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Growth & Jobs | Fashion runway stationary - Lack of skill; harsh business climate stifling growth of apparel sector

Published:Monday | July 24, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Dexter Huxtable, creator of Spokes Apparel.
Dexter Huxtable is a picture of satisfaction as he looks over, one of his trademark finished pieces.
Dexter Huxtable showing off some of his tailored pieces at his Hope Road, St Andrew based shop last Wednesday.

A paucity of skill and expertise, in addition to a harsh business climate, are factors that at least two players in the fashion industry believe are stifling growth and sustainability within the clothing arena.

In an interview with The Gleaner, Dexter Huxtable, menswear designer and owner of Spokes Apparel, noted that there is huge potential for fashion to contribute greatly to Jamaica's economy but indicated that more citizens need to be sensitised about the importance of productivity.

"Fashion, as I always say, will always be growing and revolutionising a certain kind of way. There are certain trends that you will see change over the years, and so, yes, there is an improvement where that is concerned. Considering social media with all the platforms, that makes it good as well, but manufacturing and producing items have been a drag," he said.

"The demand (local customised clothing) far exceeds what we are putting out. Through high or slow times, we are always busy. People want unique stuff; men still want to express themselves in an individual kind of way. Therefore, more attention is needed in the manufacturing sector of Jamaica. I can tell you unequivocally that money is in the fashion industry. If you can produce and turn out quality, people will patronise you."

The limited avenues to find skilled workers, however, have compounded the issue for Huxtable.

"I have been seeking for people to work along with me, both trainees and people who have some expertise, and it's the hardest thing. It is extremely, extremely hard. This week, I had people calling in and when I ask 'What do you do?', they will say, 'I can clip thread', 'I can do quality control', and that is as far as you get. Nobody is able to tell you that they can put bits and pieces together, and that, to me, is disheartening," he said.

For Venal Milligen, co-owner of Di Trends, a retail clothing store, a lot is needed to help especially small businesses, as the constant slide in the dollar has made it difficult for businesses to sustainably contribute to the economy.

 Ja can become fashion hub of Caribbean but ...

"We have our own style as Jamaicans, and we have the potential to become a fashion hub for the Caribbean, but the Government needs to give more support in creating the environment, because funny enough, people are interested in buying local stuff," said Venal Milligen, co-owner of Di Trends.

"The dollar (sliding) is huge problem. We have to pay more to clear the stuff, we have to pay more to buy the ticket (plane), we have to pay more to ship, but we have to hold on to the prices because we will lose our customers. For us, that has been a struggle."

The era of heightened online shopping has also forced retailers and designers to double their efforts to beat the competition.

"When I check the data of Jamaicans shopping online, it's like 70 per cent, because it's cheaper. So, how can the local industry grow?" Milligen asked.

"People tell you straight up, that they can't afford to buy clothes in Jamaica, and the truth is that it is much cheaper to go online, so that's where people are going."