Since I became involved in Caribbean fashion, the words Caribbean Aesthetic has been a term that has been thrown around liberally. Apparently we desperately NEED to define the Caribbean Aesthetic. Designers who experiment in black, white and grey are told that they need more colour, because monochrome isn’t the Caribbean Aesthetic. Apparently, the Caribbean Aesthetic is floaty caftans, maxi dresses and bikinis. PRINTS! PRINTS! PRINTS! But who’s to say that Adrian Foster’s black and white clean or architectural looks also don’t fall within the Caribbean Aesthetic?
French women in Paris just are effortlessly chic no matter what they wear. Their gallic ease and confidence in their dress defines their aesthetic, not necessarily any specific item that they wear (unless you count scarves. And cute bikes lol). Then I take a glance at Caribbean people in their daily life. Is what we wear on the street the Caribbean Aesthetic? Don’t get me wrong, I love a caftan. But certainly, only a few of us can pull off a hand-painted silk caftan on a Tuesday afternoon.
Aside: I believe that uniform culture kills the ability of a society to form personal style. I may have mentioned this before on this blog, but here goes again. When we grow up we have school clothes (uniform), party clothes, and home clothes. That’s about it. And the average Caribbean person grows up not knowing how to develop personal style around the clothes they wear day to day because the importance of individuality in daily wear has been minimized historically. However, send us to a party, and we want to splash out, grab ALL the attention that ever was, sometimes to horrendous result. Just look at some recent boat ride pics to illustrate this point.
So here we are forcing a Caribbean Aesthetic that is not happening organically. Meanwhile, international designers create annual resort collections that perfectly pinpoint a Caribbean Aesthetic with collections that contain solid colours, black, trousers (gasp!) and sleeves, alongside the backless numbers, jumpsuits and flowy dresses. They do this because its easy. And that’s all the Caribbean Aesthetic ever needs to be, is easy fashion, while still hitting all the necessary marks of a complete wardrobe.
When I think easy dressing, I think of every Meiling piece I own. Meiling’s aesthetic is decidedly her own, but if you’re looking for clothes to serve you every day, that are easy and fresh and light and fantastic for our weather, and our personalities really you need to look no further. My birthday dress this year was one of Meiling’s iconic Kite dresses, that I wore to the opening night of her collaborative pop up space at the 101 Gallery last week called Times Five. I loved the outfit so much that I had to photograph it. And what better background to focus on a clean easy dress than a crazy busy mural in the Queen’s Park Savannah.
The best part of this dress: it’s a sneaky caftan. It’s made in a sturdier fabric, and with a button neckline and a collar. But it’s still a caftan, with sexy elements like the unexpected backless peekaboo. This is what the Caribbean Aesthetic is all about. Taking those islandlife influences and creating a wardrobe and style that really becomes every day, or that can be dressed up or down based on occasion, as a Kite absolutely can.
A Parisian woman on the streets of New York can easily be spotted. I feel like the Kite is something I could easily wear on the streets of some distant city and have an observer say, “Ah that woman looks like she’s from the Caribbean!” Sometimes I feel like if we in the local fashion industry took so much pressure off of creating things that we need to have, and just let them happen organically, we would be a lot better off.
Photography: Kyle Walcott Photography