In the short space of a year, TV's Mission Catwalk has made household names of its creator and host Keenea Linton-George and the show's first and second season winners, Shenna Carby and Gregory Williams. The hit local reality series has not only unearthed fashion designer talent across The Rock and the Caribbean, but has become appointment television for many in its two incarnations.
SO checked in with Linton-George and her designer discoveries at the Spanish Court Hotel, the official hotel for Jamaica Observer Celebrates FNO 2012 where we sipped cocktails on the hotel's spa deck last Tuesday as the evening sun dipped below the horizon. Up for discussion: crazy fan encounters, fashion no-nos and, of course, FNO 2012.
How has Mission Catwalk changed your life?
Keenea Linton-George (KLG): I am being exposed to the talent in Jamaica and am excited about the future of the local fashion industry.
Gregory Williams (GW): It's changed my life in a dramatic way. The feedback has been really good. Winning will allow me the opportunity to further my studies in London — a career I truly believe in. On the show, I was able to design from the heart, not for a client per se, and I felt good doing that.
Shenna Carby (SC): Mission Catwalk has opened doors for me. I've made a lot of friends and family through the show. I was exposed to people who were willing to help me go forward. It has made me more popular, people now know me as a real person and have gravitated more towards me.
What's the strangest encounter you've had with fans of the show?
KLG: Not necessarily strange but sometimes I forget that I'm on TV and that people know me, so oftentimes people will come up to me and start a conversation and I'm like, 'Okay', and then I remember 'oh crap, I'm supposed to be popular'.
GW: I remember once I was in Half-Way-Tree and a woman saw me and ran out of a taxi. She created a scene and everyone was looking.
SC: Normally when I'm walking on the streets, especially when school is in session, mainly around 2:30 in the afternoon I'll come across students who say, "Yeah man, is she", "No man, is not she", and then you hear, "Shennaaaa!"
What's your take on the current state of Jamaican fashion?
KLG: A lot still needs to be done. We have talent... there's no question about that! What we lack is the infrastructure and the funding. We need proper training and factories for manufacturing. If we can address training to an international standard, we could have a thriving industry here.
GW: I think we need persons in the Government to take the fashion industry more seriously. A lot of people want to take the risk of pursuing fashion designing, but we cannot do it alone. I think we should have a show like Fashion Police to show what people are wearing, educate and explain how to interpret trends. The stores would definitely sell more clothes.
SC: I think designers who have been in the industry for a long time should encourage the younger designers instead of trying to keep us back. Let's work together as a team because at the end of the day, everybody has their own style and taste. I think we all need to unite because unity is strength and we can come together and build a strong fashion industry. Our sense of style is unique and we stand out just by the way we dress. We don't just throw on clothes, we have to coordinate and make sure that everything is in sync. I agree with Gregory that we should have a presence on TV where we can forecast our own trends and predict what should be the next trend.
Which Jamaican do you think best embodies fashion with their sense of style?
KLG: I like Lisa Hanna's style and I'm probably being biased because I know she's dressed by local designer Louise Graham. I like that sleek, sophisticated, classy, timeless kind of look that she opts for. I also love Dexter Pottinger — he is just fierce; I just love him.
GW: I love Crystal Powell (Mission Catwalk's season two runner-up). Her look is very tailored and inspired by menswear. I don't like 'girly-girl' dressing in women. I love when it looks serious.
SC: Not now, but growing up, I admired Beenie Man. I loved his suits because they were always trendy. Whenever he wore something, you'd see someone in it — he'd start a trend. It was back when I used to go to a lot of stage shows.
What was your last major fashion purchase?
KLG: A designer handbag.
GW: A pair of gladiator men's sandals and travel bags.
SC: Three pairs of designer sandals.
What's the worst fashion sin someone could commit?
KLG: Wearing a mink coat in a hot climate. I think Lady Gaga did just that the other day.
GW: It's not good to match accessories with outfits. Even though colour blocking is in, it works on clothes, not with accessories. But the absolute worst thing is the drag queen-like make-up where the eyeshadow is from the eyelid to the eyebrow and three different shades...the blush is loud and the face is over-contoured.
SC: One of the worst things that I've been observing of late, are elegantly dressed ladies with bangles from their wrists to their elbows.
Where will you be when the Jamaica Observer Celebrates Fashion's Night Out (FNO) on Thursday, September 6?
KLG: I will be at Soho Boutique supporting Gregory.
GW: I will be showcasing some sample pieces at Soho for FNO. It's just a taste of what I will be unveiling at my December show in London.
SC: I will be showcasing some of my ready-to-wear pieces at Foot Candy Couture and No. 7 Boutique.
Do you think FNO is still an important calendar event for the industry here?
KLG: Yes, it's very important. It celebrates fashion and the fact that we love fashion just like New York where it started. The fact that one of the next cities that would carry FNO was Kingston, Jamaica says a lot about us. Many people doubted it when it was about to start, but look at it now, it's amazing.
GW: I love FNO because it's like Christmas... people come out and they shop. However, what I would love to see a lot more of is personal style. Everyone inside themselves would love to dress a certain way; I imagine that people would want to look back and say I looked a particular way when I went to shop instead of looking casual. You don't want to drag on a pair of slippers to go and buy a dress or shirt. I would love to see more effort in people dressing up.
SC: I think it's a great thing for our fashion industry here in Jamaica so people can become more exposed to the clothes of local designers because during that time a lot of local designers want to sell their clothes, so Jamaicans have the opportunity to own Brand Jamaica — something that is made here — instead of buying the clothes that come from other countries. It's good for us designers because we can sell our creations.