Entertainment

Fashion over style

By Simone Morgan Observer staff reporter morgans@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 05, 2012    

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THROUGHOUT the 1990s, a female would not be considered 'bashy' in the dancehall if she was not wearing extra-large earrings, clogs, fishnet stockings and multi-coloured hairstyles and outfits.

The Ouch brand was extremely popular, as they were worn by entertainers such as Lady Saw and Macka Diamond.

The creations of mother-daughters team of Barbara 'Mama' Francis, and Paula and Nicki Ouch, also featured in the 1997 film Dancehall Queen, as well as Belly which featured rappers Nas and DMX.

As for the males, they would not be hip if not rocking a 'high side' haircut, roomy linen suit or extra-large jeans accesorised with large bracelets, anklets and chains.

One of the trendsetters of the 1990s was Carlene Smith, commonly known as Dancehall Queen Carlene. She emerged in 1992 when she won the fashion clash, Uptown versus Dancehall.

"I was 19 years old when I won and that was the beginning of victory in several other competitions," she said.

According to Smith, it was her Roger Rodney and Biggy designs, and her image that set the 'sexy' trend.

She believes she brought something different to the dancehall.

"I came out with this image that persons were not used to and while the dancehall fraternity and the majority accepted it, there were some who didn't readily accept the change in the dancehall culture and that minority included the media," she told the Jamaica Observer in a recent telephone interview.

"I came out with this image that persons were not used to and while the dancehall fraternity and the majority accepted it, there were some who didn't readily accept the change in the dancehall culture and that minority included the media," she told the Jamaica Observer in a recent telephone interview.

She added that although she created the 'Butterfly' dance move it was not dancing that made her popular, but her entire look.

"My skin tone was flawless and my wigs matched my outfits perfectly. I wasn't a slim person but my tummy was flat. I brought something new to the table something like what Lady Gaga is bringing now," she said. "It was all about helping to give dancehall an identity."

Splash also turns the spotlight on designer Earl 'Biggy' Turner. The designer, whose career spans over two decades, worked with top dancehall acts of the 1990s. They included Pinchers, Shabba Ranks, Lady Mackerel (now Macka Diamond), Papa San and Sanchez.

"Back in the 1990s, when dancehall had its own catalogue I was the designer for almost everyone. I have been designing for Shabba for his first Sunsplash and I even styled him for the Grammys," Biggy told Splash.

One of Biggy's signature pieces was a suit made entirely of neckties that Shabba wore to the 1992 Grammy Awards. The outfit created a buzz internationally.

The designer claims that dancehall is no longer a fashion brand.

"There was fashion then as artistes once took pride in themselves. Now it is all about the hype, an' artistes will go onstage with their pants way below your waists and think its cute," he lamented. "Some of these artistes have destroyed the identity that we once had...the image is no more."

Today, Toots Hibbert is one of several reggae acts who Biggy designs for. He shys away from some dancehall acts, saying they would not enhance his creations.

Will dancehall ever get back its flair?

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