piqued and we went on tour to the region this summer to track the movement.
Jamaica is the unofficial hub of style activities in the Caribbean, boasting dueling fashion weeks that took place early this summer. At Style Week Jamaica, celebrated Parisian designer Xuly Bet took his pan-African designs to Kingston. The sloganeering graphics and colorful abbreviated looks Bet showed were right in step with the short ra-ra skirts and shorts spotted on the hotties traversing local streets and nightclubs. Style Week is partially sponsored by the French Consulate in Jamaica, and the European fashion capital is starting to recognize something afoot in the region and wants in.
Roger Gary is a designer who’s shown in the Caribbean for years, and is internationally recognized for his Versace-like dresses and string bikinis, but the spirit of his work came alive on the carnivalesque runways in the capitol. Local designer Minka echoes signs of early Julien Macdonald. She whips up clinging crochet tops and dresses that would have the likes of J. Lo and Jessica Simpson swooning. And with over 30 shows that culminated in a street presentation that attracted 15,000 attendees, the runways of the Caribbean are forcing a take-notice.
Five-year-old Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW) welcomed Jamaican-born Jessica Ogden, who showed a sublime “passa passa” (street party) collection of exquisite washed-out, pastel summer dresses and separates that rivals anything seen from Marc by Marc Jacobs, or Marni even. Cedella Marley’s Catch a Fire cut and paste, twist-on-basics designs are runway to music video ready. Her treated denim skirts and patchwork tops alight the runway in rasta colors and iconic Bob Marley silk-screens. Trinidad-based Meiling, who has honed a fluid and feminine sensibility for years, showed beautiful diaphanous tops and dresses, some delicately ruffled; the equivalent of a refreshing drink on a hot Caribbean night. The equally seasoned Claudia Pegus showed tops with ribboning, patchwork skirts, and silk shantung dresses in a brilliant color wheel of pomegranate and purples. Cooyah and Yardman Style supply the locals with their streetwear style; both are as popular in Jamaica as J. Lindeberg is in Sweden.
For both of these fashion events though, the bigger story was the models. If black models were equally considered in fashion, Jamaica has a wealth of beauties to rival the recent export explosion of Brazilian and Eastern European models. Still, many black models have risen above the politics to find major success in America and Europe. Recent Gucci campaign model Nadine Willis is followed by Jaunel McKenzie, the recurring American Vogue model who works over 100 runway shows per season and pops up in numerous coveted editorials. Quianna has secured an enviable Cover Girl contract. The lusty Carla Campbell, already on the cover of Esquire and in the pages of Maxim and FHM, is well-equipped to replace Tyra after her last catwalk appearance for Victoria’s Secret this fall. Oraine Barrett is the latest crumpet from Abercrombie & Fitch. And several others, including Sunna, Nell Robinson, and Rochelle Watson, are turning up in edgy editorials and clocking time on numerous international catwalks. These girls have some of the best struts anywhere.
The style movement extends beyond Jamaica though, Trinidad and Tobago and the Grenadines both have fashion weeks. Barbados had its first fashion week in April, where menswear designers Rhajpaul, Rojoe, Les Campbell, and Carlton Brown showed designs both sartorial and street; they’ll have no shortage of clients from the very well-dressed men we spotted across the region.
Photos: Xuly Bet
Jaunel Mackenzie in Catch a Fire
Catch a Fire