The Caribbean fashion industry is on fire. With a reputation for producing some of the biggest names to grace the catwalk, all eyes are on Kingston, Jamaica as Caribbean Fashion Week kicks off today, June 7. With more than 50 designers from 20 countries showcasing their latest designs, CFW 2012 is gearing up for its biggest year yet. Meet the power players who will be turning heads over the course of the week and find out why they are the hottest to come from the Islands. —Octavia Goredema
Left, a model wears a design by CFW designer Arlene L. Martin. (Photo by Andre Rattigan)
The Wow Factor: Founder and executive director of Caribbean Fashion Week, Kingsley Cooper is credited with launching the modeling careers of today’s Jamaican superstars, from Jaunel McKenzie to Sedene Blake. Cooper is also the founder of Pulse Model Management, which is listed on the Jamaican Stock Exchange.
The Inspiration: “I wanted to change the fashion landscape exponentially and create an opportunity for our designers to expand their businesses.”
The Advice: “If you’re thinking of modeling, make sure it’s your passion and brace yourself for lots of hard work,” Cooper says. “Lasting success won’t come easy.”
The Wow Factor: Daughter of the legendary Bob Marley, Cedella Marley is CEO of the Tuff Gong International record label, as well as a musician and author. Marley’s Catch a Fire fashion label, named after her father’s first album, is worn by the likes of Gwen Stefani and Angela Bassett and debuts its “High Tide” swimwear collection at CFW 2012. Also, Marley’s Puma-commissioned designs will adorn the Jamaican Olympic team during the London 2012 games.
The Inspiration: “My great aunt was a seamstress and she nurtured my love of deconstructing. Of course, my parents are my fashion icons,” Marley says.
The Advice: “I’d tell any budding designers to design for yourself and follow your vision.”
The Wow Factor: As the face of Polo by Ralph Lauren, Barrett also has campaigns for Abercrombie & Fitch and Pepe Jeans under his belt. The model was recently featured as Rihanna’s love interest in her “Man Down” music video.
The Inspiration: “I became a model after my brother’s girlfriend asked me to accompany her to an audition at the Pulse agency in Kingston,” Barrett says. “I was 18 years old and my response at the time was ‘Are you crazy?’ I went along and I was introduced to Kingsley Cooper. That’s where everything started.”
The Advice: “If you want to be a model the blatant truth is you have to be extremely strong,” Barrett advises. “Stay true to yourself. If you like it, go for it fearlessly. Only look forward, never look back.”
The Wow Factor: Discovered in Kingston, Jeneil Williams became Karl Lagerfeld’s muse and has worked with major brands including Lanvin and Vivienne Westwood. Williams also graced the cover of Italian Vogue’s iconic Black Beauty issue.
The Inspiration: “I grew up in the ghetto in Maxfield Park, Kingston and decided to go after my dreams,” Williams says.
The Advice: “Don’t give up, even if you hear ‘No,’” Williams says. “If you stop, you will miss the one ‘Yes’ that could have been your big break.”
Octavia Goredema is founder of relocation resource Crash Course City and the Twenty Ten Club, an award-winning networking organization and online resource designed to connect, inspire and support Black female entrepreneurs.