Behind one of Trinidad & Tobago’s most popular clothing lines
We caught up with Tracy Kaufmann, the co-founder of Native Spirit (produced by B&Tees Ltd), to learn how this brand has become such a hit for both locals and visitors for over 25 years.
DTT: Tell us about the origins of the Native Spirit/B&Tees brand, and the inspiration for the company?
TK: I met my husband Bruce [Kaufmann] at York University in Toronto, where we were both studying art. At this time he was airbrushing his own surfing designs on T-Shirts and selling them to his friends in Trinidad. I came to visit his family in 1986 – it was my first trip to the Caribbean; the lush beauty of the country and the charm of the fun loving people made a huge impression on me. It was, and continues to be, a very creatively inspiring place to live. That’s really what inspired our creation of the T-shirt line, and setting up B&Tees that year.
Each garment has always been individually airbrushed, featuring fun designs that incorporate the coconut trees, tropical animals, the little gingerbread homes, the unique roti, doubles, rum and Carib beer – all the things we love about these islands. The T-shirts were really popular, so we purchased screen printing equipment to meet the demand, and numerous staff and artists gradually joined B&Tees Limited – which has now been in existence for almost 25 years!
DTT: What kinds of products do you offer, both for locals and visitors in the market for souvenirs?
TK: Native Spirit is our unique brand of “Original Art to Wear, Inspired by the Caribbean.” The line features T-shirts, polos, ladies tops, kids tees, girls dresses, baby rompers, headwear and beach bags for fun people of all ages. The Running Man symbol represents the fun and freedom the customer feels when wearing a Native Spirit garment. Our motto is “Live Life…Wear Native Spirit!”
DTT: What do you attribute to the long success of your brand in T&T?
TK: Our customers are people who appreciate our quality, long-lasting products, and want to wear designs that truly reflect their Caribbean lifestyle. There’s a really special e-mail a German tourist to Tobago sent us that sums it up. He said whenever he wants to escape from the dreary weather of the winter months in Germany, he simply puts on his Native Spirit T-Shirt and remembers the warm, special memories of his holiday in Tobago.
DTT: Where can both locals and visitors buy your products?
TK: Currently we wholesale our product throughout Trinidad and Tobago and retail in Long Circular Mall, Trincity Mall, Gulf City Mall in La Romains and Gulf City Lowlands Mall in Tobago. You can also purchase Native Spirit products on-line at nativespirittees.com.