Abenah Adelaide via Threadbare
Last week I was invited to Jamaica High Commission for the opening reception of Threadbare, Jamaica’s contribution to International Fashion Showcase 2014 during London Fashion Week.
International Fashion Showcase organised by the British Fashion Council sees London based representatives of countries around the world host receptions and exhibitions showcasing their homegrown talent. It has become the highlight of ComplexdWoman’s fashion week explore and allows us to connect with international designers and the creative diaspora in multicultural London.
For emerging designers in countries with a budding fashion industry, coming to London and showcasing their work during London Fashion Week are ‘such stuff that dreams are made of’. When organisations pool their resources together to arrange for the necessary backing, it provides them with the opportunity to engage with the European fashion market and its consumers.
Jamaica Business Development Corporation, who continues to explore opportunities to expose young Jamaican business owners teamed up with British Fashion Council and received much needed sponsorship from Jamaica Tourist Board, Tourism Enhancement Fund and British Airways to bring five emerging designers to London.
miSim via Threadbare
With bags of encouragement from the host, High Commissioner Her Excellency Aloun NDombet-Assamba, the Jamaican diaspora turned up on a windy work night and applauded every single garment presented by Ayanna Dixon of ASD Clothing, Simone Nielson of miSim, Abenah Gonzalez of Abenah Adelaide, Dexter Huxtable of Spokes Apparel and Claire Requa of Clairely Up cycled Jewelry.
‘I am grateful to have been chosen to not only represent Jamaica, but to have been given this global platform to show my work’ – Claire Requa
After being serenaded, by the sweet sounds of British Jamaican reggae songstress JC Lodge, we were invited by the high commissioner to party as long as we liked and ‘get all right’ before heading back into the cold.
ASD Clothing via Threadbare
I love nothing more than adding to my wish list of made to measure pieces so I’m always on the lookout for fresh labels and self-taught talent. The high-waisted African print skirt from Abenah Adelaide is at the top of my list and I can see myself decked out in pieces by miSim and ASD while lounging in the islands.
I had a quick follow-up with the designers of my top three collections to find out if their trip to London was as rewarding as they’d imagined.
Abenah Adelaide Gonzalez – Abenah Adelaide
Abenah Adelaide Gonzalez is the daughter of renowned Caribbean artist Christopher Gonzalez. After being exposed to the vivid use of colour in her fathers work, she channels her bold creative energy into song, dance and designing.
Abenah studied Fashion Design and Textile Art at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. She launched her Afrocentric label Abenah Adelaide in 2012, a brand of handmade jewelry, clothing and textiles.
‘I loved London; I loved the architecture, the landscaping and the importance of the fashion industry to the city. The entire trip has certainly been educational and stimulating. Especially being exposed to so many branches of the fashion tree. Fashion is a global industry and the trip has pushed me to think differently as a designer because of the live and direct experience of London Fashion Week.
Showing my collection at International Fashion Showcase parallel to London Fashion Week was an amazing experience, which has allowed me to think differently about multiple things, and strengthened my theoretical and practical understanding of appealing to international markets.
I have been getting great feedback on my designs and the entire experience has left an incredibly positive mark on me. This is definitely a stepping-stone for me to do even greater things. I have learned more about the business of fashion and how important it is to research and plan everything when it comes to my brand. I think research and planning are key elements to succeeding in the trade and lots of the workshops and talks we attended reiterated this. I also learnt how to present myself better to clients and what works best for the development of my brand’
Ayanna Dixon – ASD Clothing
Ayanna Dixon trained at Edna Manley College in Jamaica before leaving to study at the Art Institute of New York. She interned with Donna Karan International, Monique Leshman and Marchesa and returned to Jamaica in 2010 to start her label ASD clothing.
Ayanna was the runner up of the Caribbean’s first reality TV fashion contest Mission Catwalk and recently won the inaugural First Global Bank Fashion Grant after showing her collection at The Collection Moda fashion showcase in 2013.
‘I was so excited and happy when I found out I was going to London. It was really inspiring to visit shops like Zara and H&M, which are strong examples of the vision I have for ASD Clothing. I want to grow on an international scale and design for the mass market. I have big goals, but I’m taking baby steps and looking at branching out across the Caribbean first by opening my own store. In London I’ve learnt that to be successful in this field one has to be passionate and persistent, the speakers at all our workshops told us about the times when things didn’t work out and many reasons why they nearly gave up, but they all believed in their dreams and pulled through to have successful businesses’
Simone Michelle Neilson – miSim
At just 22 years of age, Simone is the self-taught designer behind fashion label miSim. The miSim brand is designed to allow the wearer to express herself in style and comfort with elements of luxury. In 2012 she was the first fashion creative to win Heineken Be Inspired, a competition geared towards unearthing exceptional talent in film, art, music and fashion. She has shown her collection at Tobago Fashion Weekend and several pre-show events for Caribbean Fashion Week.
‘I was absolutely elated to hear I was even considered for the opportunity to show my work in London. For me this is a huge deal and a completely different market than that at home and across the Caribbean region.
I started my label with hand-painted tote bags and up-cycled jeans and now I’m designing gowns and resort wear. It’s hard to believe that I’ve made it all the way to the International Fashion Showcase in London. My aim is to build on what I’ve learnt in London and develop the finish and image of my product. In the future I hope to move into larger scale production so I can stock my designs in hotels across the Caribbean. I also hope to launch my Michelle Manor Home Décor range.
On the design side London has allowed me to appreciate minimalist design, simplicity and luxury. On the business side the words perseverance and persistence came up a lot in our workshops. It showed me that you have to keep pushing even when critics push you down and use every opportunity you get wisely and positively’
Photographs by Keneshia Nooks