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Fashion Block 2016 - The Buzz, The Lights, The Fashion
With capes and trains as a recurring theme and a significant emphasis on African and Asian royalty, Saint International presented the works of 12 Caribbean designers at their annual Fashion Block, May 29, 2016, under the bright lights and buzz of New Kingston. The designs showed influences from eighties and nineties popular culture, albeit offering a lot less colour than I would have anticipated.
Saint is one of Jamaica's premier modelling agencies and with the direction of CEO Dwight Peters, has propelled budding Jamaican stars into international supermodels. This year’s catwalk was graced by the likes of Jamaican supermodel Tami Williams who brought a modest elegance to the runway. Tami recently walked the coveted Chanel Cruise collection in Havana, Cuba this past April. Model-at-large Brandon Bailey was also one to watch. Originally from Portmore, Bailey has made a name for himself on the International runways, walking for Prada and Raf Simons in 2015.
Fashion Block 2016 featured Neahlis, Ann Bolt, Cecilia Devana, T&T Fashions, Andre Shirley, Pebbles, Kaydeen Dyrumple, La’Shane, Yashira, Kitana Smith, John Eli and Kadian Nicely. The designers were as diverse in their levels of expertise as they were in their approach to the Caribbean aesthetic.
Cecilia Devana presented a collection inspired by a meeting between the future and the past. Her collection was edgy, sexy and avant-garde with some of the designs reminiscent of the Keith Haring 1984 painting of iconic supermodel Grace Jones. There was also the influence of Berlin-based artist Sebastian Bieniek’s “Manualism,” a series of paintings featuring the silhouette of disembodied hands reaching out and wrapping around the body, a la Jacquemus Fall 2015.
Neahlis, a consistent creator in the Jamaican fashion community, showed her resort collection “Mariposa,” a vibrant and glamorous display of maxi dresses and beach cover-ups. Neahlis emphasized movement, comfort and the plethora of colour in the landscapes of the tropics. The fabrics were flowing and possessed an effortless femininity like silk moving freely in the sea breeze. The pieces were well-made but limited in execution and creativity, really nothing we haven’t seen before.
T&T Fashions was by far the winner of the night for women’s wear collections. Her creative eye combined the beautiful patterned fabrics of the Massai tribe with youthful, contemporary silhouettes. The pieces were well tailored with detail placed on structure, shape, and colour. The collection offered a variety of designs for day to night and work to play. There was something refreshing and fun about this collection and I could definitely see these pieces in the closet of the Jamaican woman.
Kitana Smith was the most creative designer of the night as she used the burlap sack as her medium to artistically communicate a vision of African royalty. Kitana Smith told a story of luxury being not what we wear but how we wear it. The design house showed itself to be equal parts earthy and eclectic. An avant-garde approach to fashion as art transported me to haute couture fashion week. The collection reminded the audience of the art that exists in the lived medium that is fashion. The most daring and original, the designs emphasized the cape and train, they moved with a life like a queen of the Sahara. The execution was excellent. The designs were a cut above the rest by transforming a tyad ol’ crocus bag into visions of timeless elegance.
John Eli pushed the button with his men’s wear collection that crowned and collared all the male models in floral wreaths. The designs were the most expertly tailored of the collections that hit the Fashion Block 2016 runway. Asian royalty fused with Jamaican street style to create the aesthetic of John Eli. Capes, trains, satin and floral prints challenged how we think about men’s wear. Eli’s collection was developed and regal without forgetting Jamaica’s most on-trend street style staple: the all red sneaker, if you haven’t gotten the memo.
Ann Bolt is an emerging designer and currently a student at the University of Technology, Jamaica. Unfortunately, the pieces she showed were least impressive. They reflected a schoolgirl aesthetic, complimented by an equally elementary approach to design. Ann Bolt showed a collection dominated by mismatched polka dot mini-skirts, poorly tailored women’s suits and a few tight, short ensembles - pieces that you would skim over in a moderately priced boutique and never actually wear. The designs screamed for maturity and more precise tailoring. Wheel and come again, Ann.
Pebbles’ collection focused on eveningwear, mostly black and white gowns with a 1980’s sparkle. She showed a shimmering black evening gown with a draped, plunging neckline that was one of the most well received pieces of the night. The collection seemed like it was trying to be edgy but remained safe. I would have liked to see more disco and less basic black evening gown. YAWN
Kadian Nicely closed the show with a collection that gave a mod sixties impression combined with the styling from Beyonce’s Lemonade album cover. Her aesthetic was a chic black and white vision with pairs of inverted circles like yin yang. The looks featured studded collars, off the shoulder tops and spaghetti strap dresses with black floppy hats. Despite proclaiming that “the future is here” on one of her graphic tees, her collection reflected more of what is trending right now than showing us what’s next.