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Fashion spread from a photo - Dancehall shoot inspires full-length book

Published:Sunday | August 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Constanze Han - Contributed
Jonna Mayer - Contributed
Latonya Styles - Contributed

Although having no Jamaican heritage or connection otherwise, United States-based fashion editor and stylist, Constanze Han, was so intrigued by a dancehall-inspired photo shoot years ago that she has decided to do a book on dancehall fashion.

For over five years, Han has contributed to publications such as Glamour, Interview, Esquire, i-D, Flair, Numero, Vogue, Out, Oyster and Entertainment Weekly. She has also styled celebrities, including Drew Barrymore, Olivia Munn, Naomi Watts, Christina Ricci, Emmy Rossum, Neil Patrick Harris, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, John Malkovich, Juliette Lewis and Evan Rachel Wood, with advertising clients such as Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, McDonald's and Lexus.

Eight years ago, Han said, she saw a fashion spread that was shot in Jamaica, which displayed colourful dancehall fashion against the beautiful backdrop of the Caribbean island. Bitten by the dancehall bug, Han started to work on the book casually, until a year ago when she started to intensify her research.

Interviews with dancers

Having done extensive research for the book, Han recently came to Jamaica with her business partner Jonna Mayer, who is in charge of layout, design and overall concept. Together, they were able to do first-hand interviews with dancehall practitioners such as Boysie Roses from the Black Roses Crew, Latonya Styles from DanceJa, and Cat Pwiti from Australia. They also visited popular events like the Dancehall Queen Competition, Weddy Weddy, Chug It and Mojito Mondays.

Han added that she attended these events with some entrants in the Dancehall Queen Competition, including Nami Cri$sy Chris, who entered 10 years ago. "A lot of history that we weren't able to know about the culture and dance perspectives, they were able to offer a lot," Han told The Gleaner.

She noted that the book will take a coffee table layout format, filled with pictures. "We are going to stylise the book so that it is authentic. It will be very visually stimulating, whether you are interested in dancehall fashion or not," said Han, who is also creative director for the book. "I am coming into this project from a fashion perspective with a historical and cultural backdrop, but it is very much a visual book and it is important to us to portray people and the culture in a positive light," Han said.

She added that the book will cover dancehall culture and how it has spread on an international level to include people from many different countries.

Having done much of the initial research, Han, who has a first degree in art history from Northwestern University and postgraduate degree in accounting from University of Southern California, says she will be returning to Jamaica next month to do additional interviews and is open to talking with significant persons in the industry.

Still in the earlier stages of the book, Han says she expects to complete the book in another six to eight months. She is still undecided on the title, as that will be heavily dependent on the publisher.

While she is excited about the book, Han admitted that she does not expect much, except to expose a wider audience to the fashion aspect of the Jamaican culture. "I don't look at it as a book that will sell a million copies. I just want to share a culture that I find very fascinating to a different audience; definitely show the culture in a positive light. I think the people are colourful and individualistic. Many outside will see that the fashion is just as important as the music," Han told The Gleaner.

She plans to donate proceeds from the book to charities in Jamaica.