On an island as small as Barbados, the lives of its people are closely intertwined – we are either connected by family, friends or business. If you are from a well-known family, this inter-connectivity can lend itself to intrusiveness which can be hindering, especially to someone aiming to leave their own distinctive footprints in the sand. However, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Rorrey Fenty.
Even though the reputation of his older sister Robyn Rihanna Fenty often precedes him, it has done little to stunt Rorrey’s personal aspirations or blunt his dynamism. He is immensely proud of Rihanna and all that she has achieved internationally as a global pop icon – it was clear to me that they share a close and loving relationship which he guards carefully. At the tender age of 28 he has a myriad of commercial interests and his inroads into business have been made diligently and methodically. His successes are the realisation of his evolving dreams and determined industriousness.
On a muggy and humid day in late October, Rorrey and I sat down to chat at an upstairs lounge area at the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre, adjacent to his luxury boutique “Orign”. “I hope you don’t mind if we have the interview here. My manager is off today so I have to multi-task and keep an eye on the store. I have one assistant and she may need my help”, he began. “Of course not!” I replied. It immediately became apparent that his ability to be assiduous, agile and practical were but some of the endearing qualities that underpinned Rorrey’s approach, not only to business but to life.
I started the interview with the usual, soft, open-ended question, “Tell me about yourself?”“I am a creative at heart so I try to put a creative and original spin on everything I get involved with. I am also a self-made entrepreneur. I have two full siblings – my older sister Robyn and a younger brother Rajad – and an older half-brother and half-sister. I come from a close-knit family which extends beyond our immediate family unit. I share a closeness with my aunts, uncles and my grandfather, Lionel Brathwaite “Bravo”, who turns 87 on 3 November and my late grandmother Clara.”
Rorrey’s ‘family’ also includes two pets: Rocky, a bull mastiff mixed with a pitbull, who he described as having the mindset of a chihuahua that is trapped in a body of a Great Dane, and Ori, his Siamese fighter fish, who sits on his desk at Orign. Our conversation progressed onto the topic of education, which provided a sturdy foundation for Rorrey’s future creative and business endeavours. He attended Charles F. Broome Primary School, then The St. Michael School where he had his first foray into music. He, along with five friends, formed the group THS. By the time the boys reached CXC level, their studies took precedence and the group, reluctantly, disbanded. After CXC, Rorrey enrolled at Barbados Community College, originally with plans to study architecture. Since the course was not being offered that year, he ended up completing two years of a three-year degree in Civil Engineering.
Then Rorrey was accepted by the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus and graduated in 2013 with a degree in finance. Commenting on his schooldays, he said, “Studying became my focal point for several years until I went to university. I have the foundation upon which I could build my entrepreneurial career, both on the creative side and the technical side.”
It was during his school years that Rorrey nurtured his love for music. Music provided an expressive outlet where he could voice his feelings on topical issues and his life experiences through his lyrical and musical compositions. He arranges, performs and produces his own music as well as collaborates with popular local artistes such as Teff Hinkson, Oliver Gale (‘Vision’) and Heart A Fiyah (formerly known as ‘Blade’). He describes his style of music as ‘urban hip hop with an edge’.
“I was recording for a year when I released my first project, In my mind, which was a mixed tape of 13 songs, which I distributed by free downloads and give-a-way CDs. The album created a lot of buzz and talk and I soon got bookings for shows in London and Hong Kong.
My second project was called “Intolerable Cruelty” for which I recorded over 50 songs but only 17 made the cut. All of the unreleased tracks are great but remain in the archives until I can find a project suited for their release.” His live performances opened the door to hosting parties and emceeing appearances in Barcelona, Zurich, Dubai, Milan, Paris, Nice, Monaco, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, Belgium, LA and New York to mention a few.
When it comes to the events industry, Rorrey’s tentacles spread far and wide. At 20, he and his best friend, Warren Holmes, together with Teff Hinkson and Joshua Banfield created “Urban”, an online lifestyle magazine focusing on sports, culture, food, apparel and the mobility of youth culture in Barbados. Remembering their first event, he said “We held that event in “The Gap” in the car park of Pablo Churrasco. We constructed a stage with a built-in skate ramp. While models were on the catwalk, skaters zipped by on the ramp. We had lots of live elements which interplayed with each other making it a unique, inter-active event. We were pleasantly surprised by the turnout of patrons.”
Urban then morphed into “Urban Suburban Retro House Party”. When the doors opened to that event, the line was 300 people long. The second Urban Suburban Retro House Party was explosive with 2000 revellers inside the venue and 500 outside waiting to get in.
The total chaos which came with the invasion of 2,500 people descending upon a suburban neighbourhood led to the event being shut down by the police. However, it created an anticipatory atmosphere and yearning for future events.
“Urban Spring Break” was the third installment of these bespoke events and emerged out of a lack of entertainment on island during the spring break season. Acknowledging the rapid decline in entertainment in Barbados over the past five years, Rorrey became noticeable agitated and commented:
“I personally cannot understand why Barbados is not the preferred destination for spring breakers. We have the available rooms, some of the best beaches in the world, but we are sadly missing the entertainment. So, we decided to start Urban Spring Break which was our spring break party held every March at some of the best beach locations on the island. That event was held for five successive years. ”In 2015, his current business partner, Matthew “Fewture” Ashby, brought Fenty on board for a kadooment band project where they were given free rein to conceptualise and produce a VIP section of a band. Their section was sold out in less than a week.
“This was my first introduction into the Crop Over lifestyle and it was a huge success. That project helped me to develop my skills in creating and managing budgets and perfecting executions and I was able to draw on my background in finance. We also saw then the potential to do something much bigger so that experience was the genesis of Aura. “
The following year, Fenty along with Lauren Austin, Rondell Hines, Jarrod Elias and Lloyd Brathwaite, formed the kadooment band “Aura”. Now two years on the road, the band swelled to 1,200 glittering masqueraders supported by 300 staff and personnel. Drawing on his personal contacts and existing business relationships, international celebrities such as his sister Rihanna and Lewis Hamilton each had their own trucks within the band.
Ace of Spades champagne was on offer in the VIP airconditioned double-decker truck. Describing his involvement in Aura, he added, “I try to put my creative touch on everything I am involved in, paying close attention to those elements which I think are either being missed or overlooked by other bands. I try to be meticulous and observant. Through the Aura Experience we sought to create a moving experience on the road – in, on and around the trucks. Last kadooment was epic and we are looking forward to ways in which we can elevate the band. We also see the potential to grow by taking the band beyond these shores into other countries. We are planning to take branded sections to carnival bands in Bermuda, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad in 2018.”
As someone on the leading edge of urban style, Rorrey’s impeccable taste is evident in his first retail project “Orign”. He followed in his family’s retailing footsteps and on March 17, 2017 he launched a boutique catering to both men and women – with a demographic reach from the urban and trendy to sophisticated elegance. He confessed that: “One of my hidden ambitions was to have a store of my own and it manifested this year. I am the principal buyer for the store. My store manager Shaquille and I source our stock primarily from the US. I am the authorised dealer for brands such as Fenty Puma, Trapstar, Billionaire Boys Club and Pink Dolphin, to name a few.”
This year will also see the unveiling of Rorrey’s latest concept project – “Legado by Rorrey Fenty” a luxury lifestyle brand aimed at trendy sophisticates who have acquired a taste for the artisanal rather than commercial. He explained:
“Legado is Spanish for “legacy” and it really encapsulates in one word all that I am hoping to create – a legacy which is unique, unchartered, unexpected but which can be sustained through innovation and reinvention. It represents my personal metamorphosis over the past few years where I used my educational background as a tool to becoming a successful entrepreneur, investor and entertainer.”
The first product to be developed under this brand is premium, hand-rolled Honduran cigars. For this project he partnered with his uncle Lester Brathwaite, Deborah and Peter-Che Simmons and Rolando Soto of Honduras. On returning from one of his visits to Honduras in 2015, Lester was given a box of cigars and offered one of the “hecho a mano” cigars to Rorrey. On seeing his reaction after smoking the cigar, Lester, who has established agrobusiness concerns in Honduras, suggested that they collaborate on producing a premium cigar.
“My curiosity was sparked. Uncle Lester and I embarked on almost 12 months of research, planning and designing together with our think tank – Team Legado. What emerged was a boutique, luxury, lifestyle brand developed through the efforts of the family collective.”
The hand-crafted cedar box which houses the cigars is sleek, with clean lines and a modern edge. The focal point is a lion’s head, which Fenty says symbolises strength and majesty. The word “Legado” appears in red, the colour of prosperity. The inner cover was deliberately left raw with only Rorrey’s words decorating it:
“Upon entering this world, you are given a name which forms part of your legacy or legado, so my family of friends around the world let’s pursue our dreams, fulfil our purpose … and live, love, laugh and light it up.”
Spring-boarding off the Barbados launch party in December 2017, Rorrey will be introducing his cigars to South Africa, Dubai, London, Belgium, Central America, the US and the region of course.
“Honestly, seeing all of my projects come to fruition and my dreams materialise is a source of pride, so I can’t single out one. I put 100% effort into my projects – I nurture them and work hard on them. Winning the best hip-hop artist at the 2015 BMA awards was a crowning achievement in my music career which I had been working on since age 13. Graduating from UWI was also a proud moment for me and my family.”
Given all of his successes, I asked him what kept him centred and grounded.
“My family and my faith. My home and my island also keep me tied to reality. Travelling can give you a skewed perspective but being home puts everything into context.”
When it comes to his private life, Rorrey is a pillar of discretion. Having broached the topic of romance with him multiple times during our four-hour long interview, he is yet to give me a direct answer. As we neared the end of our interview, I asked “do you have a special someone in your life?”. A quit-witted response followed “everyone has a special someone!”
Somewhere in his evasiveness I was able to ascertain that only the special women in his life will ever get to meet his mum. Her approval is paramount and Rorrey claims that only two women in his dating life have ever had the privilege of meeting Mama Fenty. Rorrey speaks of his mother in glowing terms and freely admits to being closest to her.
As I began packing up to leave, I stood next to Rorrey dwarfed by his 6ft 5” dominating stature. My last question for this gentle giant was whether he had any advice for budding entrepreneurs. His sage words are a fitting end to this article:
“Be innovative, creative and original. Be inquisitive and seek advice from others who have tread that life path before. A lot can come from a simple conversation – we don’t know it all, so it is important to be receptive and have an enquiring mind.”