Sat | Mar 23, 2019

Saint's Christine Willis 'pops' Jamaican culture and style on international scene

Published:Tuesday | September 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Gleaner Writer
POP Magazine cover with our SAINT star Christine Willis that was shot at Frenchman's Cove in Portland.  *** Local Caption *** Contributed Photo POP Magazine cover with our Saint International model Christine Willis, that was shot at Frenchman's Cove in Portland. 
The 2016 Travel and Leisure magazine cover shot in Jamaica.
POP Magazine cover with our SAINT star Christine Willis that was shot at Frenchman's Cove in Portland.  *** Local Caption *** Contributed Photo Saint International young star Christine Willis has already shot and walked for Balenciaga.
POP Magazine cover with our SAINT star Christine Willis that was shot at Frenchman's Cove in Portland.  *** Local Caption *** Contributed Photo Christine Willis in a Balenciaga campagin.

When this month's issue of POP Magazine hits newsstands, 18-year-old Saint model Christine Willis will grace the covers. And while it's not uncommon for Jamaican models to hold the title of cover girl, this cover was actually shot in Jamaica. Shot earlier this summer at Frenchman's Cove in Portland, the image captures the land and the sea - along with Christine, submerged and serious, sporting a natural coif.

Willis is just one of this issue's high-profile covergirls. From a total of 10 covers, the other featured models are Cara Taylor, Kris Grikaite, Binx Walton - who secured three covers for the magazine - and the highly sought-after Bella Hadid, who covers four.

Willis' cover is a small indication of the young model's exponential potential. The young model was selected to be part of the advertising campaign for Balenciaga's Spring/Summer 2018 collection, which afforded her the winning opportunity to walk the runway early this year for the design house. She was also prominently featured in the major brand's look book.


The Jamaican style story


Recently, Forbes Magazine presented impressive statistics lauding the Saint International modelling agency as the biggest exporter of black models to the world. But it is about more than exporting bodies. The evidence is piling, to build a story that it is about not only Jamaican models who are attractive to the international fashion audience, but the geography and the culture as well.

In addition to Willis' POP Magazine cover, there was another cover editorial for the British fashion and lifestyle magazine Is In Town featuring Willis and Shanniel Williams in St Ann.

"Since the POP cover shoot, we have had numerous other magazines and independent creative teams reaching out to us to shoot in Jamaica," Peters told The Gleaner.

"Clearly, the usual exotic tropical mix of heritage, azure sea, white sand, and rustic charm is a potent combination that helps to tell the Jamaican style story in an authentic, unpretentious, yet cool way," he continued.

In 2016, British GQ Style reached out for a 14-page editorial shoot. British GQ Style's fashion director, Elgar Johnson, said their intent was to "show the readership of British GQ a bit of the incredible Jamaican culture and to educate people on how amazing the country and Kingston is. It (the culture) is sometimes copied by others, but we wanted to show the real thing".

Peters continued, "In addition to shooting at several locations around Kingston, they shot at the Stone Love Headquarters on Burlington Avenue at the weekly Weddy Weddy session "to capture the authentic mood and vibe of the Kingston party scene."

That same year, Travel + Leisure flew a crew into the island for golden girl Tami Williams, who graced the cover of their December 2016 issue. A few years prior, Williams and Kai Newman were shot for Teen Vogue at Devon House. In 2010, V Magazine orchestrated a feature for which Devon House was also the backdrop. Commissioned by Saint International, Jamaican photographer William Richards took the reins on that shoot.

"Visiting crews typically travel with their own photographers, stylists and varied personnel as they do whenever they shoot anywhere in the world. It was one of our finest moments demonstrating to the world that the Jamaican aesthetic can be effortlessly captured by our own talents," Peters said.

Does this mean that pretty soon, these glosses will be laced with a full Jamaican crew shoot?