As the international reviews of CFW 2008 hit the press, websites and silver screens around the world, the New York Times’ is among the early reports posted on the internet. Hailed by the Times as a major success, Caribbean Fashion Week is featured in ‘The Moment’, a daily review of art, fashion and design. Lifestyle writer Vivien Goldman raves and gushes at the near 50 designers including Jamaica’s Barry Moncrieffe, the UK’s Gavin Douglas, Africa’s Deola Sagoe and the American rapper/actress Eve, who showed their collections at the region’s biggest and most respected fashion extravaganza in Jamrock’s metropolitan hub earlier this month.
The world’s fashion press was definitely attuned to the ‘pulse’ of fashion and style at CFW 08 and for Goldman, it was the local and regional designers including Guadeloupe’s Denis Devaed who gave “a stunning presentation of sultry jungle satin evening gowns and crinolines” and Jamaica’s Mutamba “flowing hand-painted robes that honed rasta chic” who earned top marks in her book. The Trinidad and Tobago delegation also stole a lot of the attention: “Its two grandes dames - the minimalist Meiling and the glam couturière Claudia Pegus were awarded CFW honors for their craft and quite rightly so…The Cloth, another T&T label designed by Robert Young, also had people talking. Cinched by nifty “tush corsets,” Young’s shapely white on white layers, sparked with primary colors, segued into crimson linen frocks and a rainbow print puffball cocktail dress.”
In a heavily oversubscribed CFW year, collections paraded down the catwalk, with each outfit exuding elements of Caribbean design, fashion and street style. All around, bright neon colors were in full bloom as well as the eye-popping prints. The moods shifted constantly among the sixteen or so designers who showed each night, who combined a wide spectrum of regional and international influences with voluptuous Caribbean energy. According to Goldman, “denims and African Prints were mastered by Nigeria’s Nkwo and Brooklyn’s Rebel, who stacked different African prints into tiered tent dresses” while African Connection designed by Gary Codner, “showed his signature on-point tailoring but also offered abbreviated, pimp-collared, leather jackets.”
“Paris and Milan no have nothing over we! Jamaica run tings!” writes NY Times’ Goldman, was the refrain among the thousands who attended each night. Government officials and “A” list film and music celebs, including actress Nia Long, r & b star Mashonda, actress Vanessa Williams and rapper / actress Eve, turned out over the three days of the event. The Pulse stars - Jaunel, Gaye, Carla, Oraine, Khalil, Nell, Jeneil, Shevolee, Nicole, Kimanee, Sunna and Nadine were also lauded by Goldman, “CFW is a rarity in that it shows no signs of androgyny. Yanking up their bold Yardmanstyle t-shirts, the Jamaican male models flashed physiques that caused mass hysteria in the audience. And the heavenly bodies of the vari-hued Nubian catwalk beauties appeared to be toned and silicone-free”. She additionally congratulates Pulse Star Jeneil Williams for her recent selection for Italian Vogue (a special issue on black models to be published in July), “Jeneil Williams is among the few blacks breaking the current color bar in American fashion”
She closes her review with a call to the deft Caribbean Designers to expand their market, a cause which was explored at CFW 08 in the form of the Caribbean Fashion Industry Forum, convened by Pulse, organizers of CFW. The Forum (CAFIF) is an initiative which explored the viability of the Caribbean fashion industry as an international business opportunity, to be pursued from a regional perspective. Industry professionals including designers and manufacturers met and signed off on the “Declaration of Kingston”, an action plan and ‘road map’ towards implementing needed initiatives. CFW 08 therefore proved not only to be a star studded aesthetic event, but also one that saw a deepening of important business realities, giving the event an even clearer sense of purpose.