R.I.P Simon Foster (1945 to 2013): Barbadian Fashion Icon – Tributes Via Rosemary Parkinson & Patrick Foster

Guyanese born Simon Foster left the glory of the fashion industry of London to settle in Barbados. It was difficult at first, the conservative mood rampant, but Simon struggled on slowly taking the island by storm with his innovative designs, his colour, his artistry.

He 'created' in the true sense of the word...with him it was like each piece had to be a work of art suited for us, the islander, the Caribbean person. Many tried their best to walk his path...his designs and flair infiltrating the fashion industry but how can one copy a master successfully? There was only ever one Simon. {DESIGN: Simon Foster & IMAGE COURTESY: Rosemary Parkinson}

He ‘created’ in the true sense of the word…with him it was like each piece had to be a work of art suited for us, the islander, the Caribbean person. Many tried their best to walk his path…his designs and flair infiltrating the fashion industry but how can one copy a master successfully? There was only ever one Simon. {DESIGN: Simon Foster & IMAGE COURTESY: Rosemary Parkinson}

In earlier times I managed to put together the first Simon Boutique within the hallowed halls of Cave Shepherd on Broad St. so he could showcase his art…his designs were so avant-garde, so way-out of the box they could not go unnoticed and a whole new era began in Barbados…his pieces sold…oh! how they sold. And I was thrilled for him. Proud even. In those days I was younger (and thinner) and Simon draped his cloth all over me so I could walk with the quick step of someone who felt special. I modeled for him. We entered a room as one. “Roses…you look divine, shall we get married?” he would say, and we would screech with joy at the thought of the madness of it. My first two children, Marie-France and Sian Pampellonne, became ‘his‘ in those days of the late 70s…even baby-sitting them on occasion when four nights out in a row at the famous nightclub ‘Alexandra’s‘ (from which we were banned many times, only to wear wigs entering ’till discovered!) had been “just all too much” for him and a quiet one was required…yeah right! Simon fell for it every time…for those nights turned into theatre…my girls dressed him, made him up, had him modeling and all…and I would come home to bare ‘confusion’, Simon loving every minute of the attention.

Later, my daughter Sara Collins would take my place at his side, on the runway for his shows and accompanying him to the haunts of the very rich and famous where Simon's pieces, individual, each with its own life, were worn with panache and reverence. The legend had carried itself through generations. All was as it should be. But Simon's fame on the 'platinum' coast, his friendship with famous international and Caribbean designers, never deterred his love for dressing both women and men from all walks of life...he simply loved seeing his work adorning beautiful bodies. {DESIGN: Simon Foster & IMAGE COURTESY: Rosemary Parkinson}

Later, my daughter Sara Collins would take my place at his side, on the runway for his shows and accompanying him to the haunts of the very rich and famous where Simon’s pieces, individual, each with its own life, were worn with panache and reverence. The legend had carried itself through generations. All was as it should be. But Simon’s fame on the ‘platinum‘ coast, his friendship with famous international and Caribbean designers, never deterred his love for dressing both women and men from all walks of life…he simply loved seeing his work adorning beautiful bodies. {DESIGN: Simon Foster & IMAGE COURTESY: Rosemary Parkinson}

I sit here remembering, jumping from one memory to another. This friend of mine who for more years than I can count had always made me laugh out loud ’till tears ran down my face. Oh! Simon! We have danced, we have pranced and we have been called “brothers“…maybe even sometimes “sisters“…we have bitched, we knew each others’ secrets and pain…sometimes months would pass without contact but we always were with each other in spirit. I knew this.

But what is most memorable about Simon...it was not only me that his life-attention was on...it would have been selfish for me to even think it...Simon did this for, and with, so many...lawd, he loved and was loved. {IMAGE COURTESY: Rosemary Parkinson}

But what is most memorable about Simon…it was not only me that his life-attention was on…it would have been selfish for me to even think it…Simon did this for, and with, so many…lawd, he loved and was loved. {IMAGE COURTESY: Rosemary Parkinson}

Simon died doing what he did every day…after closing his little shop, he was walking towards his home…I bet as he did so, the voices of those accustomed to seeing him reverberated in his ears: “Simon!”, “Ya gine home Simon?” “Done wid de wuk today Simon?” “See ya tomorrow, Simon”…”you alright Simon?” for that is how Simon walked through his time on this earth, with people calling out his name wherever he went from one side of the island to the next.

It was unbelievable and never failed to amuse. Even I, as I passed the shop, would honk and scream at the top of my lungs "SIMON!"It is comforting to know he was not alone as he left us. {DESIGN: Simon Foster & IMAGE COURTESY: Rosemary Parkinson}

It was unbelievable and never failed to amuse. Even I, as I passed the shop, would honk and scream at the top of my lungs “SIMON!“It is comforting to know he was not alone as he left us. {DESIGN: Simon Foster & IMAGE COURTESY: Rosemary Parkinson}

Our friend is now at peace and he has his work cut out…redesigning the interiors and exteriors of wherever beautiful creative people go having left this mortal coil, dressing them in ‘bright and stunning‘ fashion to suit. He has left behind his brother, my dear dear friend, actor and artist Patrick Michael Foster. He has left behind his and my dear, dear friend, artist, photographer Corrie Scott. He will always be treasured by his sister Paula, so many memories eh? His brother Jonathan, and other sister Suzie will miss him but most importantly, there is his awesome mother whose flair was larger than the Universe for it was from this stunning strong woman that all her children garnered so much creativity and love of life. May they all find comfort in knowing…just knowing.

But in thinking or talking or writing of Simon one has to lay so much of his success on the feet of Joyce…I only ever knew her as Joyce…she was his right and left hand…quietly putting together whatever ‘bit of crazy‘ Simon put before her…without ever making a fuss…her hands just gently leading that cloth through spinning needle. I often wondered how Joyce viewed her surroundings – the clutter of paint, threads, sewing machines, patterns, paper…the noise of friends and patrons…Simon’s bursts of hilarious comments…his inability to suffer fools gladly sometimes, his wit bordering, just bordering…she probably knew Simon more than any of us…she certainly spent more time with him than any one of us…dear, dear Joyce. And through it all, through thick and thin, Simon was a parent, a guardian to Peter, always giving him kudos when kudos were due and even when not, ever teaching him the craft Simon saw in him from young, pushing him to better himself, to feel at ease with life, to seek his own creativity, to do good with himself and for himself……may Peter’s today and all his tomorrows from hereon in do Simon’s unconditional caring for him, justice.

I do not want to mourn for all who stood forever beside Simon. I do not want to mourn for me. I want to celebrate his life but right now it is difficult. I certainly mourn for Barbados… this island has lost yet another son of its creative soul far too early for comfort. He loved this island far more than many believed…and took the name Barbados across the seas with his work. I can only now say this:

“Many people will walk in and out of your life but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)

Your footprint Simon Foster is indelibly written across mine.

This was one of his closest friends, Rosemary Parkinson – Author, Photographer, Culinary Activist, Blogger and proud Mother among a myriad of other fantastic achievements.

Let’s hear from Simon’s own brother – Advertising Guru, Dramatist, Actor, Painter and worshipper of the Caribbean’s Mythology; Patrick Michael Foster

My dearest Brother,
Our path was a stormy one, though never void of the deepest love and respect for each other. Our creative passions, I’m certain, had so much to do with that – and why not? Such is the legacy which drove our inner fraternal pride in each other, in our never conventional family and our very beautiful parents who birthed the handful of us. I can hear your laughter of approval and I share it with you. I look back, in the Now, to our closest times of brotherhood, growing, development – so many little eternities which right now tear my soul with missing you. I give thanks to Universal OneLove for the last month in which we mended many bridges of love and communication; laughed, discussed, agreed and hugged each other without restraint … unwittingly in preparation for last night. I deeply thank the friend who called last evening, allowing me to be there, to see your always elegant profile, head back, as though you were gazing only at the stars as you ascended.

You inspire so many. So many love you. I cannot speak of you in the past. Your legacy lives. So many dear to you, including our Father, are greeting you now, and Heaven's Tribe is decked in your brilliant trademark, deceptively casual statements of Haute Couture, Made In Barbados, The Caribbean, a home both you and I were compelled the return to. Your glitterball is the firmament. One last comment, which only our siblings and mother who is still with us will understand... "Happy days, Son!" {DESIGN: Simon Foster & IMAGE COURTESY: Rosemary Parkinson}

You inspire so many. So many love you. I cannot speak of you in the past. Your legacy lives. So many dear to you, including our Father, are greeting you now, and Heaven’s Tribe is decked in your brilliant trademark, deceptively casual statements of Haute Couture, Made In Barbados, The Caribbean, a home both you and I were compelled the return to. Your glitterball is the firmament. One last comment, which only our siblings and mother who is still with us will understand… “Happy days, Son!” {DESIGN: Simon Foster & IMAGE COURTESY: Rosemary Parkinson}

Je t’aime, mon frère. Live on.

11 Responses

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  1. Thank you Ian Bourne…as always.

    I woke up today thinking of Alair Shepherd QC…who blessed the Foster family by marrying into same…he mourns like we all do and although not mentioned above was in my thoughts…his voice of comfort that sad evening, his ‘being there’ for Patrick and his continuous caring during this time of sorrow is to say the least, special…very special.

  2. It is extremely sad when we loose a great artist, and Simon was truly great Artist. My deepest sympathies to his family, The physical body is dead but his beautiful spirit lives on, and will always be remembered as he was, A Great Artist of our time, R.I.P

    Zola.

  3. Ian – thank you so much for printing Rosemary & Patrick’s beautiful tribute to Simon. This says it all. We have lost the sweetest, dearest of human beings.

  4. Simon, you were such a humble soul
    It was never about you but rather everyone
    else. You made us laugh, you shared so many
    Stories with us, even asking our daughter
    Kate to return to Bim, to be your chauffeur!!

    We’ll miss you. Godspeed . Robert, Marianna and Kate Knowles.

  5. Simon was a man of wit, talent, generosity, and tenderness – and a cherished friend. He is irreplaceable. Barbados is a less exciting and interesting place without him.

  6. We have not seen each other for many years but know you would not want us to moun; I only ever had fun and laugher with you and that is how I shall remember you.

  7. Ian, these are such beautiful & poignant tributes. Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Fusion have lost an icon who will be sorely missed but we shall meet again.I will always remember our 1st meeting.rip Simon

  9. many years ago,I went to a charity auction somewhere.I don’t remember where,I just remember buying a Simon Foster creation which was a size (HUGE)..I took it home and it hung in my closet for years.it is the only piece of clothing I wished I could get Huge for. I finally gave it to a friend who was near that size…Simon the mornings we sat on the steps of Enid’s in Baxters Road are firmly ethched in my memory and will never be forgotten..rest well sueyellin

  10. Will never forget you… A living legend!

  11. What a beautiful tribute to Simon! I have visited the island for more than thirty years and can’t quite remember when I first met Simon but I always enjoyed talking to him. He was very wise about a lot of things. Of course in the beginning I bought his dresses and brought him fabric to make more. Then he became too expensive for me so I only admired but I would always stop by to chat if he had a moment. Last time I was there in early 2012 I finally found him at his new shop and we sat and talked for a long time about his new shop and how well things were going. I was so sorry to hear of his death. It won’t be the same to return to Barbados and not find him there. What a loss for his family and friends. I hope that Peter will be able to carry on and that I can stop and see him when I am back in 2014.

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