Christina Leslie's Portraits

N.L.S., A New Local Space

Deborah Caroll Anzinger's artist run residency and exhibition space in Kingston


Leasho Johnson's Provocative Re-interpretation in 'Canopy Guild'

Light Sensitive

Marlon James' black and whites

Annalee Davis: ON THE MAP

Caribbean Political Documentary

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Fashion Industry – Ambassadors of the Jamaica Brand?

Recently, I came across a series of fascinating articles on the Australian Fashion industry and how it was being positioned to service the Australia brand internationally. Indeed Austrade’s (Australian Trade Commission) National Manager, Rob Sutton commented that:

‘The Australian Fashion industry isn’t just about fabrics, frocks and fanfare, but one of the key cultural ambassador industries. Fashion is one of Australia’s key creative and design industries and we know that there are over 2000 active fashion exporters delivering their products and services in overseas markets”.

It occurred to me that Jamaica might not be fully exploiting its own successes in the fashion industry to market Jamaica. When I say successes I mean the country’s international reputation for producing international top models whom have graced the cover of top fashion magazines (Vogue, Essence etc).

Jamaica – A Place for Fashion? Lessons from Australia
Jamaica has also had enormous success premised on its past victories at international fashion industry competitions such as Miss World and Miss Universe pageants. These arenas have not only exhibited the beauty of our women, but displayed Jamaica’s top class designers and the quality of their productions.

Australia has no doubt recognised that it has an international reputation for producing some of the emerging stars in the fashion world. The country is therefore committed, Sutton says, to exporting this vision with the goal of reflecting their creative environment; modern fresh ideas and quality products.

As part of Brand Australia, Sutton says, they look at promoting the image of the nation through varying strategies, with fashion being an attractive component of that vision. For them, it holds key international mainstream media impacts, artistic component and celebrity story reach.

This is undoubtedly true as I notice that top celebrities such as Eva Mendez, among others, have been flying into Australia to sample the design collections of many Australian designs – from the mundane items such as bracelets and bangles to top market pieces such as clothes, bags and shoes! Obviously, Australian celebrities such as pop singer, Kylie Minogue and actress Nicole kidman would have helped to establish the Australian brand by buying and wearing Australian desisgners.
Sutton argues that:
“It really helps to further Australia’s message through the creative industry. We are able to project diversity from pour relaxed beach culture – with our leading surf wear/swimwear brands to our vibrant cosmopolitan city lifestyles – with our urban street wear companies and cutting edge high fashion designers”.

Reggae Fashion
No doubt, the Bob Marley clan have cornered a part of the reggae wear market and have had celebs such as Gwen Stefani sporting the signature reggae colours. Other artistes such as Sean Paul, Sean Kingston and Shaggy have been instrumental in enabling the Jamaica design brand overseas. Cooyah designs and others have emerged as niche marketers of a line of Jamaica clothing. It would have been nice to see them in Berlin expanding the reach of Jamaica and Jamaican designs on the world stage.

Jamaican Street Wear – Untapped Potential
I give credit to the emergence of a wide variety of Jamaican urban ‘street clothing’ by creative young designers. The ‘Portmore Collection’ and the Kingston Collection have the potential to take off. Some entertainers such as General Degree have been attempting to tap into the T-shirt market. This is also a good thing as the worldwide obsession with reggae and Jamaica and things Jamaican mean that the space is wide open for further in roads to be made in this arena.

Australia’s creative industry particularly in fashion was showcased at the Rosemount fashion week in 2008. It featured Australian brands such as Jayson Brunsdon, High Tea, Mrs Woo, Madame Marie Rachel Bending which captured international buyer interest from countries as diverse as the USA, Canada, Italy, Spain, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, China and New Zealand.

Government Support
Like other cultural industries, the fashion industry may require government support. Sutton chalks up Australia’s success to the “result of the ongoing work that Austrade does in-market throughout the year to raise the profile and image of Australian brands. Actively supporting Australian brands and helping Australian exporters overseas. We work closely with retail buyers and agents to highlight the unique style of the Australian fashion industry.
Sutton considers as successes Austyle London and Dubai, Thailand’s Fashionably Australia and the 200 Ford Supermodel of the World event, which featured some of Australia’s top designers to more than 1000 of the worlds influential fashion leaders and international media.

It certainly would be interesting to the Caribbean Fashion Week – which I have enjoyed immensely every time it’s on – receive the kinds of international exposure and traction apparent in Australia. And Jamaican/Caribbean designers tap into the international circuit.

The success of the Australian business model is apparent – strategic thinking and positioning. In short, it’s no accident or chance encounter but deliberately planned and executed.

Educating And Training in Fashion
Sutton’s commentary is telling here: “We (Australia) have also worked hard to host pre-fashion week seminars with over 100 participants to bring interested new fashion exporters up to speed on managing international sales growth and the expectations of our international guests”.

Education and training – what would we do without it. It would appear that Jamaica has left fashion to the ‘unskilled’- those who can’t find a job and therefore should get [‘sewing’] skills. The perception of the industry must change and fashion seen as not just a alternative vocation for less formally educated but a real industry that can produce stars of design – clothes, shoes, bags etc.

The fact that Australia created their own ‘Project Runway Australia” reality show to much popularity, and established popular design schools for those wanting a career in the field - only serves to crank up interest in the fashion and design industry and ensure its endurance.

Jamaica is well-positioned to tap into the fashion market. We just need to seize the opportunity.

For more information on Australia’s creative industries, see

Contributed by Dr. Hume Johnson
Dr. Hume Johnson is a communications consultant, co-founder of The Communication Workshop;
Also see, Talking Politics at
Images sourced online from Caribbean Beat blog, fashionoverstyle_photos on,