FIGURE OF SPEECH: Cooper addressing the official launch of Caribbean Fashion Week 2015 in Kingston recently.
THIRTY-FIVE and fifteen. This year both of those numbers hold special significance for Kingsley Cooper, as the Pulse empire and Caribbean Fashion Week observe milestones (respectively) that are nothing short of remarkable. But perhaps the most impressive thing of all is how these anniversaries bring into sharp focus the strides that Cooper (and his hardworking staff) have made over the years in shaping the conversation about Caribbean fashion and leading the charge in ushering the industry into a bold new era ― banking on a combination of expertise and pioneering spirit. As the curtains go up on #CFW15 at the National Indoor Sports Centre this week ― and the industry once again takes centrestage ― TALLAWAH chats with the superbusy Cooper about embracing change, fashion’s coming-of-age, and building a brand to stand the test of time.
TALLAWAH: After 15 years of putting on Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW) in Kingston, how does Pulse keep the event fresh and on-trend without compromising on substance?
Kingsley Cooper: Always new ideas, innovation and expansion. New engagements, such as the concept of Total Fashion, for example.
TALLAWAH: As the visionary who brought Pulse to life, what are you most proud of when you hark back to the beginning of the journey compared to where life has now taken you?
K.C.: The effect Pulse has had on creative business development. Whole industries now exist, where there were none before, largely as a result of our work. Many persons involved in certain aspects of creative business, do not even know that they are able to do what they do, because of what we created 35 years ago.
TALLAWAH: When, for you, did modern Caribbean fashion truly come of age?
K.C.: With the establishment of CFW in 2001, especially when the idea fully caught on after the first few years.
TALLAWAH: As a pioneer and leader in your field, how does Kingsley Cooper stay ahead of the competition?
K.C.: Relentless innovation. Originality. No need to wait to copy someone else’s idea.
TALLAWAH: Is the fashion industry doing enough in selling Brand Jamaica to the world?
K.C. :No. There is a lot more ground to cover. Many industry players need support that they do not have, and this is across the board. Private sector partnerships, venture funding and Government support are required. More training, development and business solutions.
TALLAWAH: What are you most looking forward to at #CFW2015?
TALLAWAH: What's left for the Pulse empire to accomplish?
K.C.: So much more expansion of existing projects as well as new projects – film, merchandising, property development and online platforms, to name a few key ones.
TALLAWAH: What makes you hopeful that the best days for the Caribbean fashion industry are yet to come?
K.C.: The natural positive force of nature – going forward, as well as the determination and talent of our people. Also, from our end, Pulse’s commitment to pursuing its ultimate objectives, which include fashion in a major way.
TALLAWAH: What advice do you have for the Kingsley Coopers of tomorrow?
K.C.: Pursue your dream, no matter what.
TALLAWAH: And, finally, who rank among the finest Jamaican designers you've ever encountered?
K.C.: Bad idea to call names. A couple really great ones, a few more who could be great.