London-based luxury fashion consultant David Jones, who has spent decades mentoring some of the world's biggest designers and developing fashion houses — think Matthew Williamson, Karen Millen, and John Galliano — has been scouting in the Caribbean with his PR, branding and design consultant colleague Louise Laurent, in the hopes of finding the next big export for the European fashion market. Hmm little wonder, then, that the two were front row at Caribbean Fashion Week 2012. The dust has now settled and our focus perhaps elsewhere! But what does it take to really make the big time. AW sat down with the experts and now share their impressions. A timely conversation perhaps as we ready ourselves to celebrate 50 years of Independence. Here's Part 1 of of our two-part interview. (Photos: Jermaine Barnaby)
AW: What are the 10 attributes that local designers need in order to make it in the European market?
David Jones (DJ):
* Natural talent for designing.
* A product that can be marketed globally.
* A unique brand marketing strategy.
* Focus on the bigger picture.
* Each design has to be futuristic. Do not try to recreate all you learned in design school.
* A willingness to take the advice of the more experienced designers in the industry.
* Designers must cling to the advice of your mentors.
* You have a good business sense. Remember that the industry is about the business not only talent. It is a means of getting income. Too many designers think that they can survive on mere talent.
* Focus on creating their designs with a clean finish.
* It is important to have a real passion and love for what they do because fashion will take you all over the world. When you leave your country to truly become a designer it can become very lonely, so without a true love for what you are doing you will lose interest quickly. Above all, remembering to breathe.
What are buyers looking for?
DJ: Buyers want a look that will properly represent a brand. Pieces that will create an impact will sell in the UK market. Buyers no longer want individual pieces. Therefore, designers should think about how their design will look in a shop window. They should be succinct. Buyers want pieces that they can get several looks out of.
And the talent you've seen thus far?
DJ: There is enormous talent here in Jamaica. However, as individuals are they ready to handle the bright light? The big stage? I know emerging designers who have shown at London Fashion Week, but they were in the bright light far too early. They didn't receive the level of mentorship to help develop their personal and business skills. So they are not at the zenith of their careers. The creativity is here, but it needs nurturing and formal training.
What are you looking for?
DJ: We're looking for the complete package. A designer that has the creative talent, but has also been trained to develop their talent, and possess the business know-how to make a career from that talent. They must understand that it is a business, and that your personal growth and business must develop simultaneously. We need Caribbean designers who put together a story, five or six pieces that will make up a story. Too much of what we have seen here are individual pieces that don't connect. We need pieces that will stand on their own, yet connect to tell a story.
(Louise Laurent) LL: Each designer must understand that they are their brand and it's a holistic business. There should be a seamless transition between each piece in a collection. It should fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. There was too much "Oh that piece looks great", and then the next piece is a disappointment. Less is more and as such the focus was lacking in most collections.
So who impressed you?
DJ: On Friday night we liked Louise Graham, Raxann Chin, and Kerry Kay. Louise Graham had pieces that could sell on the European market now, but her collection needed some editing. Again there could have been less pieces and more coordination in the collection. I must say she has great potential and the finish on her pieces is impressive.
LL: Kerry Kay's collection was focused on plus-size women. Her pieces told a story, showing individuality, yet connecting with each other. Raxann Chin's collection also had some interesting pieces that with some editing would do well internationally.
DJ: On Saturday night we thought Meiling was superb. Now she has the training, creativity and formal fashion education that will produce excellence. The brand and the presentation were evident and came together perfectly.
Editor's Note: The design discussion continues next week