The fashion industry in Jamaica is bursting with talent and innovation. Many new design companies have been founded during the past few decades, each selling high quality and beautiful clothes and accessories. Simultaneously, several Jamaican models have revolutionized the fashion world. In this post, we will discuss traditional Jamaican dress and detail new innovations in the Jamaican fashion world which have made a tremendous impact internationally. Jamaican models and designers alike are inspired by the natural beauty of Jamaica.
Traditional Jamaican clothing is made from a lightweight, breathable calico fabrics. Clothing is traditionally brightly colored to represent the spirit and vitality of the Jamaican people and the beauty of the natural surroundings. Rastafarian culture influence the colors of traditional Jamaican clothing by inspiring the use of red, green and gold. Because of Jamaica’s laid back culture, the primary function of clothing is to be comfortable. Additionally, due to the strong English influences on Jamaican culture because of the country’s status as a British colony, Jamaican clothing is traditionally very modest. Despite the humid, hot weather, traditional Jamaican clothing covers most of the person’s skin, making it vitally important that the clothing is airy and breathable. Most traditional Jamaican clothing is handmade in villages.[i]
Women usually wear long skirts or dresses. They tie brightly colored headscarves around their heads to keep their hair away from their necks and shoulders in the hot weather. Men traditionally wear lightweight, long or short trousers and a short-sleeved shirt.[ii]
Jamaican Fashion Designers
There are several notable Jamaican fashion designers selling clothing today. Whether based in Jamaica or elsewhere, these designers all draw inspiration from their island roots, creating elegant and stylish yet comfortable and colorful clothing. These designers range from swimwear to menswear and womenswear to jewelry.[iii] Six of these incredible companies are listed here.
1. BaNG! Swimwear
Bang! Swimwear boasts colorful yet elegant swimsuits for women of all body types. These swimsuits are functional without sacrificing style. Their blog offers information about the fashion industry, beauty products and healthy diets. This company was founded by two Jamaican women, Nell and Ann Marie, who now live in London.[iv]
2. The Mushroom
The Mushroom is another swimwear design company which boasts high quality, functional, and stylish swimsuits. These colorful swimsuits are inspired the beauty of Jamaica. The Mushroom offers a selection of styles to appeal to all body types.[v]
3. Spokes Apparel
Spokes Apparel is a line of men’s professional wear inspired by a blend of Jamaican and European influences. Its website explains that their clothing lines can be “described as a fusion of unique Jamaican flair and classic European finish; the result is sophistication with urban styling.”[vi] This line of clothing was established by Dexter Huxtable and is made in Jamaica.
ASD was founded by Ayanna Dixon, a native Jamaican. Dixon began her career as a fashion model signed to Pulse Model Management in Jamaica. She attended the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and the Art Institute of New York. She also interned at Monique Leshman, Donna Karan International, and Marchesa in New York City. Dixon returned to Jamaica after completing her education and started her own clothing line, ASD. Her line of women’s clothes is stylish and unique, featuring swimwear and illustrated, hand printed tee shirts. Tees may be custom ordered. So far, ASD is being sold in three of Jamaica’s top boutiques and Dixon plans to take her designs regionally soon.[vii]
5. Cedella Marley Design
Cedella Marley, daughter of famed reggae musician Bob Marley, launched her own line of clothes in 2001 called Catch a Fire. Her clothing line is named after one of her father’s albums. Her website explains that her clothing line features “tailored, bohemian-chic jackets, jeans, accessories and an assortment of tees for women.” In 2012, Marley launched a design in collaboration with PUMA for the 2012 Jamaican Track and Field Olympic kit. Currently, Marley is designing collections for the Marley family’s apparel company, Zion Rootswear. Marley endeavors to increase international visibility for Jamaican fashion through her designs.[viii]
Rêve is a jewelry and accessory company which sells high quality, handmade, Jamaican inspired pieces. All its products are made in Jamaica. Their website and features outfit inspiration and jewelry care tips. The company sells bracelets, earrings, rings, and necklaces for women and rings for men.[ix]
Notable Jamaican Models
Since the 1980’s several Jamaican models have helped redefine beauty and reshape the fashion industry. These models have achieved international acclaim while remaining grounded in their Jamaican heritage. Five of these important models are listed here.
1. Grace Jones
Grace Jones appeared on the cover of Vogue and ELLE during the 1970’s. She was known for her sleek, exotic looks in Paris.[x] Because of her modeling career, Jones landed several acting roles in films including Conan the Destroyer (1984) and A View to Kill (1985). Jones has also released several albums, including Slave to Rhythm and Island Life.[xi]
2. Stacey McKenzie
Stacey McKenzie was born in Jamaica and moved to Canada as a child. She has appeared in many modeling campaigns, including Vogue (U.S, Italian, British, Korean and Spanish), Harper’s Bazaar, Interview, Verve-girl, Flare, Vibe, Calvin Klein, Jean Paul Gaultier and MAC Cosmetics.[xii] McKenzie also appeared in the film (1997) as the “quirky stewardess”.[xiii] McKenzie joined Canada’s Next Top Model in 2006 as Model Master/Judge.[xiv] She now runs a series of “Walk This Way Workshops” where she encourages inner city youth to “Own You” and “Rule Your Runway” as means to promote life-skill building.[xv]
3. Nadine Willis
The Jamaican modeling agency Pulse signed Nadine Willis in 2003.[xvi] Willis immediately began booking many modeling campaigns with brands such as Gucci, Kenneth Cole, Rimmel, Moschino, and Jaguar.[xvii] In 2008, Willis began her music career and released a single titled “So What” which received local airplay.[xviii] Willis now devotes her time to raising her two daughters.[xix]
4. Robyn Mackintosh
Robyn Mackintosh grew up in Montego Bay but moved to the United States to pursue her career in modeling.[xx] She was cast by Steven Meisel for the cover of the Italian Vogue in 1988.
5. Jeneil Williams
Jeneil Williams won the Caribbean Model search in 2005 and signed with New York Models the following year.[xxii] Since then, she has been on the cover of Teen Vogue, I-D, Harper's Bazaar, ELLE, W, Russian Vogue, Italian Vogue, French Revue Des Modes and Love. Williams is extremely athletic and enjoys working out every day regardless of her schedule.[xxiv] Williams was inducted to the Pulse Hall of Fame in 2013 and continues to have a successful modeling career to this day.[xxv]
The beauty of these designers and models is clearly inspired by the beauty of Jamaica. These models and designers remain rooted in their national heritage and some attempt to increase international attention for the Jamaican fashion world through their success.
Book your escape at Anticipation today to experience the natural beauty of Jamaica which inspires the unique fashion of Jamaica yourself.
[i] Quick, Rhiana. “Traditional Clothing of Jamaica.” leaf. www.leaf.tv https://www.leaf.tv/articles/traditional-clothing-in-jamaica/
[ii] Quick, Rhiana. “Traditional Clothing of Jamaica.” leaf. www.leaf.tv https://www.leaf.tv/articles/traditional-clothing-in-jamaica/
[iii] “22 Fashion Designers You Need to Know About.” diGjamaica.com. http://digjamaica.com/blog/2015/06/09/22-jamaican-fashion-designers-you-need-to-know/
[vii] “About us.” www.asdclothing .com
[x] Okwodu, Janelle. “5 Jamaican Top Models Who Changed the Face of Fashion.” Vouge. www.vouge.com. http://www.vogue.com/article/5-jamaican-models-who-changed-fashion
[xii] “Stacey McKenzie: Biography.” IMDb. www.imdb.com http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0571613/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
[xiii] “Stacey McKenzie: Biography.” IMDb. www.imdb.com http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0571613/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
[xiv] Stacey McKenzie: Biography.” IMDb. www.imdb.com http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0571613/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
[xv] Stacey McKenzie: Biography.” IMDb. www.imdb.com http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0571613/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
[xvi] “Nadine Willis – Ghetto to Gucci.” Jamaica Observer. www.jamaicaobserver.com http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/lifestyle/Ghetto-to-Gucci_7697757
[xvii] “Nadine Willis – Ghetto to Gucci.” Jamaica Observer. www.jamaicaobserver.com http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/lifestyle/Ghetto-to-Gucci_7697757
[xviii] “Nadine Willis – Ghetto to Gucci.” Jamaica Observer. www.jamaicaobserver.com http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/lifestyle/Ghetto-to-Gucci_7697757
[xix] “Nadine Willis – Ghetto to Gucci.” Jamaica Observer. www.jamaicaobserver.com http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/lifestyle/Ghetto-to-Gucci_7697757
[xx] Okwodu, Janelle. “5 Jamaican Top Models Who Changed the Face of Fashion.” Vouge. www.vouge.com. http://www.vogue.com/article/5-jamaican-models-who-changed-fashion
[xxi] Okwodu, Janelle. “5 Jamaican Top Models Who Changed the Face of Fashion.” Vouge. www.vouge.com. http://www.vogue.com/article/5-jamaican-models-who-changed-fashion
[xxii] “Jeniel Williams.” New York Magazine. Nymag.com. http://nymag.com/fashion/models/jwilliams/jeneilwilliams/
[xxii] “10 Things You Didn't Know About Jeneil Williams.” The Gleaner. Jamaica-gleaner.com. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/out/out2.html
[xxiv] “10 Things You Didn't Know About Jeneil Williams.” The Gleaner. Jamaica-gleaner.com. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/out/out2.html
[xxv] “10 Things You Didn't Know About Jeneil Williams.” The Gleaner. Jamaica-gleaner.com. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/out/out2.html