Access to its allure… the elusive high style

We all are instinctively fascinated with luxury and many of us are more so mesmerised by haute couture. However, I must caution that we are not at liberty to use this singular term too loosely. For it’s almost a consecrated nomenclature, enshrined and revered by an elite minority of international fashion arbiters. Might I say, deservedly so, for this exclusive branding comes with an intrinsic tradition and a historical sensibility. Nevertheless, we, in the Caribbean are quite aspirational with our fashion tastes, and by association, quite ascriptive, so we claim a Caribbean high fashion identity.

Moreover, we want to feel that we have access to its allure. We want to qualify for that elusive high style – the world of the rich and famous. At this time of the year, we all subscribe to this ‘red carpet look’, and we wish to pose for that imaginary ‘glam cam’. Everything being equal, it looks like we can create or even resemble these high-end looks relying on our own mosaic of prodigious designers, with their lush Caribbean couture. 

I am now in St Lucia so I did a shoot with St Lucia’s premier designer Esther Joseph, known affectionately as Queen Esther, and resplendently branding her work as Kuumba Designs. She relishes an island elegance and does not settle for less in crafting her apparel. She believes, irrefutably, in quality finish and exquisite craftsmanship. She is an eco-friendly creative, with a penchant for the values of ethical fashion. She prefers breathing fabrics – silk, linens and high-grade cottons. It’s her way of stamping her island identity on her style. But she also believes in the majestic flair of high-end fashion just as her nickname attests. Her sense of regalia transposes itself on her signature silhouettes paying attention to fit and finish and preoccupying herself with meticulous details. Her trims and notions also celebrate recyclable, reusable energy utilising cow bone buttons and buckles, teaming up with her Haitian sustainable jewellery counterparts consciously formulating and conscientiously mandating a Caribbean trademark on her fashion offerings.

In the Caribbean, the pre- and post-Christmas/New Year’s timeframe, indeed, has assumed a season of its own which may carry smidgins of current international fall/winter colourations and/or is tinged by influences of spring/summer 2020 global collections. Queen Esther, herself a trendsetter, has been avant-garde in her fashion predictions and style forecasts. Always setting the bar high, having shown vanguard collections throughout the region as well as in the fashion capitals, Paris, New York, London, but unflaggingly branding her Caribbean personality and presenting her forward-thinking designs to the world.

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, our Christmas/New Year’s season is influenced by our Carnival all-inclusive fete which has evolved over the years to be an all-out dress-up affair. Referencing Queen Esther’s looks, from silk or stretch lame shorts, lace pedal pusher jumpsuits, a simple sheath lace dress with a touch of drama like a flirtatious georgette tail,  even a sheer georgette poncho pinched at the hip with a shoulder seductively peeping to fine linen rompers with a touch of regalia, collared and caped, et al, a cute babydoll silhouette in an outstanding floral motif, we are certainly readying ourselves for our own fashion season – 8th December to the 23rd February – of soirees, get-togethers, shindigs, cocktails and the ubiquitous all-inclusive fete.

For New Year’s Eve or a Christmas dinner a crimson cocktail dress with an ingenious seamless, molded lace bodice, a pride of Kuumba Designs, would herald the season. You can’t go wrong making a stylish statement by a Caribbean designer. It’s a sure-fire way of boosting your sense of identity in a self-indulgent affirmation of your worth, invariably acknowledging the value of our regional fashion imagers. Oh yes, and an asymmetric sheath in gold embossed brocade is a celebration of the curves you have been working on for the upcoming Carnival exhibitionistic revelry.

Our Caribbean fashion seasons are evidently charged with our festival traditions, so here’s to our peculiar Christmas/Carnival seasons which have become inextricably linked as we have become more and more luxurious with our sense of style, at this time of the year. So whether we say,  “pompaset”, “stush”, “braggadocious” or “zanté”, we, Caribbeans, know how to ‘play weself’ when it comes to expressing our exuberant idiosyncratic seasonal style.

Richard Young

Fashion Consultant / Creative Director

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