St Maarten hots up for Carnival season

By Kerry Biddle on 24th February, 2017

With St Maarten hotting up for Carnival season we meet costume designer Erica Fortuno to find out what it takes to turn boxes of feathers into gorgeous works of art.

Erica graciously agreed to share a behind-the-scenes look at just how she’s able to outfit almost 250 revelers in breathtaking costumes every Carnival season for her troupe, ‘Xscape the Band’. Every member of Erica’s dedicated team was in ‘don’t-stop-working-until-it-is-done’ mode. “I am sometimes accused of being a perfectionist,” quips Erica while moving a feather from one spot on a bikini bra to another. “I would add that I simply strive to ensure that every costume I design and produce tops revelers’ must-have list both from design and comfort perspectives.” When asked where she draws her inspiration from, Erica laughed and said, “From anywhere – a piece of cloth in a shop window, a necklace, a photo, even something in nature. Anything can set off the designer in me.” Clearly inspired by nature, her costume collection is a kaleidoscope of colors reminiscent of St Maarten’s pristine white beaches, colorful corals and varying shades of ocean blue.

Carnival season on St Maarten St Martin

Erica Fortuna leading her troupe in the finished design {photo credit: Ricardy Maricel}

Once Erica decides on a design concept, she begins the journey to bring her artistic vision to life. Feathers, sequins and fabrics are carefully pasted onto inspirational mood boards and brought with her for the first of several trips to meet with her design team in New York. They then search for the right bikini colors that will serve as the base of the costumes. Concurrently, measurements are taken for each registered reveler and orders placed for their respective bikini tops, bottoms and shorts. Costume prices range from $400 and up depending on which design a reveler chooses and each has the option to keep or sell their costumes once Carnival is over.

St Maarten St Martin Carnival

Erica travels to New York to oversee final selections. Everything is meticulously chosen to get the perfect look, down to the last bead. When the base outfits arrive on St Maarten from New York, the production team kicks into high gear to stick, sew or glue feathers, beads and sequins as directed. What eventually emerges from the turmoil is a joy to behold – dazzling bejeweled works of art in brilliant colors created to take your breath away for two days during the Carnival parades.

To join Erica Fortuno’s troupe, call 1 721 581 4145 or email To view a list of other troupes scheduled to participate in St Maarten’s Carnival parades, contact the St Maarten Carnival Development Foundation at

–   Article written by Toya Jean-Gilles