Threadbare Jamaica 

Threadbare JamaicaAbenah Adelaide via Threadbare

Dear Readers,

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.

British Fashion Council

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.

mssimimiSim 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.

threadbareASD 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 4

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.


She says…

‘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.


She says…

‘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

Misim 1

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.

Misim Launch

She says…

‘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

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via londonfashionweek

Dear Readers,

As London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2014 drew to a close yesterday I’m feeling reflective about the lack of curves on the catwalk. This is not a post about ‘curves, equals real women’, because at ComplexdWoman we celebrate women of all shades shapes and sizes. But, much like replaying your favourite song and eating your favourite dish to often, the repetitiveness puts you off.

This is a reflective piece about the importance of diversity and the beauty in variety. There is nothing like the subtle sensuality of a garment clinging to the curves on a woman and there is nothing like the era of the buoyant Supermodel who was just as important as the designs. So why be subjected season after season to stony-faced iron board bodies smart-phone snapped by stony-faced fashion followers.


via londonfashionweek

I am a viewer who admires the whole picture from the designs to model and production to atmosphere and quite frankly the courtyard of Somerset House has become more exciting than the catwalk and I sift through street snaps instead of style.com

Desperate to find out where all the models with curves have been hiding I headed down to Models1 headquaters to speak to Nicole Sinclair, Head Booker of the Curve division. I had a brief round table discussion with her models who in general are keen to inform young women that you can forge a successful career in the modeling industry and keep your curves.


Name: Nicole Sinclair
Age: 26
Occupation: Head Booker Curve Division at Models1
Background: British/Jamaican

I was headhunted by Karen Diamond the director of Models1, Europe’s largest modeling agency. The opportunity came about after running a successful modeling competition with UK plus size fashion retailer Evans and Models1.


Nienke Van Der Peet based in London from the Netherlands 

I took on the role of head booker in July 2012 and the first thing I did was change the name from Plus Size to Curve. I’ve never liked the industry term plus size which often encourages preconceived ideas about our top caliber models. In the industry when someone utters the words ‘plus size’, there is this image of a ginormous figure when in fact the girls on our books just have natural feminine curves.  I cannot tell you the amount of times I have presented clients with the portfolios of our girls and they react shocked by their poise and professionalism.


Philomena Kwao – British Ghanaian 

I always go out of my way to introduce my models to clients who don’t usually consider curvier models and most of the time it results in a booking. Philomena Kwao is my biggest success story to date because she has really broken down barriers. She entered the Evans competition and has signed with FORD models in New York. FORD doesn’t even have a curvy division, which is a positive sign the doors can be opened.


Emily Keller based in London from Australia 

There are fashion weeks specifically for curvy models, but I want my models to be a part of the main event in the industry, to be seen at London Fashion Week and get the exposure they deserve. Curvier models get the majority of their bookings from commercial clients so my aim is to crack the luxury fashion clients.


Rose Concencion – British Ghanaian

Call me ambitious, but that’s the kind of person I am. I get a complete buzz from this role because each day is a challenge. A challenge to change the perception of some of our clients, book my girls on reputable jobs and continue to build strong relationships. If you want to be a model booker you need passion, drive and enthusiasm and the willingness to commit to obscure working hours.

Say No to Stoney faces!

Photographs by Henry Robinson 


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pure grenada

Dear Readers,

Grenada is the love of my life and the place that makes it possible for me to find the impetus to create. So imagine my anticipation when my love unveiled its new brand identity at the Ministry of Tourism’s office in Grenada on Valentines Day.

Positioning the island as ‘off the beaten track’ and a haven for the discerning explorer, our tri-island state fondly referred to as ‘the island of spice’ for many years, will now come to be known as PURE GRENADA – a word voiced by a child at Father Mulligan Home for Boys to express his home country.

The new logo stays true to the islands national symbol, production of nutmeg and mace and reflects Grenada’s deep Amerindian roots and ancestral heritage. The tagline Free To Wonder encourages visitors to bask in unspoilt treasures like Levera Beach and discover hidden waterfalls like Acoin and Adelphi.

I caught up exclusively with Honorable Alexandra Otway-Noel, Grenada’s newly appointed Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture at The Dorchester in London. She has been the driving force behind the rebrand to reposition the country as a major tourism destination and has done so with a dedicated team.

Alexandra Otway Noel

Name: Honorable Alexandra Otway-Noel
Place of birth: Toronto
Current residence: Grenada
Occupation: Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture  
Growing up in Grenada was pure freedom. I spent my childhood playing in plum trees and my youthful years sailing and venturing to waterfalls. We didn’t have the technology kids have today so we used our imagination. 

I left home at 17 and travelled to Canada to study Art. I jumped right into it, got myself a part-time job, earned money, brought nice shoes and focused on forging my own path. It was my opportunity to experience different things, meet people from a diverse range of backgrounds and just get stuck in with city life. Whenever I felt homesick there was always an auntie I could go by for my Oil Down (Grenada’s national dish). After taking a broader approach to my creative interests, I decided to specialise in advertising, marketing and public relations. I got an early start in the travel and tourism industry right after graduating and I’ve never left the industry since.


If you told me five years ago I was going to be a politician I would have laughed hysterically, but becoming Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture was a natural transition. I’ve always been involved in community projects, charitable organisations, carnival and social events. In my view politics is about people. I’m not a politician who wants to sit in an ivory tower I’m a team player. I am contactable via facebook, approachable enough to answer the direct questions of people in the streets and I value nothing more than having a heart-to-heart with members of the community.



In Grenada one third of our government is made up of women. Our Governor General is a woman named Dr. Cecile La Grenada and women chair several organisations under my ministry. Women play a significant role in the running of this country and we are taking more of an active role on the front line. The most important thing for a woman in a leadership role is a strong support network. I often work though lunch, throughout the night and sometimes 7 days a week. There are times when I have to schedule in my husband, but he understands the nature of a newly appointed minister. I have a young son so balancing family life can be challenging, but the beauty of family life in the Caribbean is the sentiment that it takes a village to raise a child.

Dwain D ThomasImage by Dwain Thomas


When I was presented with the opportunity to run for South St George I went for it because I felt Grenada could do better, we needed creativity and restyling, we needed ingenuity and a fresher perspective and we needed to work together and work hard. Through the process I have been and continue to be true to myself and my constituents by not making unreasonable promises. Ultimately it is a team effort across the board. I want to engage more with the population and inform them of the importance of the tourism sector. When visitors come to Grenada to enjoy and respect our country and culture, it is also the responsibility of the population to make them feel at home. When journalist come to Grenada, I challenge them to get in touch with the older generation, listen to their stories and find out firsthand about the history of our country. When Grenadians in the diaspora return home, it is important for them to contribute to the countries growth. I visited London to speak to the Grenadian diaspora who expressed their frustration of the high taxation on UK flights preventing them from visiting more often. I am in talks with airlines to find ways to regulate fares and make travelling to Grenada more affordable. Its unfortunate, but it’s the reality we face regionally as well as internationally.


Grenada is a magnificent destination and has so much to offer, so it was important for us to reposition and rebrand Grenada. We want quality not quantity, we want to preserve our environment, maintain its beauty and be mindful of the huge strain tourism can have on the environment. We are focusing on the more discerning traveller and our diaspora who make up a large chunk of the market, which is why we have rebranded Grenada as Pure. So far there has been a general burst of positivity towards the rebranding and repositioning of Grenada. We have something special and so does every other island. The whole Caribbean needs to work together because we are competing against the world. I am a little bit impartial and I have to say in Grenada you’re not a tourist you’re a guest.

Grenada Sailing Festival

I am a ComplexdWoman because I’m a chameleon. I can be seen sitting on the block having a Guinness or having tea at The Dorchester. I was brought up to treat everyone with respect, no matter who that person is or where they come from. Human beings are human beings and that has contributed to my success in my political career thus far. People know that my relationship with them is authentic…I’m not faking it.

Discover what is PURE about GRENADA via this video

Video produced by Grenada Tourism Authority in collaboration with True Blue Bay Resort and Villas, Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association, InfocusHD and Camper & Nicholsons Marinas. Soundtrack by our very own Sabrina, Tammy and the Navigators. 

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grenada 1

Dear readers,

Today, my beautiful island in the sun Grenada, celebrates 40 years of independence. To express my patriotism and pride I wore our national colours yesterday and today. Red characterises the people, who are passionate and courageous, gold symbolises wisdom and warmth and green represents the fertility of our land. With my internal sunshine I hopped down the streets of London while the wintry corporate herd looked on in disbelief.

grenada 5121209_Complexd Style_083grenada 3

grenada 2

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My banana dress and lemon skirt was designed Karen De Freitas from the neighboring island St Vincent and the Grenadines. I met Karen at Island of the World Fashion Week in the Bahamas and I’ve been impressed by her drive and determination ever since. We had a quick catch up to find out what’s new with her fashion label SoKa.


KC: What have you been up to since we last spoke?

KF: Last year I re-launched my website MadebySoka along with a diffusion line called CharlesOlive. It’s for a younger, cheekier, cash strapped buyer.

weed print

It’s still a work-in-progress, but my aim is to catch the attention of the global fashion market by investing in Internet shopping functions. I want Soka to have a strong virtual presence as well as being stocked in boutiques in Brooklyn, California, Miami and throughout the Caribbean.


I’m in my last semester at Parsons, so all my energy is being poured into completing my degree and making my mother proud. I’ve also been interning and learning as much as possible while in New York. Balancing school and running my own business is taxing, but I look at it as sowing my seeds for a fruitful harvest in the future.

mother and daughter

KC: What are you currently working on?

KF: I’m working on my pre-fall 2014 thesis collection, which is inspired by the Dancehall scene. I want to create a sense of nostalgia associated with old school dancehall music so I’m drawing inspiration from 90’s artists like Shabba Ranks and Patra. It incorporates the sexual liberation expressed by dancehall queens, the vibrancy of the dress code and flashy artwork seen on dancehall album covers.


KC: Are you going to return to St Vincent when you graduate?

KF: At this present moment in time, I think I can do more for my country outside of the island. I started my young label in St Vincent and the lack of resources and support was a major challenge. For me designing is not just a hobby, I am building a business. My hope and dream is that my success will allow me to return to start a design program for young people like myself who are not fortunate enough to leave the island to pursue their dreams in fashion. So not now, but I won’t say never.

www.madebysoka.com | development 

Style portrait by Frederique Rapier 

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12 years a slave

Dear Readers,

12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen shows in UK Cinema’s tomorrow. The film is based on the real life events of a man named Solomon Northup who was trafficked into slavery.

I urge you to watch this film that does not sugarcoat the brutal reality of Slavery. It is also a film that everyone can relate to on the topic of freedom and identity.

I was disheartened by the story of Patsey and impressed by how actress Lupita Nyong’o depicted her. Lupita Nyong’o was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya. Her understated beauty, graceful mannerisms, charm and intelligence make her the most revered newcomer in Hollywood. She was recently presented with the Breakthrough Performance Award at the Cartier, 25th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala.

12 years a slave

Here is what she had to say about the film and her role in a recent interview with DP/30

‘I had so much fun making 12 years a slave because we knew we were embarking on something remarkable. The day we filmed the scene were Patsey gets countless lashes it felt like a very scared set. In Solomon Northup’s book he describes the scathing of Patsey’s back as the darkest day in mankind. It took me a while it get over the grief of the character so I was scared to actually watch the film, but the story is told so beautifully, its almost as if your taken into slavery with Solomon, sold and incarcerated’ 

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