The Caribbean Collections: LFW AW12

2012 is a big year for the Caribbean; both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago celebrate 50 years of independence, the fastest man on the face of the planet – a proud Jamaican – is set to take centre stage at the London Olympics and the crème de la crème of the Caribbean Fashion and Creative industries showed at London Fashion Week for the very first time – as part of the British Fashion Council’s inaugural International Fashion Showcase.

The event was established to mark the Olympics and ‘honour the Olympic values of international respect, excellence, equality and friendship’.   The Caribbean Collections debuted at the start of LFW on the 17th and 18th of February and is  supported by the Caribbean Export Development Agency, the Caribbean Fashion Industry Association and JAMPRO – Jamaica Promotions Corporation.

I was ecstatic when I heard about the showcase, as a proud Briton of Jamaican heritage, it was marvellous to hear that a side of the Caribbean – the creative, industrious side, which is so often overlooked by the mainstream media – would be showcased for all to see.

Caribbean fashion is a well established industry, with Caribbean Fashion Week celebrating its 11th anniversary last year.   The industry leaders are now looking to export markets for the next phase of growth.

The Chairman of the Caribbean Fashion Industry Association, Kingsley Cooper states that “..the exhibition is really about showing the fashion industry that we have design talent to compete in a global arena. The contribution which the islands can make to fashion has gone under the world’s fashion radar for too long. We are delighted to be a part of London Fashion Week and as organisers of Caribbean Fashion week, we see this as a big step for Caribbean fashion, as we continue to develop our industry and position our designers to take their place on the world stage – our time is now”.

I visited the showcase on the Friday, which was hosted in the Charing Cross Hotel and was awed by the extensive range of designs, styles and themes that were on display.

The exhibition featured designers handpicked from fifteen islands across the Caribbean and creations inspired by the cultural melting pot that the Caribbean represents – African, Spanish, French and British influences were evident in the pieces on display.

Haitian born Phelicia Dell, creator of  VèVè Collections was showcasing her line of handcrafted bags, inspired by the distinctive style of her home nation.

Image: www.vevecollection.com

Dell was once a struggling artisan, who began to build her empire by giving away samples of her work for free.  This foresight and sacrifice paid off, for in 2008, she had the opportunity to enter Diane von Furstenberg’s ‘Global Handbag Design Competition’.  The DVF competition solicited designs from women artisans in Haiti, Guatemala, Nigeria and Cambodia.  Phelicia won the competition and in 2009, Diane von Furstenberg featured her winning handbags online and in DVF stores around the globe, to mark International Women’s Day.

www.vevecollection.com

Sandra Kennedy’s (Jamaica), Beach Collection represents the definitive resort lifestyle.  Hand crafted in 100% West Indian Sea Island Cotton – the rarest, silkiest and strongest cotton in the world – the Montego Bay based designer pays homage to her mother for her career in fashion and design.  Her mother began working in fashion here in the UK for none other than Marks and Spencer.  She then returned to Jamaica and passed on her love for sewing to her daughter.

Beach Collection 2012

Kennedy is inspired by her home in every sense and the indigenous and unique hand crafted detail is incorporated into her collection.

Sandra Kennedy Collection, Half Moon PO Box 2450, Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica WI

I also caught up with Kevin Ayoung-Julien (Tobago) of kaj Designs and Arlene Martin (Jamaica) of drennaLUNA.

Kevin launched his brand in  2005, as a boutique operation producing custom-made, one-of-a-kind pieces.

kaj Resort Collection (Image: Yaisa Tangwell)

In 2009 he debuted his inaugural resort collection, Shore Culture.  Ribbons of ombrè and tie-dyed chiffons, silk rayons, satins and organza are constructed to flatter the female form and highlight her sensual silhouette.

 A self-taught designer, Kevin is not defined by convention and likes to be guided by his

Image: Yaisa Tangwell

intuition and a creative openness.  I found this to be evident in his creations and I too am also a big believer in following your heart as you pursue your endeavours.   His partnership with Liza Miller (General Manager of kaj Designs), a leading marketing consultant and publicist in the Caribbean, has created a powerful collaborative force combining the creative and the strategic, which will undoubtedly set the company up for future success.

www.kajdesigns.net

Arlene Martin of  drennaLUNA  debuted her recent collection – The Collection 1975 which  is a breath of nostalgia of the fun, funk and fashion frenzy that was the 1970s , and would not look out of place in a swanky bar or classy cocktail party right here in London.

drennaLuna by Arlene Martin

Arlene has had a passion for design and sewing from as far back as she can remember, and she warmly recounted to me  the memory of being given her first sewing machine at the age of 12 years old.   With skills that have largely been self- taught, she actively took up the craft as a hobby in her late teens and over the years, her eye for detail mushroomed into something extraordinary.

Although passionate about fashion she was encouraged by her father to continue with her academic studies and she is now a MBA graduate and a practicing business consultant who has worked on varied national and international projects, proving that one’s creativity does not have to be stifled as one develops a more traditional career path and that following your dreams should always remains a priority.

drennaLuna by Arlene Martin

drennaLuna by Arlene Martin

She describes her design aesthetic as ‘simple yet sophisticated’ and the drenna LUNA woman as ‘confident and bold’ – who wouldn’t want to fit that description!!

www.drennaluna.com

Caribbean Fashion Week 2012 will be held between the  7th and the 11th of June, in Kingston Jamaica and the Caribbean Collections are set to return to London for the SS13 London Fashion Week in September – so with a few gold medals in the bag (hopefully!) – there is a lot to look forward to and to celebrate from the beautiful islands of the Caribbean!

4 comments for “The Caribbean Collections: LFW AW12

  1. February 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Great to see diversity at London Fashion Week! Thanks for bringing it to us!x

    • beautypulselondon
      February 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      Yes, progess IS being made! It was great to be there!

  2. February 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    On Sunday I went to the Ubuntu international fashion show which was showcasing design out of Africa, and the conversation we were having was “why isn’t there something like this for the Caribbean?” I have seen the designs that are Caribbean designers have to offer, and we are doing ourselves a disservice by promoting diversity and yet not creating opportunities by which these designers can showcased! It’s great to see that you covered the event, I wish I got round to seeing it! 😀

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