This fashion sensibility has been crafted by our idiosyncratic preferences – a novel style perspective and a unique selling point. That is, our expressive ways identify who we are, creatively, and our demonstrable applications define our sense of self, culturally, and both these identity-branding assets influence how we costume/fashion ourselves. Therein, lies the consummate correlation between the Caribbean Aesthetic and the individuality of our style practices and differentiates our fashion imaging vis-a-vis the other trademark brands on the global barometer of style.
This is the melting pot concept of which immigrant societies are made. Here, in the West Indies, there has always existed a ‘magie antillaise’ that cosseted our seductive tourism product and magnetic destination marketing charm, in spite of the vagaries and vicissitudes of a turbulent past, pregnant of ugly injustice, bigotry and corruption and yet this Caribbean space exuded a beauty which impacted the onlooker, positively.
The cultural enthusiast, the anthropological buff and the adventure seeker have all been mesmerized and captivated by the je ne sais quoi appeal of its aura. This esoteric, intangible, and above all, perennial lure presupposed the knowledge of or contact with the Caribbean archipelago and its contiguous, continental extensions. And in keeping with this topographical allure was the joie de vivre of a people whose fortitude coalesced to produce what has now come to be known as one of the most hospitable people in the world, imbued with an island congeniality and overflowing with a tropical warmth which now add to the enchantment of the hemisphere.
This endowment has the magnificent potential to characterize not only how we imagine our design culture but also how we conceptualize our cultural way of life.
It is a question of what we can impart through our natural storytelling capture, in the transmigrant Griot tradition of West Africa, to curate our arts, multi-dimensionally, and with great verisimilitude through our prolific stylists, artists, performers, filmmakers, artisans, imagers and designers. To craft a New World style, in acknowledgment of our vanguard status and frontier posture, is to assume and affirm our style identity – our Caribbean Aesthetic. An identity that engages the international style gurus, who, in turn, flaunt their fondness of our ‘us-ness’ as relevant, requisite, red-hot inspiration. Their predilection attests to our pertinence in shaping the next generation style – the succeeding ‘it’ craze – the world over, particularly in light of the brouhaha surrounding resort wear and leisurewear.
“We live the resort life”, says Meiling. “It’s in our DNA”, quips Anya Ayoung Chee in Haute Caribe , a documentary about the Trinidad and Tobago fashion industry. So, in the final analysis, we wear who we are. We are naturally inclined to dress in what the global style authorities deem as resort-style. In other words, we are proficiently fashionable by nature. We have witnessed a proclivity to rely on fashion influencers of Caribbean stock as if they are blessed with an a priori assumption of what’s hot and what’s not. The likes of St Lucian, Shala Monroque, formerly a Prada muse, Antiguan uber style influencer June Ambrose and Barbadian pop superstar, Rihanna, certainly corroborate a trend-omniscience, a know-it-all style savvy that others desire to follow.
To witness the adulation of Christina Aguillera on the uniqueness of the Jamaican songstress, Tessanne Chin, and her island-accented bravura, as she competed on a world stage, to win Season 5 of NBC’s reality TV singing competition, The Voice, and to be in awe at Anya Ayoung Chee’s Caribbean epicurean spirit as she captivated Nina Garcia and Michael Kors and which led to her earning the top spot on the ninth season of Project Runway, speak volumes for their individualistic, exhibitionistic, alternative perceptibility.
Their footprint attests to the winning formula of the distinctive Caribbean essence and presence. They both paid immeasurable unpretentious homage to the on-the-cusp ‘deity’ of New World style, which unmistakably heralds the Caribbean Aesthetic. The making-a-difference personality and the making-something-from-nothing resilience qualify our flamboyant yet intrinsic “makin’-style” persona, as unbeatable. The unmatched Caribbean aesthetic holds water and has etched a notch on the metaphoric totem pole of indelible universal brands, not alongside the formidable histories of French style, British bespoke, or Italian textiles, but certainly as an evolving game-changer and influencer in the merchandising of the paradisiac resort looks and the romantic leisurewear that are ever-popular and seemingly omnipresent.
Caribbean fashion is more like ‘vernacular in motion’ as I called it. It concentrates its energy on our intrinsic compulsion to display, to parade and to expatiate, or more appropriately emphasized, ‘explashiate‘, in dialect, for the latter connoted the onomatopoeic candour of the carousal, the coquetry and the connoisseurship with regards to presenting our style.
Be it ‘dan dan’, ‘sunday-bes’-an ‘weeka-day-special, dressup, our idiomatic referencing honours our Carnivalesque distinction. Bragadocious in Jamaica, Pompasetting in Barbados, Stush in Antigua, Zanté and Bravé Dangé in Trinidad were all signature titles to explorations in the form of défilés de mode into which I delved to portray the exhibitionism, the showing off and the flaunting of in-your-face style, as a validation of a ‘makin’ style philosophy.
I rationalized that the literal translation ‘to make style’ originated in our socio-linguistic makeup and carried with it an active personification that invigorated our Aesthetic, the corollary of which was the titular Makin’ Style, at Queen’s Hall, in 1998, a three-day fashion extravaganza, featuring Caribbean fashion designers and regional models, to pronounce unapologetically that we have indeed configured a style cachet.
Richard Young’s passion for the Caribbean aesthetic is legendary. He is consumed by an avid preoccupation with our distinctive way of expressing and imaging our uniquely idiosyncratic Caribbean Travel Lifestyle and Aesthetic.
Richard is recognised as one of the leading Creative Directors, copywriters, script crafters, and orators in the Caribbean.