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.

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.

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!

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British Beauty – Going for Gold

Olympic fever is certainly hotting up!

As mentioned in my previous blog  I am really excited about the year ahead – and the impending Olympic Games is a major reason for this!

I was selected to be an official Games Maker in December last year, which absolutely made my day!!  I truly believe that the Games will have a lasting legacy on London and on the nation and I am humbled to have been given a chance to be involved.

My first training session is in February….will let you know how it goes!!

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In November last year the global FMCG company Proctor and Gamble (P&G), owners of  brands such as Olay, Pantene, Ariel, Pampers,  Max Factor and Gillette, announced that it will be supporting 11  British athletes leading up to and during the London 2012 Games and these athletes will act as ambassadors  for the company.

P&G's Olympic Ambassadors

The selection includes the incredibly talented female athletes Jeanette Kwakye, Keri-Anne Payne, Victoria Pendleton, Paula Radcliffe, Jessica Ennis  and Jenna Randall.

Yesterday, Pantene, Olay and Max Factor announced partnerships with cyclist Victoria Pendleton, pentathlon champion Jessica Ennis and swimmer Keri-Anne Payne respectively.

Victoria Pendleton, Keri-Anne Payne and Jessica Ennis MBE

All 3 athletes are worthy role models and are indeed beautiful women.  I was particularly thrilled to see that Jessica Ennis (MBE) will be the face of Olay.

Ennis is of a mixed heritage background, the offspring of a Jamaican father and English mother.  In a week where race relations in Britain is again front page news – with the conviction and sentencing of  two of the murderers of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence dominating the headlines-  I hope that Ennis’ partnership with Olay will serve to remind the nation that unity and cohesion can be and is a hallmark of our society and that we should not let the negative incidences overshadow this important fact.

However….I do have to admit that I was a little disappointed to see that 100m sprinter Jeanette Kwyake  was not a part of the beauty ambassador group – after all Black women wash their hair, moisturise their skin and wear mascara too!

Jeanette Kwakye - Going for Gold

In fact, according to the market research agency Mintel,  British women of ethnic origin spend up to 7 times more on cosmetics and toiletries that her Caucasian counterpart.  A report published by the agency in 2009, stated that the market for Black or Asian beauty products in the UK remains a niche one, valued at £70m, or just 2% of the total market for women’s haircare, skincare and makeup, well below their percentage of the population. This is blamed partly on the fact that there is a “lack of commitment by mainstream companies to ethnic beauty needs”.

The report also identified that a lack of advertising spend and use of models that represent this market was a source of frustration for women of colour .  In my eyes P&G missed a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that it is in touch with the needs of its consumers and to lead the way in showcasing the beauty of the multicultural Britain that we all reside in.

What are your thoughts?  Let me know!