Chester Francis-Jackson, Gleaner Writer
( left ) A design by Jessica Odgen. ( right ) A design from the Cedella Marley Catch A Fire Collection at the Caribbean Fashion Week 2005, fashion shows. - WINSTON SILL/FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER
IT HAS been a fun-filled ride and then some for the many fans, supporters, and fashion lovers, who have all shared in the parties, celebrations and groundbreaking firsts that the really creative energies behind Pulse has brought to the fore since opening its doors. Pulse introduced its new vision of harnessing the talent and creative energies of our fashion designers; spotting and marketing new discoveries to the international marketplace as well as positioned Kingston as the fashion and entertainment capital of the Caribbean.
These were the goals of founding CEO of Pulse, style icon Kingsley Cooper and his co-founding director Hillary Phillips Q.C. Lofty ideals then, and many there were who thought that this was some kind of a harebrained idea, that would really not survive its launch. The consensus then was that Kingsley Cooper, an attorney, had not only taken leave of his senses, but that he might have been somewhat deranged, if he actually thought he could transform as disparate a group as our fledgling fashion industry at the time.
To be sure, there was quite one vibrant fashion industry here at the time. And in this respect, one recalls fashion houses and designers Thomas Garwood's Allegro; Peggy McLean's Klothes Kloset; Melody Dosty with Fantasia's show-stopping dramatic designs; Elaine Dreyer's Fashion Whirl; Rupert Edward's Saville Row; Sonia Vaz's Soni's Swimwear; Francis Keane's bridal showcases and embroidery; Annie Lopez; Trevor Owen; Josie Buchannan; Patrick Waldemar and Leighton Ashley for Waldash; and many other designers of that era. They all contributed to the development of the Jamaican fashion identity, as they plodded through what was then unfriendly territory, restricted as the fashion market was, to the privileged and or the fashion literati.
And then there were the models! Audrey Burgess-Barakat, Bev Corke, Bernadette Mckinley, Nancy Martin, Christene King, Joan McDonald; Marsha Chin; Michael Leroi, Glenn Kaisse, Barry Moncrieffe, Weston Haughton, Garth Sinclair, and the many, many others who graced the catwalks and catalogues in the early days as they gave yeoman service to what was clearly a burgeoning industry, but one, lacking in focus and direction and as such failing to capitalise on the energy of the industry.
Mind y'all these were organisations that emerged that sought to harness the collective energies of the various players in the industry, under one umbrella organi-sation(s), but they fell along the fashion boulevard as those energies were fraught with a number of administrative, organisational and visionary handicaps.
Enter Kingsley Cooper, with an avant garde sense of style, and styled to GQ perfection in a flashy Porsche convertible and a succession of beauties in tow, and suddenly the fashion world started sitting up and taking notice. Now, not only did they sit up and take notice, he articulated a vision for the industry, that many could identify with and so, Pulse was it!
Combining a savvy and shrewd sense of marketing and celebrity appeal, Cooper and Pulse brought a slew of international singing and modelling stars to Kingston, in the early years to ensure sell-out shows and chic-appeal and there it was, a new industry was fashioned and Kingsley Cooper and Pulse became the new darling of fashion-hopefuls and their supporting casts.
And so, 25 years later, Pulse marks its quarter century of operation with the fifth staging of Caribbean Fashion Week - a beauty of an idea, hosted each year to showcase the fashion and talent of the region. And there it was, it was no longer just Kingston that was sitting up and taking notice, the world was, and then some!
Well pumpkins, the world and his wife came to Kingston, last week, for the event, and it rained cats and dogs to boot, but apart from the cancellation of the opening cocktail reception, and this was done much to the chagrin of invitees, dears, the show went on and in a manner and style that one can truly say Caribbean Fashion Week, has come of age.
Dears, it was one cauldron of heat and then some at the weekend at the National Indoor Sports Facility, at the Stadium complex, home to some hot fashion, breathtaking even; hot models, and we are indeed talking about some of the finest bodies and modelling talent ever, to grace runways anywhere, and my dears, the models not only strutted their stuff, they seared the catwalk in their wake as they ate-up miles and miles of runway, as they showcased some mighty fine clothing from the region's best designers!
Sweet-things, it was a fashion showcase of the hottest order, and then some, as designers, models, fashionistas and scribes came from all over, not merely to attend at this fine exhibition of non-traditional talent base, now grabbing world attention for its innovative interpretations and portrayals, but also to be present at the very cutting edge and cusp, of the new world trend, as indeed, the region's fashion designers, fed-up with merely influencing the world's fashion taste from afar and without credit, took centre-stage and children, they made it happen like never before!
The Caribbean's top fashion designers made it a three-day and night affair that was fashionably bad to the bone and thrilling to the core. And dears, it was one sizzling fashion party and nothing but!
ELEGANCE AND SOPHISTICATION
Dears, like its name suggests, the Cedella Marley Catch A Fire Collection had fashionistas in ecstatic appreciation. Jessica Ogden, showed why she has been the darling of the British Fashion establishment and fashion mags, including Fashion's Bible -Vogue - over the years. Biggy Turner of Biggy Fashion, showed just why he is the preferred designer of those favouring urban dancehall couture! Barry Moncrieffe's Moncrieffe's line showcased pure elegance and sophistication! Meiling tantalised with fun and mystery! Claudia Pegus's line was the stuff of which divas are made! Bill Edwards combined island flair with continental chic in his men's collection! Nefertari, Pauline Bellamy, The Cloth, Renee Luke - captured the mind, spirit and individualistic taste of the Caribbean clothes horse; But there was no escaping the allure of the Cooyah, collection! And debutante Sonia Noel Mariska's line is definitely worth a visit to Guyana! With Atelier Dore jewellery being the stuff, from which fashionable dreams are made!
Dears, it was like that, and then some - a fiercely fabulous celebration of our spirit, culture and sense of style, our diverse history but unified sense of élan and panache, and therein lies the beauty and success of Caribbean Fashion Week!
Those in attendance included such personalities as: Ambassador Anthony Hylton; Ombudsman Howard Hamilton; Honorary Consul of Ecuador Clelia Barretto de Hunter; celebrated Author and playwright Trevor Rhone; Ray Miles Sr.; an elegant Hillary Phillips QC; Reggae's Dowager Empress Rita Marley; Guerney Beckford; Dr. Carolyn Cooper and her sibling, Washington based Attorney-at-Law Donette Cooper; William Mahfood; the lovely Karlene MaxBrown and her drop dead-gorgeous daughter Sophia MaxBrown; US Chicago based Real Estate mogul Joe English; the simply marvellous Ele Rickham, in from Ocho Rios; the oh so flawless looking Kimberly Mais-Issa; Jimmy Joseph; Justine Henzell; Lloyd and Sonia Tomlinson; Jacqui Amber Olabisi Cohen; Tommy Cowan; Miss Charm herself, the unflappable Marilyn Bennett; Trevor Brooks; the lovely Anne McNamee; Richard Vassell; the lovely Andy Golding; Jon Baker; Novia McDonald-Whyte and her fashionista of a daughter Gracia Whyte; the divine Odessa Chambers; ; Michelle Giester; Michael Williams, President of the Eye Collection Clothing Co. out of New York; Sonia Noel of Mariska's Design out of Guyana; Claude Grunitzky of New York based Trace Magazine; Miss Jamaica Universe Raquel Wright, coming in straight from the airport from the Miss Universe pageant in Thailand; Serchen Morris; Miss Hotness herself Nadine Willis; the fabulous Cedella Marley; modelling sensation Jaunel McKenzie; Lincoln Wynter; Carla Campbell; Sheldon Gordon; Patrice Wilson-McHugh of Bars-To-Go; Petroy Townsend; and head-turner Rohan James and Marcia Tain; plus several scores more!