Style & Vibes: Caribbean Fashion Ruling the Runway from Yard to NY

Words by Mikelah Rose

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Summer wardrobe is nothing without a little Caribbean inspiration! As the season is starting, Caribbean designers will be flocking to the runway in the Caribbean and its diaspora next week. Caribbean Fashion Week begins June 8 (and runs through the 13th) at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston, Jamaica. Meanwhile, Caribbean International Fashion Week, a one-day showcase in New York City, will also be held June 8, at Manhattan’s Arena Gallery. With a growing number of Caribbean designers and more on the rise, these shows will tell the world that the regionโ€™s fashion is not just about straw hats, Rasta colors and Bob Marley T-shirts.

Caribbean Fashion Week has become the stamp of approval for upcoming Caribbean designers and models. Organized by Pulse Model Agencyโ€™s parent company Pulse Investments–the agency which discovered super models Jaunel McKenzie, Jeneil Williams and Oraine Barrett–Caribbean Fashion Week is entering its 11th year showcasing the regionโ€™s designer collections. The highly rated fashion showcase, of which celebrities like Nia Long, Eve and Kelly Rowland have been seen front row, features some of the best designers from the Caribbean and abroad. The five-day extravaganza is where Caribbean celebrities, boutique buyers, editors, photographers and fashionistas from across the region and diaspora look to see what’s new from the region. Showing collections from across the Caribbean, from Haiti to St. Lucia and Guadeloupe, and a few international design houses, Caribbean Fashion Week has become a staple for designers like Claudia Pegus, Gavin Douglas, Francis Hendy and Biggy, and newcomers like Jae Jolly and Mikaja Laijah.

Where there is fashion there will be music: the two go together like rice and peas. Caribbean Fashion Week hosts a slew of stars each night following the designer collection viewing. This year, live performances are scheduled from reggae/dancehall acts Beenie Man, Mavado, Tanya Stephens, soca artists Machel Montano and David Rudder, and R&B singer Joe.

Although fashions from the Caribbean have been showcased elsewhere in the US, the inaugural Caribbean International Fashion Week, an event organized in association with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, is poised to set the standard on how Caribbean fashion is viewed in the diaspora. June is Caribbean American Heritage Month in the US, and the CIFW is looking to create a lasting brand image of Caribbean designers and continue building on the creativity of Caribbean fashion brands. The showcase will feature designer collections spanning numerous islands including Queen Esther/Kuumba Designs (St Lucia), Theodore Elyett (Bahamas), Jewel Shannon (Barbados), Rebecca Beck (Curacao), Charles Dieujuste (Haiti), Lucia Rodriguez (Dominican Republic), Simon Duncan (Trinidad) and Ron & Ron (Haiti).

Both Caribbean Fashion Week and Caribbean International Fashion Week are a way for designers to showcase their collection and make a name for themselves in both the islands and international markets. Make sure you check back for additional post coverage of both shows here at LargeUp.

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