Style & Vibes: Five Caribbean Designers You Should Know

May 20, 2011

Words by Mikelah Rose

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Welcome to the first edition of our new fashion column, Style & Vibes. Every Friday, style blogger Mikelah Rose will bring you up to date on the world of Caribbean fashion, from the dancehall to the runway. Be sure to check out her website Style & Vibes, where she covers clothes, music and more daily.

The Caribbean and its diaspora have quite a few talented designers. While most received their education outside of the Caribbean, they have used their heritage as launching pads for designing high fashion pieces, and taken what they learned back to the islands. The Caribbean is home to some of the most fashion-forward trends, especially when it comes to vibrant designs and bold colors, but these five are stepping outside of the box, making savvy moves that upcoming designers around the world can take notes from.

The Iconic Style Maven: Meiling

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Destined for fashion from the tender age of nine, Meiling Esau’s contribution to the Caribbean fashion industry spans beyond designing clothes. Where there were little resources for fashion in the Caribbean, Meiling was determined to be successful. She left her home of Trinidad to attend the Lucie Clayton School of Design in England in the 1960s but later returned to open her own boutique. In her designs, Meiling opts for the demure, clean-lined, perfectly crafted statement pieces. With an occasional splash of color, she uses lightweight fabrics and accentuates feminine lines. Known for quality, Meiling’s pieces last overtime and make great investment pieces. Through the years Meiling has custom designed carnival costumes, pageant dresses and has collaborated with local and international brands in developing uniforms. She not only designs her line, but is also a key advocate for developing fashion talent in the Caribbean. She serves on the Board of The Fashion Association of Trinidad and Tobago and most recently developed a model boot camp for upcoming models and has nurtured countless fashion related causes in the Caribbean. The highly coveted designer has also written Meiling: Fashion Designer, a book that showcases her journey, which serves as a great reference to young designers.

The Style Trendsetter: Lubica
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Lubica was born in Slovakia, studied fashion design at the Ryerson University in Toronto and is now based in Jamaica. Her ability to create sexy silhouettes, mix patterns and use color blocking (before it became the 2011 Spring trend) with a feminine touch make her pieces—form-fitting dresses with elaborate details, playful rompers and bold patterned shorts—stand out. Not only does she have a ready-to-wear line, but she also designs swimwear and accessories. Having showcased her talent throughout the Caribbean and Canada, Lubica recently collaborated reggae/dancehall songstress Tami Chynn to create an extension of her line entitled Anuna, to which the collaboration earned her Designer of the Year Award at the Observer Style Awards 2010. Her designs are sold at Kerry manwomanhome in Jamaica, KOD in Guadeloupe and in select boutiques Toronto, Canada.

The Young Visionary: Charles Corvsky Dieujuste
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Haitian designer Charles Corvsky Dieujuste is definitely one to watch. He’s a young fashion visionary with a keen sense for women’s clothing, and creatively accentuates those aesthetics. Elegant and romantic, you’ll definitely see his designs on the red carpet of the Oscars soon. Nurturing his craft for design at a young age, he’d frequent the showroom of his aunt, who was a seamstress, where he learned about sewing and textiles. Based in New York City, he’s worked for a contemporary designer and studied fashion marketing prior to launching his own Signature label of evening gowns, cocktail dresses and other formal wear for women. Creatively, his designs have great potential and have garnered a lot of buzz amongst style mavens.

The International Design Maverick: Gavin Douglas

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Gavin Douglas is a highly-rated, London-based designer who makes what I like to call wearable couture. Douglas allows ladies to be fun, fearless and high fashion without the fuss! Launching his label in 2004, winning the Avant-Garde Designer of the Year award the same year, Gavin Douglas solidified his place in fashion with phenomenally extravagant pieces crafted with high attention to details. The award-winning designer has caught the eye of industry heavyweights such as Tom Ford and as well as celebrities like Kelly Roland and Estelle. The young designer of Jamaican parentage has showcased at countless Caribbean Fashion Week presentations, debuting his first collection in the Caribbean in 2005 and winning the Caribbean Master Designer Award in 2008. Most recently, Gavin was named one of the UK’s 50 Most Influential Black Role Models and featured in the book 100 New Fashion Designers by Hywel Davies. Additionally, his designs have graced the pages of Elle, Vogue and Zink magazines.

Leaders of the New School: RepJA

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In a few short years RepJA has become one of the most coveted designers for Dancehall lovers. Creating both men’s and women’s graphic tees. RepJA clothing blends American streetwear influences with the nuances of Jamaica’s thriving mix of music, language, reggae dances and culture. They creatively take popular dancehall slang and craft quality streetwear at affordable prices. They’ve made custom designs for artists in hiphop (Kardinal Offishall) and dancehall (Lady Saw, Gyptian, Mr. Vegas) along with popular dancers (Ding Dong) and dance crews. Their clothes have been featured in countless videos, and seen on a number of DJs, VJs and artists. Based in the US, their popularity has grown over the last few years internationally, crossing genres as Wiz Khalifa recently donned RepJA’s Gully tee on the cover of Complex Magazine earlier this year. Talk about crossover appeal.