Style Week came to a close last Sunday night on Knutsford Boulevard where models paraded down the elevated runway in sixteen different collections for onlookers to admire. Saint International’s Fashion Block has been a strong force for years because of its success as a community-inclusive event, where persons can hang out in the streets and experience the fashion for free. While Saturday night’s show has always been an exclusive event, it’s really where spectators can get closer to the designs, and at this year’s event, entitled International Mecca of Style and held at the Mercedes Benz Showroom, we were close enough that we could almost touch the pieces.
This years production by Saint International was very clean and modern, utilizing sleek Mercedes Benz sedans to transport guests and redesigning the showroom as an intimate space for all to be engaged with the designer’s collections. It has the crispness that is Mercedes Benz fashion week in New York, with the intimacy of an up-and-comers event in SOHO or Brooklyn (which we often prefer.) Saint showed eight designers Saturday–half of Sunday’s schedule– and it was a relief to see that they edited it down for Saturday’s more intimate setting. Of the eight designers, six of them were local Jamaicans, ranging from the fresh new student straight from school at Edna Manley, to the more seasoned designer such as Neah Lis.
The event began with bridal looks from Pebbles King whose collection concentrated on floor length gowns in whites and blues, utilizing chiffon and lace to create texture and volume. The first look in the collection threw us off a bit because it was very similar to a design from another local’s collection, Lubica Slovak’s Beyond Collection, in which she used the transparency of lace in both a plunging neckline and scoop neck with a floor length white skirt. Perhaps Pebbles King’s strongest look was from a very chic, fitted sleeveless gown with a peplum at the breast and a voluminous fishtail. Where the designer fell short was in the rough chiffons and at at times, even rougher tailoring.
Edna Manley student Tonia Samuels showed her collection of flowing fabrics in yellows, peaches, and whites with whimsical flaps and flirty trains on skirt ends. Samuels’ attention to tailoring was that of a student perfecting her craft, very intent on being precise and using modern ways to show form and volume in her silhouettes. The collection was simple, but on trend. With access to slightly better fabric quality, Samuels could accelerate quickly.
Designer Kurt Campbell’s was likely the strongest collection from Saturday night coming from a local designer. The young designer created fresh looks that were both street and polish. He used funky retro trends, floral arrangements on hems, a gold velvet corduroy drop crotch for menswear, leather dresses with Doc Martens and top hats with circular framed sunglasses, pleather detailing and–one of the biggest trends for summer– mesh. He paired the looks with bucket bags in speckled fabrics with pleather bottoms.
Mission Catwalk designer Keshon Hawthorne took to the runway with a red and black theme, using fantastical hats, cat prints and layers of frills. Victorian era style was key to his collection, creating bibbed dress and loads of frills on skirts with the occasional preppy chic look. One of the most interesting pieces was his final look in brown with red piping but it appeared the dress was not finished as staples ran down the back where the zipper fell short.
Designer Andre Shirley showed a very clean collection of maxi dresses in simple floral prints and long sleeve bodycon silhouettes. He added a touch of sexiness with drop backs and lace detailing. His men’s collection was modern with floral pants for men in creme paisley, blue-pink patterns and polka dots. All together, his was a very well executed and sophisticated collection with an attention to detail and assertion of clean lines.
Local designer Neah Lis has been in the game for a while and took a moment to extend her thanks to Jamaica Observer Editor Novia Whyte McDonald and Saint International CEO Deiwght Peters, who helped her in her rise as a designer. Neah Lis’ was an expansive collection of maxi gowns, peacock prints and white chiffon, multi-colour cheetah prints and peek-a-boo belly skin. She focused on long form-fitting silhouettes and loose maxi dresses with plunging necklines. A seasoned designer, Neah Lis would serve to abbreviate the collection and focus on tailoring as one accordion pleat, white dress looked as if the seam was rushed and threw off the shape of the back of the dress.
Saint International finished the show on Saturday with presentations from international designers. New York designer Donovan Depass, whose tailoring and materials were precise, played with the use of mesh in his collection, watercolor prints in yellow, vinyl and long skirts with mini trains. The designer from Paris, Kevin O’Brian closed the show with a theory collection in which he used the every day (materials) to create unexpected fashion luxury. Perhaps his most creative was the dress composed of red sun hats or the movement of the dresses pinned from colourful kitchen rugs.
At the close of Style Week’s Saturday night show, watching designers from Paris and New York walk their creations down the runway, it became clear that Jamaica is not lacking in creative talent but rather the resources to complete their tasks. The event in itself was finely curated in the pristine white Mercedes Benz showroom, but the designs of Jamaican designers were often lacking in fabrics and tailoring that are necessary to reach the quality of their foreign counterparts. In this industry who loves to discuss fashion and “who’s next” and sends beautiful models down the runway in Paris, New York and Milan, why is it that the issue we see and hear so often from designers is how they can’t find decent tailoring or fabrics? Perhaps fashion week is excelling past the designers thanks to an onslaught of sponsorships, where funds could be so rightly allocated to these designers trying to break out into an international market. After all, isn’t that what fashion week is for?