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Young French designer to make debut at CFW

Published:Thursday | March 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM
A design by Milkaya Laijah. - Contributed
Milkaya Laijah

"I've always been passionate about illustration and art but knew I was destined to work in fashion design." These are the words of Milkaya Laijah, a young French designer whose destiny is taking her to Jamaica to unveil her first collection at the 10th staging of Caribbean Fashionweek (CFW) this June in Kingston.

Working on a debut collection is not often easy but Laijah did not have to look very far for inspiration. Her father's art is a huge influence for her line.

"My main inspiration for the collection comes from my father's paintings," she said. "They represent proud, beautiful and sensual Black women. I wanted to design clothes for a woman who is proud of her sensuality and her body."

Design philosophy

This sensuality, she said, is a key part of her design philosophy.

"Clothes should be worn to flatter women, to make them desirable and sexy," she stated. "However, this should be done in a very classy, distinguished and intelligent way ... and, this is the essence of the Milkaya Laijah line."

Undaunted by her first major presentation on an international stage, Laijah said she has crafted a special collection for the CFW runway.

"The collection that I will be presenting applies my predominant sensuality theme as well as a new edge I call 'ethni-rock' - a mix between Africanism and rock couture," she pointed out. "I was inspired by a bold turquoise wax print, and wanted to give it a Western, but above all, sexy Caribbean flavour mixed with the dark rock revival we are now experiencing in the fashion world this season."

A graduate of the prestigious ESMOD fashion college in Paris, France, Laijah began her career in the fashion world as a stylist with one of Paris' renowned 'Grand Magasins" - Printemps de la Mode. While at Printemps, the designer started work on her self-titled label. "As a teen growing up, I kept myself informed about the fashion industry through magazines, books and television and always dreamt that I would study and work in the fashion industry in Paris," said the St Martin-born designer.

In a record year for designer participation at Caribbean Fashionweek, Laijah is one of several young talents who will travel to Jamaica for the event. She will join an illustrious list of designers, including the now Vogue-acclaimed Gavin Douglas, who made a significant impact with his debut collection at CFW in 2005.

CFW is scheduled for June 8-14 at the National Indoor Sports Centre and is a firmly-established fixture on the international fashion calendar. The event attracts designers from more than 20 countries and features performances by international recording artistes and celebrities.

This year, under the auspices of the Haiti Art and Fashion Project, an initiative of the CFW Foundation, a special benefit night will be added to the week-long event to assist with the reconstruction and the development of the creative industry in Haiti.