Style Observer

Return Engagement - Editor's Note:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

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Some might think Caribbean Fashion Week doesn't matter. But permit SO to explain to you why the mortifyingly inadequate display that was Pulse's 17th Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW) is both harming the brand of Jamaica and destroying an incredible opportunity for us to develop our tourism sector and economy. By not investing in the fashion industry, and in a decent fashion week, Jamaica is self-sabotaging. We are missing an epic opportunity for earning revenue and for developing our island as the international cultural hub it has the potential to be. CFW could be leveraged as a marketing tool for our entire country's image. But just like the one too many cheap-looking, ill-fitting clothes that were on the runway, we are coming apart at the seams.

When your brand is based on “being cool”, such as the Jamaican brand is, it is critical to brand maintenance that you are putting out quality content, no matter your sector. This is especially true if you are inviting the international press. Thankfully, few foreign press members were there to witness the disaster site that was last week's CFW. Where to begin? Not every designer was CFW-worthy perhaps? The horribly cut clothes or the incoherent collections? Was it the hours that patrons were kept waiting? Should Biggy's collection have been edited? Ought he to have closed? Perhaps it was the fact that people got robbed on their way back to their cars. At least that part we might be able to market as an “authentic cultural experience”.

Before we go much further, there were exceptions. The Vessel by Lois Samuels was exceptional. Jewellery designer Matthew Harris for Mateo New York sparkled. Trinbagonian designer Meiling Esau's line Meiling brought high-quality Caribbean wears. drennaLUNA and Rogue by Jeneil Williams were promising. But the question is: will these designers ever come back after such a disorganised and unprofessional event? We applaud the organisers that someone is attempting to put an event like this together, but perhaps it is time to take this design back to the drawing board.

The potential of a Caribbean Fashion Week is a no-brainer. Any fashion editor who gets an invitation to go to Jamaica is going to want to say YES. The name Jamaica sells itself, and yet we are selling ourselves short. We could have the international best of the best, the influencers, the businessmen, the industry experts at our door.

Through fashion week we could be developing a sector of the tourism industry that attracts a different set. We could be attracting the kind of creative individuals who would come to exchange ideas and take the fashion narrative to a higher level. We could have them exposing our designers and our models while in turn we could be showcasing our beautiful country to them. We could be harvesting their dollars as well as their ideas. Instead, we have terrible hemlines and robbery.

Let's be clear — the multibillion-dollar fashion industry isn't frou-frou. The clothes you might mock as silly fashion both reflect and dictate culture while simultaneously managing to employ millions of people worldwide. Fashion is a cash crop that we should be investing in. Playing on our “cool” brand we could be further developing ourselves as the epicentre of culture and style, while attracting tourist dollars and foreign investment in the process. But the spine of any fashion industry is a worthwhile fashion week. And we need one that worthily depicts the innate style that Jamaicans are genetically imprinted with.

Truly, why wouldn't Jamaica want to put itself at the forefront of the premier culture-creating, income-earning industry? The current state of CFW is not only letting this slip through the cracks, but it is also mortifying the brand of Jamaica. It's time to send this piece to a tailor and demand a better fit.

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