Wednesday, 25 November 2015

TALKING FASHION: Designer Carlton Brown on growth, creative risks and why Mission Catwalk matters

RUNWAY READY: “I’m always thinking about the next collection, and I wouldn’t mind opening a store,” says Brown. Below, a sampling of his designs, and sharing the scene at the MC season 5 wrap party.

“The work starts now.” That’s the piece of advice Carlton Brown has for the three young male designers who topped the competition on this year’s Mission Catwalk (the All Stars edition), which climaxed with the airing of the final episode on Saturday night on TV-J. Twenty-seven year-old Bahamian rising star David Rolle was announced the winner.

Brown, a judge on the fashion reality series since its inception five years ago, says he expected at least two males (from the crop of 12 contenders) to make it to the grand finale, but he feels all three chaps – Rolle, Trinidad’s Ryan Chan and the Jamaican Renardo Lloyd – earned their places the old-fashioned way: through impressive creative imagination and putting in the long, exhausting hours. “You definitely saw where they improved week after week, so they earned it. And as judges we were all impressed with David’s collection. It was a unanimous decision,” Brown reflects, chatting with TALLAWAH at a Campari-sponsored wrap party at New Kingston’s stylish hot-spot @twentythree on Dominica Drive.

“For me, there has to be growth,” Brown says. “It’s like when I just started out. You evolve by taking risks and learning from the mistakes and the criticism.”

That’s why he believes a competition like Mission Catwalk is not only a terrific launching-pad for our young and emerging design talents; it represents a significant platform for the local and regional fashion industries. “Being a part of the show, what I’m most proud of is the fact that it’s consistent and the producers have been able to keep it going,” he says. “So I have to say big up to Keneea and her team for coming up with the idea and inviting us to be a part of it. It’s time-consuming and it involves a lot of sacrifices for us as judges, but we have a passion for it, a love for it, and we want it to be around for years to come.”
Carlton’s own personal fashion story is just as fascinating. After nearly two decades in the biz, he’s overcome the growing pains to establish himself as a bespoke tailor and an in-demand Jamaican menswear designer with a trusted brand that’s attracted an ever-increasing roster of clients at home and abroad. For Brown, the work never stops. To wit, on the previous night, he unveiled his latest set of menswear looks before a receptive crowd at the MoDA Collections in Kingston. Assembling a host of his celebrity friends (Neville Bell, Jeff Crossley, Kanhai Condison) and top male models to hit the runway, the collection represented Brown’s first in almost ten years.

“I just had a lot of other things doing,” he tells me of his break from the catwalk. “Sometimes it’s best to stop and re-evaluate yourself. Let others come along and then you come back fresh. You have to know what’s best for you at any particular point in time.” 

Sporting one of his sleek crimson-and-black designs (with that close-fitting trademark), Brown waxes optimistic about the future. “I’m always thinking about the next collection, and I wouldn’t mind opening a store,” says the fortysomething creative artist, who stands at about 5’6”. “But when you think about the cost factor in this economy, it’s way cheaper to just have a window in about two or three locations.”

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