Alcot Laing makes fashion for the culture with Rice and Tees
Say what you want about Jamaicans; we are truly an expressive group of people. It’s evident in the way we walk, talk and definitely present in the way we dress. The heart of this island beats in the ‘riddim’ and shows in the hues of our people. Alcot Laing decided that he wanted to honour the culture that raised him by creating Rice and Tees.
“Rice and Tees is inspired firstly by the women in my family and by the women in my culture, as well. Their resourcefulness, strength, style and beauty are some things worth celebrating. The Bad Gyal Tings/collection was my ode to them. I wanted to celebrate their greatness,” he told Living.
While the brand offers a host of T-shirt offerings, there are also a wide variety of other style items like jackets, swimwear, hats, artwork, accessories like hats and keychains, and even home décor. But T-shirts are the mainstays.
Laing, who dabbles in mixed martial arts (MMA), explained that he made the designs as a hobby, incorporating elements of his Jamaican or Caribbean culture in the process. From there, he pivoted from MMA, paying more attention to the cultural aspects of the brand. It was there that Rice and Tees was born.
It was important for the entrepreneur to select a name that sounded Jamaican, but hoped that it was able to resonate with those from the Caribbean, as well as the Motherland.
“When you say Rice and Tees, you immediately hear rice and peas, which is about as Caribbean as it gets. Furthermore, I wanted a name that unites the Caribbean and African culture. One of the things we have in common is our food, specifically rice. Whether it is jollof rice from Africa, cook-up rice from Guyana, pelau rice from Trinidad or rice and peas from Jamaica. It’s a common denominator in our cultural diets. So that was the ‘unifier’, he explained.
Since officially starting in 2012, the feedback has been great, with many raving over the quality and cultural relevance of the brand.
So what’s his creative process like? Laing will actually get an idea for a phrase, an image or a definition and just run with it, ensuring that it screams Caribbean culture and it’s something he could envision someone wearing. The result is printed in exciting fashion.
Although the brand directly speaks to fashion, it has grown into so much more than clothing. “We are also promoting brand Jamaica and offering employment opportunities and exposure to Jamaicans expats.” Models and photographers are carefully selected to work with. And the company has an outreach arm where donations of school supplies are made to charities and feminine hygiene products to orphanages. “We will be doing scholarships, as well, in the near future,” he added.
But it starts with style, and presenting diversity is important because absolutely nowhere is better than yard. “We need to control the narrative of our culture. We need ownership. Until lions start writing books, the hunter will always be seen as the hero,” he said.
Being an entrepreneur is far from easy. One of the biggest issues in business ownership thus far is having a vision but recognising that your goals are not aligning with others. He overcame this by seeing the value of himself and his work.
“Don’t look to others for validation. Some know your worth, but hope you don’t see it, some are oblivious to it and some will only support once they see others supporting. Run your own race and trust process. Don’t let others define you,” he strongly advised aspiring entrepreneurs.