours is a one day parade. There’s nowhere near the amount of masqueraders who go to Hamilton Mardi Gras & Barrie Caribfest. Which is personally fine with me, I like the fact that these two carnivals are smaller and give you a different vibe.

That got me to thinking why someone would pay double for feathers? I imagine when seeing a captivating costume in all its gigantic glory, you become overcome with a grand diva fantasy and realize you MUST wear it on the Lakeshore. Cost is beside the point. Frontline isn’t for everyone – personally, my fabulously frugal nature won’t allow me to pay that amount for anything that I can’t utilize. i.e. what do I do with all those feathers after wards??? Nothing. As well, knowing how much of a mash up the Lakeshore is, & how costumes get destroyed, I know how annoyed I’d be wearing a target on my back. I also don’t want to be encumbered, playing mas isn’t about posing for me, I need to have space & feel free to jump if I want.

The costume is just the start, there is footwear to consider. I'd say about 5 years ago, boots hit the parade in a noticeable way, another Trinidad influence. If you score a pair at the end of spring, you can go as low as the very reasonable $10. But many people buy them now, and pay the (high) price.

Louboutin's to die for, and on the road, fall for

Then there are those who go with professional makeup, body paint, hair, nails...

Daring divas deserve diamond manicures

What are your thoughts on the rising cost of playing mas, particularly the (on average) almost double in price front lines? Are you buying that the cost of materials has risen (like the last 2 years when the poor economy and then recession was to blame)? Do you even mind, and figure it's the price of playing mas now?


elsa said...

Hi Karabana, Please note as a section leader, every year prices go up, for example the cost of body suits which comes from Trinidad the prices go up every year from the manufacter, don't forget we have to ship it from Trinidad to Toronto, and pay for duty also. Feathers most of our feathers come from the America, whether its from Miami, New York or Philadelphia,, again the cost goes up again, last year I pay also $260.00 per pound and this year I'm paying a crazy price of $330.00 per pound for Prime Plumes, and you know how you Trini does talk if the feathers looks bad. Plus we have to pay for shipping and duty for the feathers.
Toronto don't have any stores that supply us with feathers besides John Bead and you know you don't go to John Bead for feathers, the quality is not perfect, the colors are way off.
Again if you want new and exciting stones and beads and trim, you have to go to New York. You will have to add the cost of transportation, duty, accomodations, food, etc.
If Toroto Revellers want to charge $10.00 less, let them charge that price, and they have Machel on the road with them. TO me Machel use to bring the crowd to your band but not any more.
If you charge $185.00 per costume, dont forget we have to minus the band fee which is sometimes $30.00 and more, which only leaves us with $155.00 per costume. The average costume cost $85.00 - $90.00 to make. If you want your costume made in China the price will be $90.00 for a decent costume. Someone in India cost less, but you will poor quality of a costume. Don't forget the duty tax we will have to pay for each costume too.
So I think the increase in price per costume is justify.
Just remember as a Section Leader its a big gamble these days. We are the ones who are putting out our hard earn money and hoping that our costume sells. Otherwise we don't make any profit at all. Remember the government gives the Band Leader sstart up money to sart their band, more money for the "A" Band, and they get sponsors, don't forget registration fee from each person register in the band.
That is why the longevity of a Section Leader is a maximum of 5 years. Beacause we dont make money.
Yes its only 1 day and Trinidad is 2 days of fun, but look at the price for costume, this year I paid over $800.00US for my costume, I didnt even include makeup, boots, and Monday wear. So what we are paying for a costume is very cheap. Toronto costumes are the cheapest costume in North America. Check out the price of costume in Brooklyn New York. It averages from $250.00 and up, and to me our Toronto Costumes are much better in quality and designs.
This is my 2cents input.
Thank you.

Lisa said...

I love my mas, but I REFUSE to give anyone $500 Cdn to play what they call a Frontline for Caribana! I won't do it. What am I getting for it? One day of playing mas, a few bottles of water if I can run down someone handing them out, a box of food, and stormers on the Lakeshore mashing up my costume? Forget it!
Even if I didn't go to TT to play mas, I wouldn't do it. Besides, after playing mas in TT for 2 days with all you can eat and drink, port-a-potties, cool down zones, and a bag full of goodies with your costume, I challenge anyone to tell me that paying the same price here for less makes sense.
And you're right, Karabana, that $500 just went up to $700 between additional accessories (which many bands here don't provide), boots, make-up, parking...no way, no how.
I'll stick to my little $185 backline costume and wine my way happily down the Lakeshore through the stormers, unencumbered by any additional feathers or wings. I'm good. :-)

Karabana aka Toronto Caribbean Carnival said...

Thanks very much Elsa for the figures, I was really hoping a section leader would comment with $$ amounts. I figured the other band costs (mas camp rent, music trucks, djs, etc.) were the reasons for the price increases. I heard it really was materials, but I'm like most ppl, I just couldn't believe it - I mean, feathers, come on nah!? That's crazy!
Yes, no section leaders I know are in it for the money, like you said, there is none!

B2K said...

Hi Kara..I must say that I too am suprised at the constant increase of the costumes, but whenever I have spoken to sections leaders they have always been open and honest on the rising cost of materials. I personally like FL costumes..I always have and have always played in one...I agree that some are not worth the extra$$ but I always choose mine carefully and based on how it looks I decide if I am willing to pay $400plus. I agree that It is alot of money for just one day
, espeicially for those who cant afford it or it is their first time playing mass.

I dont see it as an incumbent part of a costume that will be a target. I believe that one should play mass in whatever they feel they would be fab in, and do what you can afford , so that you are not crying at the cost. That is what I do... Some people are quite happy with just a normal costume, and I think that is ok too. Playing in a front line costume is the one thing I do for myself every year...I always get the one I like the best... the most I have every paid so far is $450. I do the whole bit ..get my make up done..shoes...the works... I work damn hard for my money and I strongly believe that I am worth every penny,bead,plume and feather.. :)everyone needs a little indulgence sometimes don't they!!!
That is just my 2 cents. Great post as usual, it will be interesting to see the comments.:)

Lisa said...

It is not only just feathers. It is everything. The cost of the jewels that many people seem to like, costs money. All those jewels and dazzlry you see on those pictures you show above Karana? Guess what a costume like that would surely not cost $185. It would be upward of $2000.00 US or CDN.

The manufacturers need to get paid and like Elsa said the cost of shipping and transportation is astronomical.

Many people really do not know how much it takes to bring a section. We complain about the $185 cost for a toronto costume yet we are willing to pay upward of $500 US for a trinidad costume.

Every year many section leaders in toronto bring costumes on par with trinidad costumes yet only charge $185.00 and this $185 also includes the cost of food and drinks on the road to boot.

Lesley said...

These past 3 or 4 years I get really tired of ppl complaining about how expensive Caribana costumes are from my friends but they are the same ppl who willing to shell out at least $45 every 3 weeks for fake nails, etc etc. You know what I mean. I always tell them is not about the money is about fun. I played first time frontline last year($400 w/ Nationz) I only shell out that money for 2 reasons 1) I only went alone with my cousin from NY who came up play mas and 2) Many years I played backline and I wanted to try frontline. Sure you get extra accessorizes. And when you get to the stage you have the stage for yourselves for a good 3mins before the backlines come along. But at the end of the day, I had fun that includes Hamilton and Barrie so I got my money worth beside from 1 day. And again I'll be playing FL but with Revellers($300) which I am glad for :) and I'm looking forward to jump up in all 3 carnival.
It is true, New York Mas is a little more too. I told my cousin I'll played mas with her(cuz it only fair, but not FL though). I been to Trinidad Carnival but never played mas cuz their costumes cost close to my rent or even more. This year I'm trying my best to save money to play mas for next year(God's spare life), I don't use credit cards so it easy for some ppl at first but after wards :S
It's expensive on HOW you willing to look good on the road. I don't do my hair for Caribana, it will sweat, fuzz up and get water throw on. Shoes as long it comfortable but at the end of the day I will see a least 6 footprints on it.

And BIG UP to the section leaders who work hard and paid money for us MASQUERADES to have FUN on the road. If you don't want to paid the money make sure your a$$ is behind the fence & Respect the MAS!
So my 2 cents is NO, It's not expensive to play TORONTO CARNIVAL!

Lesley said...

Oh forgot to mention that frontline back-piece from last year have been a wonderful wall piece in my room. Love looking at it for the memories! :D

Karabana aka Toronto Caribbean Carnival said...

Frontliners, thanks for commenting, that's why I wrote this post and asked for opinions mainly about the cost of frontlines. I want to hear how frontliners justify paying hundreds more.

Anonymous said...

Hi I came across your blog while trying to find out how to get a costume for Caribana this year. My friends and I are going and it'll be our first year.

We would like to be festive, but thought we could just pick a costume from anywhere.

Can you provide any resources/links to site that sell costumes? Or we have to go through a specific band?

Thanks in advance. :-)

Trini-in-Toronto said...

Hi Sistah Hollywood,
You have to purchase a costume from a band if you would like to join the parade. This is the best option. If you want to stand with the spectators, you can dress however you like. A list of all the Toronto Mas bands are included on the right hand side of the page and those are links to their websites. You still have time to get a costume from them. You might consider TruDynasty as they are entering the parade in an enviable number 3 position and Kara visited her mas camp recently and they have some beautiful costumes still available

Ashley Felix said...

It is expensive but fun however the stormers ruin it so we pay so much to get people run at us like charging bulls they really should do something about that because that is a saftey hazard...

Ashley Felix said...

It is fun I admitt but is expensive and the whole experience let's be honest its gotten worse with all the Stormers making it not an enjoyable experiences. Thsee Stormers just come running by like charging balls pushing their way through like hello do you know how much I paid for this costume why is my headpiece getting off not good at all. They really should do something about that because it is a safety hazard...

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