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Jamaica has more to offer the fashion world beyond resort wear

Jamaica has more to offer the fashion world beyond resort wear
Jamaica has more to offer the fashion world beyond resort wear


This report on the future of fashion in Jamaica, produced by Sharine Taylor, is part of a series celebrating Caribbean Heritage Month. Throughout the month of June, we will honor the powerful creativity, ambition and heart of Caribbean culture through the cutting-edge perspectives of writers of Caribbean descent. The Caribbean is not just a tourist destination, it is a region, a people and an identity rich in history and spirit.

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Artistic treatment by Kaitlyn McNab

For almost two decades, Beth Lessers Dance hall was the founding text in establishing the visual ecology of Jamaican style. Published in 2008 by the Canadian photographer, the book features a collection of portraits and texts chronicling dancehall, a then-emerging genre and culture that took over the streets of Kingston in the 1980s.

Through his photos, readers get a glimpse of the bustling scene. The newly formed sound system teams, the towering systems themselves, the first movers and shakers of the dancehalls. Unintentionally, the book also did something else: it captured the style of dancehalls. Through Dance hall, the fashion sensibilities of Kingstonians have been immortalized and referenced time and time again. But what about the future?

Elli Michaela Young is a doctoral student at the University of Brighton whose research explores how practices around style were part of the formation of Jamaican identity between 1950 and 1970, as the country was transitioning towards independence, a period during which Jamaican identity was far from homogeneous.

There is no single national identity. That's the problem, Young said. People think about national identity and think [of] as a single national identity, but there is no A national identity in Jamaica. There [are] different, and the way people express their sense of Jamaican belonging through clothing depends on social class. Rastafarianism, which is considered a Jamaican and national identity for Jamaica, is not [that]. It’s a working-class culture. If you look at the middle class or the professional classes, they have a different type of culture. Their sense of national identity as Jamaicans is therefore completely different.

Although the history of Jamaican style includes what was captured in Lesser's images and the different social classes of people who inhabited that space, the country's style continued to evolve. However, when many international entities arrive in the land of wood and water to produce their latest editorial or advertising, or when labels seek to use Jamaica as a reference point, there seems to be little willingness to deviate of this particular period.

So what is the current state and future of Jamaican and, by extension, Caribbean style? Teen Vogue spoke to four of Jamaica's top stylists to find out what predictions and trends are on the horizon.

Jamaica has more to offer the fashion world beyond resort wear

Stylist and creative director Neko Bootleg Rocstar Kelly worked with people like identifier, Olympian Shericka Jackson, artist Nadine Sutherland, Miss Jamaica Universe 2017 Davina Bennett, and more. For Kelly, the future of Jamaican style is something of a paradox: people are aware of Jamaica's considerable cultural influence, but in fashion there is a misunderstanding of the breadth of stylistic sensibilities.

Neko Bootleg Rocstar Kelly




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