Jamaican Fashion Designers
by Kesha Stewart | Associate Writer
Clearly, Jamaica has a culture that is revealed in the way we live all aspects of our lives. The main thing is that these things make our nation stand out from other parts of the world. One way we stand out is our unique sense of style and swag like no place else on the planet. Today I'm offering you an opportunity to look into the store window at some of Jamaica’s most suave and classy designers. They dress the who’s who here. They should be able to dress you too. You will meet Uzuri International, Carlton Brown Bill Edwards and Shenna Carby Designs.
- Mark McDermoth and Karl Williams, are Uzuri International and owners of Miss Universe Jamaica. The Swahili word Uzuri means beauty. The fashion house has been associated with elegant dresses which are often handmade. They have been dressing contestants in the Miss Jamaica Universe competition for several years prior to acquiring the brand in 2013. Uzuri International has a long-standing reputation for resort wear for both men and women.
Uzuri blends a Caribbean lightheartedness with an equal dose of international fashion flavours. They are famous for their use of materials such as feathers, crystals and luxurious fabrics. Their trademark sweeping hemlines and thigh-high splits are also not to be outdone.
As a matter of fact, their evening gown designed for Yendi Phillips in 2007 was named the most beautiful evening gown in all the international beauty pageants held that year. Wow!
They were in for a history-making experience when they were invited by Julia Morely, the Miss World chairman, to South Africa for the Miss World Coronation in 2008 as in the capacity of guest designers. They outfitted the 112 queens from all over the world for a special podcast opening musical segment. This raised their credibility as they were the first design house from the Caribbean to achieve such a coup.
With a clientele that spans the gamut of international celebrities, local political figures, socialite brides, prom princesses, beauty queens, supermodels and even the girl or guy next door, you can rest assured that the brand Uzuri International will remain relevant for years to come.
- Carlton Brown - I would describe him as one of the best interpreters of the mood and cadence of Jamaican style. He is a celebrity tailor and men’s fashion designer with not just runway-worthy designs but a riveting story of rags to riches. He grew up in the foster care system and still doesn't know his parents, but that didn't stop him from excelling. His foster family consisted of a fashion designer and dressmaker who had friends who were tailors. He credits his achievements to his passion for fashion designing and the mentorship he has received.
His skills were already above average by the time he got to HEART (now HEART/NSTA Trust) and later on Melna Fashion, a dressmaking school in the Hannah Town area. His dedication to his craft as well as the unmistakable talent he possesses led to him being interned with world-renowned master tailor Andrew Ramroop on Savile Row, London. Carlton Brown refused, however, to let his children grow up without his physical presence so he cut short what should have been a 10-year stint to become a master tailor and returned to his homeland.
I am serious that Mr Brown dresses the Who’s Who of Jamaican society. His first client of this ilk was reggae royalty Bunny Wailer, sprint kings Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, recording artistes such as Beenie Man, Bounty Killer and Romain Virgo, to name a few. This doesn't even include his politically affiliated, or corporate clients, bridal parties and everyday people who just want to stand out. Did you know he was the man who did the concert wear for Buji Banton on his “Long Walk to Freedom" series? That's right. He is also the designer behind Protoje and Devin Di Dakta’s Grammy threads. Mr Brown was recently recognized by Johnny Walker as part of the globally renowned brand’s bicentennial celebrations. Yes! He is indeed one of the ‘Icons of Progress. The designer muses that he has always been inspired by and held a fascination for the brand which he says is evident on his Instagram page as well as at his house.
With his 20 plus years of experience, Carlton Brown will wow you with his range of menswear. You'll be captivated by the way he can mix patterns and fabrics to give bold or laid back looks. He utilizes fabrics such as silk, suede and even lace combining materials to add texture and depth to even a seemingly traditional outfit.
Brown, who has been widely featured in Jamaica and the Caribbean, feels a sense of gratitude for all his achievements and how his journey played out along the way.
- Bill Edwards was a boy when he convinced a neighbourhood tailor to employ him as an apprentice after school. At the outset pursuing this passion was difficult because men's fashion was not a ‘thing’ back then. From as early as 12 he spent his free time at a neighbourhood tailor shop on Shortwood Road in Kingston.
When other children were playing bat and ball, Bill Edwards was sewing clothes. It is, therefore, not surprising that he is now Jamaica's top designer of first-rate men's clothing. He was upgraded from an observer to doing odd jobs and by the summer of 1977, he was promoted this time to ironing and adding zippers and making alterations! Impressing everyone when he made a dress for his 6-year-old niece.
Edwards, smoothly merging his sewing skills with a natural inclination towards entrepreneurship, was able to use his earnings from his job to buy a sewing machine and opened up for business on his verandah. A St. Andrew Technical High School (STATS) student by day and in the evenings, to the tailor shop to sharpen his skills. Pretty soon he was designing for his peers, teachers and later on the principal! After high school, he met and married a fellow designer and resumed fashion which he had put on pause for various reasons. By 1993 he was retailing his clothes with a tagline: 'clothes that leave their mark on you'. He supplied a local fashion store called Lee's Fifth Avenue. They took a dozen shirts each time they sold like the colloquial ‘hot bread'. He was encouraged by the owner Lee Issa to give his garments a more professional finish and this birthed the Bill Edwards brand in 1997. A feature of the Bill Edwards brand is his dynamic use of 100% Italian linen outfits designed mainly for men. Yes, ladies! He has a female line too.
You can get Bill Edwards to wear from Lee’s Fifth Avenue, Collectibles, Lloyd's of Montego Bay and Lord and Lady, as well as hotels such as Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, Half Moon, Hedonism, and the Sandals (local/abroad). If you happen to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands, Barbados, Antigua, St. Lucia or The Bahamas his brand is also available.
Edwards has intimated that he gets fulfilment from seeing people wearing the Bill Edwards label.
- Shenna Carby won Mission Catwalk in 2011. Since then she has not had a backward glance. She typically designs for female executives in the corporate realms. Her muse is no other than Mrs Ann Marie Vaz M.P. who she says has believed in and supported her talent since her Mission Catwalk win.
Ms Carby has participated in Miami, London and Caribbean Fashion Weeks. Additionally, she has shown her designs at The Salon Bridal Showcase in New York. She is intent on making Shenna Carby Designs a global label. The typical Shenna Carby piece is timeless and lends itself to multiple outings so that the owner gets value for money.
We share the links below so you can make the connection and own a piece of Jamaican high fashion or resortwear.
- Instagram carlton brown jamaican 🇯🇲 (@carltontttbrown)
- Bill Edwards Bill Edwards (@billedwardsclothingcompany)
- Shenna Carby (@shennacarby)
I also recommend you read Jamaican Dress - One People, One Fashion
Editor's NoteSubmit your questions here
- carlton brown jamaican 🇯🇲 (@carltontttbrown) • Instagram photos and videos,https://www.instagram.com/carltontttbrown/
- Bill Edwards: Bill Edwards (@billedwardsclothingcompany) • Instagram photos and videos, https://www.instagram.com/billedwardsclothingcompany/
- Carlton Brown tailored for success | News, https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20210219/carlton-brown-tailored-success
- Top Jamaican Menswear Designers, Experience Jamaique, https://www.experiencejamaique.com/blog/top-jamaican-menswear-designers
- 12 Caribbean designers who could make you a showstopper dress, Loop Jamaica, https://jamaica.loopnews.com/content/12-caribbean-designers-who-could-make-you-showstopper-dress-1
- Jamaican Fashion, https://www.anticipationvilla.com/post/2017/03/22/jamaican-fashion
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