From MoBay to Buckingham Palace Brand Jamaica is in demand

Sunday, February 25, 2018

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From the creamy sands of Sandals MoBay where Justin Beiber was spotted tickling the ivories after standing as best man for his father Jeremy who wed his longtime companion Chelsey Rebelo, to Silent Waters where the opulent affair handled by Tai Flora Luxe actually took place, to the cashmere-chic Round Hill where Ralph Lauren gave the world an exclusive peek into his love affair with the island and where, Harry made public his love for Meghan, Brand Jamaica is sizzling. I mean, who does the Maldives when a chopper puts you in kissing distance of Sandals multimillion-dollar over-the-water bungalows?

Selena and JB aside #Beliebers everywhere had their eyes glued to his movements. We too, checked the blogs and IG and we're sure the young influencers' visit will inspire others to come experience our brand of sun, sand and sea.

From the warmth of our shores, however, to the frigid climes of London — albeit The Queen's State Rooms of Buckingham Palace — Jamaican designer Arlene Martin for drennaLUNA invite in hand was whisked through the Palace Gates on Monday, February, 19 where she officially became a member of an elite cabal of fashion designers. Her broad, engaging smile spoke volumes. “To me it was like representing the country as any ambassador in an area, such as sports. It was very humbling to be selected, however, it also felt rewarding to be recognised and selected based on my previous work and continued dedication and hard work. I am also looking forward to any opportunities that may arise for designers from the region — individually or as a group and will be working towards facilitating this,” she shared with SO . Indeed, as she explained: a core element of the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange is sustainability. Also important was the use of cultural and ethnic craft and art and hence the inclusion of artisans — these could be techniques, fabric or trim.

“I was inspired by the creativity of the Jamaican people — 'tun yuh han' mek fashion'. The jacket and bodice of the dress were created using strips of waste fabric individually sewn to create a fabric from which the garments were made,” Martin revealed.

“It is important to maintain uniqueness, and therefore, I usually use fabric manipulation rather than specialty fabric — which anyone may access from a store or supplier.

“I used fabric manipulation for the skirt of the dress as well. Each flower is made from several cuts of fabric and each is individually applied.

In the fashion/garment construction industry there is a lot of waste fabric from cutting. The use of these is an area for exploration for an industry becoming more concerned about sustainability, ethics and the environment.”

There is a lot at stake and Martin, who speaks highly of Trinbagonian womenswear designer Meiling, is eager for the dominant players of the region to hold hands and become a force to be reckoned with. It might be our only solution.

The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange — The Commonwealth — came together for the first time to showcase a wealth of design and artisan fashion talent across its 52 countries. Selected design talent include major names such as Karen Walker representing New Zealand, Bibi Russell representing Bangladesh and Burberry and Stella McCartney representing the UK.

Participating designers and artisans will collectively represent all 52 Commonwealth member countries in a major new initiative ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London this April. The 'looks' created through the Fashion Exchange were showcased at a special reception at Buckingham Palace during London Fashion Week.

The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange is an ambitious project with long-term aims that are being developed in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and, which will launch an edited collection in September this year.

The Right Honourable Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, said: “The modern Commonwealth is young and creative. It represents a third of the world's population, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 30. So fashion, alongside music and sport, represents a powerful common language and platform through which to influence young people around key issues. The Fashion Exchange has collaboration and partnership at its heart, forging new networks and making the Commonwealth Summit themes of prosperity, sustainability and fairness very real and tangible.”

Nadja Swarovski, member of the Swarovski executive board, said: “We are honoured to support Eco Age and the Commonwealth with this ambitious initiative, which unites an incredibly diverse group of designers and artisans to champion values that are so important to us at Swarovski: creativity, craftsmanship and sustainability. We are pleased that our support has enabled the artisans to join the Nest Guild, helping them to build a sustainable business and preserve their craft for generations to come.”

Stuart McCullough, managing director of The Woolmark Company, said: “As a company owned by Australian woolgrowers, The Woolmark Company is very proud to be supporting this important project. Australian wool is a natural, biodegradable and renewable fibre lovingly cultivated by generations of Australian woolgrowers who care for their sheep and work tirelessly to protect and conserve the extensive pastures on which their flocks graze. This premium fibre continues to be an important ingredient in the global fashion industry. It is therefore exciting to work with Eco-Age to make sure the GCC sustainability principles are woven across the entire collections and to see so much of our natural fibre, wool, being used.”

Ulric Jerome, CEO of, said: “The most resilient and sustainable supply chains in fashion are based on collaboration and, fundamentally, that is what we are seeing created by The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange. We are delighted to be the chosen digital and retail partner for this exciting initiative.”

Livia Firth, founder and creative director of Eco-Age, says: “This is a project rich in partnerships and creative co-design. For example, one of our very talented designers from India is paired with an artisan group in Tuvalu. As someone who is passionate about joining the threads of global fashion and creating real partnerships you can imagine how exciting it is for us to be involved.”

The project is particularly timely as a global wave of interest in handmade products and authentic luxury causes a reassessment of the artisan fashion trades. In this way, The Fashion Exchange brings the values of the modern-day Commonwealth — women's empowerment, ethical production and supply chains, innovation, economic growth and poverty reduction — to life through the globally appealing medium of fashion.

The initial looks were celebrated during London Fashion Week at a reception at Buckingham Palace on February 19th, before moving to a public exhibition at Australia House on February 21st, and other locations in London where the exhibition will be open to the public in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, April 2018.

Through unique digital partnerships with and Google Arts & Culture, those who were not able to make it to the London showcase and exhibitions in person, will be able to engage with The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange via online platforms. The online platforms will provide deep insights into each designer and artisan producer, providing a compelling educational resource and living directory of artisans and designers from the 52 countries.

The project, created and managed by Eco-Age, saw the support of The Commonwealth Fashion Council and The British Fashion Council.

Daniel Hatton, CEO & Founder of The Commonwealth Fashion Council, said: “The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange is the beautiful result of cultures coming together. This project has provided a common sustainable ground which broadens networks and allows for the discovery of new friendships and processes, which enriches creativity.”

We the Caribbean need to elevate our own narrative around design and manufacturing. The hit-and-miss fashion shows, the labelling of those barely able to thread a needle as designers of note must stop. Indeed the sponsorship of shows that are not at a globally acceptable level must immediately cease and desist.

Sun, sea, Bieber and note-worthy designs can add billions to the bottom line. There's a shift at the Palace. Indeed, the Queen attended her very first London Fashion Week las week. TRH The Duchess of Cambridge and The Countess of Wessex were both in attendance as were British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, supermodel Naomi Cambell and Hamish Bolwes. who curated the Looks. The buzzwords are collaboration, sustainability, ethics and the environment. Are we ready? It matters not! The Commonwealth is, and we will be left behind — think missed opportunity if we are not!.

Kudos to those from the region whose names we know like Meiling and Theodore Elyett from The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, who has not looked back since Mission Catwalk.

There are no words for Arlene Martin, who has quietly stitched her way to the Palace with grace and humility. Let us hope she will be allowed a hand in repositioning the design industry.




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