The Cloth Of The Caribbean

The Caribbean is best known in the fashion industry for being the home of countless runway beauties and as the island getaway for hot days and cool nights. But the region is also the base for designers who service their domestic and regional markets with pieces that have as much ingenuity and integrity as their global counterparts.

Collective showings such as Caribbean Fashion Week, Jamaica Style Week and the more recent Fashion Week Trinidad and Tobago and Islands of the World in Bahamas all indicate that the Caribbean industry is swiftly growing toward greater international respectability.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Robert Young forms part of the vanguard of the region with 24 years of experience and an aesthetic that is unmistakably Caribbean in look, philosophy and politics. Young developed his signature applique process in response to the limitations of the local fabric industry and as a way to distinguish his line. His approach also sheds light on why Caribbean design is so often associated with tye-dye, batik and hand painted fabric.

When Queen Elizabeth II visited Trinidad and Tobago for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting last November, the designer appeared with some of the island’s other big names—including Meiling, Claudia Pegus, Zadd and Eastman and Millhouse—in a presentation for the spouses of visiting heads of state.

Young, a rebel with a cause, in turn, created a line of subversive totes that addressed issues more relevant to the proleteriat than the likes of royals and first ladies, asking: How common is wealth? What about reparations your Highness and the bold claiming of the status “worker.” It’s this daring approach that promises a daring future for the Caribbean.

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