On the heels of Caribbean Style Week, What is Caribbean Fashion?

I have forever been preoccupied with defining the Caribbean Aesthetic, while so many fashion professionals living and creating in the region have told me not to bother. We’re not that stereotype- they would say. We’re growing out of that and now look more like them. We are not limited to one look.

I attended a talk at The Fashion Institute of Fashion and Technology (FIT) in New York City this month called “What is Caribbean Fashion”. On the floor, was Trinidadian creative director, Richard Young. I had found myself sitting across from him at a neighborhood café I chose for us, bent over lentil soups, observing the swag (or lack thereof) of the passersby just out the glass window where we sat. We talked about Caribbean Fashion excitedly. On stage, he repeated many of the sentiments we shared in our own personal exchange days before.

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Stella Jean, Milan Fashion Week SS2019

Caribbean fashion does not have to look like one thing. No region or noted country’s signature style describes just the physical details of their fashion. When we refer to the aesthetic of a place, in terms of fashion and design, we’re talking about the way they fashion too. Paris is cutting edge, political and meticulously techniqued. New York is moody, rebellious and culture-centric. When I think of the Caribbean aesthetic, I think innovative, fusional and vibrant. This does not mean that all Caribbean fashion is colourful, but vibrant– lively and optimistic. We come from a place where we are forced to create newness out of harsh situations. Historically, our people have been brought from all over the world to make their lives better, together, with people they probably would have not intermixed with otherwise. We are a callaloo- and I hate using this Caribbean cliche, but it is such a great metaphor. We smile and dance the day after a natural disaster. We are a party people. We are resilient and carefree. That shows in our fashion. We’re Hot! Literally. Our equatorial tropical climate, volcanic ring of fire and sunlit beaches have us heated. Our aesthetic reflects this in sexy lines and daring silhouettes. While Paris and Milan focus on construction, we have surface treatment as our strength. While Japan has futuristic inspirations, we have heritage. Defining a Caribbean aesthetic is a great thing. It creates clarity for a narrative in our wearable art.

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Models Behind the Scenes at the Cushnie, New York Fashion Week SS2019 Show

One main point stood out to me at the FIT talk, as it did at lunch. Some Caribbean designers, have a weird aversion to being referred to as that; “Caribbean”, often being part in reason to their popular mission to reach an international market. As they discussed on stage, we might be still too attached to old thinking that we are lesser than. We think being called “Caribbean Designers” and not just “designers” boxes us into a realm of no potential to be anything else. But as Cushnie and Stella Jean have shown us, not to mention Bajan Ambassador Rihanna, placing your “Caribbean-ness” at the front of your identity as a creator is not a detractor at all. It actually seems to be an attractive quality; a unique attitude that only kind of resembles others, but is truly Caribbean only.

At Bene Caribe, this Caribbean essence is the core and face of all that we create. “Caribe” is in our name! Pride doesn’t cover it; it is more. We are invested in our culture and use the medium of garments and colour as a vessel to bring positivity to the world. Our mission is to be good for the Caribbean, highlighting the phenomenal accomplishments of our people, as well as emphasizing the importance of preserving the natural environment. We believe in fashion as a means to inspire and motivate. This is what Caribbean Fashion is to us! (We would love to hear what it represents to you. Leave us a comment below!)

This weekend Bene Caribe takes part in Style Week Port-of-Spain along side several other designers from Trinidad and Tobago.

Styleweek Port-of-Spain was launched by Coco Velvet International Fashion & Model Management in 2014. The major objective of the annual fashion week-end is to provide a marketing platform for T&T fashion designers to launch their Christmas-to-Carnival ready-to-wear fashion collections to an audience of fashion retail buyers, boutique owners, fashion stylists and private clients. The event also provides an opportunity to recognize fashion industry pioneers for their dedicated service.

See Us On Day 2, Sat 13th Oct @5:00 pm at the Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre, Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Styleweek Spring/Summer 2019 RTW Collections:

*Bene Caribe
* S. M. Warner Art with attitude
* Sew Lisa
* Ted Arthur Leather Collections
* Linkage
* DAWW Creations
* Kirañ K.

For More info on how you can attend,  Click Here

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2 thoughts on “On the heels of Caribbean Style Week, What is Caribbean Fashion?

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  1. “…placing your “Caribbean-ness” at the front of your identity as a creator is not a detractor at all. It actually seems to be an attractive quality; a unique attitude that only kind of resembles others, but is truly Caribbean only.” In full agreement… we are so afraid to show that side of ourselves to the world.

    Liked by 1 person

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