Monday, 19 November 2018

STYLE & SUBSTANCE: Local design talents urged to take the business of fashion more seriously

STRONG FINISH: Judges inspect the creations at Mission Catwalk's recent season finale runway show.

WHAT is Jamaican fashion? How is it defined? How is the industry being run? For local fashion-industry players to experience the kind of success they say is woefully absent, certain fundamentals have to be addressed. That was the consensus emerging from ‘Fashion and the Creative Economy,’ the second industry forum put on by Designers Guild of Jamaica, hosted by the University of Technology, last Sunday.

“We need to properly map it out as an industry. It’s not just about fashion design and selling stylish clothes. We’re struggling to put together all those components that make up an ‘industry’,” argued Valerie Veira, CEO of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), who was part of a seven-member panel. “The business aspect needs to be taken more seriously. We need to pay attention to building up the development aspect of fashion. So, at JBDC we are now actively working to see how we can build back the fundamentals because right now there are many gaps.”

Style Observer editor Novia McDonald-Whyte agrees. “Here’s the reality. We have to take ourselves seriously. We have to take our work seriously. Nobody else will. We have a lot of catching up to do,” she told the gathering. “We have to be serious about what we do. The designers have to take what they do seriously to get the kind of recognition they want. Which of our local designers is dressing Usain Bolt, Sean Paul and Spice, who broke down the internet the other day?”

International Jamaican-born designer Matthew Harris of Mateo New York expressed similar sentiments. “Once we begin to define what is Jamaican fashion and refine it, then we will be able to open it up to international markets. How do we package our brands as designers to attract international attention?” he noted.

This is Robert Scott’s area of expertise. “The first thing we have to do is define what is Jamaican fashion. A lot of what is happening is very fragmented. So an entity like the Guild is very important,” said the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association director. “All stakeholders need to come around the table and decide what the next move is, because ultimately to be successful in fashion you have to export. We need to work it out in a very strategic way. But starting with this forum, I do believe the Guild is on the right track.”

Contributions also came from the EU’s Malgorzata Wasilewska (who spoke of possible economic partnerships between locals and Europeans), the British Council’s Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick and Guild founder Keneea Linton-George, who raised the issue of proper education for tailors and seamstresses and the critical role of institutions like the HEART Trust/NTA in this regard.

The Designers Guild is a professional non-profit organization representing established and emerging designers, with the objective of playing a key role in guiding them towards tangible value and sustainable growth.

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