It was clear even before I got off the plane from Gatwick to Jamaica that Jamaican folk have style like no other! The passengers on my BA flight were testament to the fact.
Both elderly ladies and young toddlers with short Mohican hairstyles cut into their Afro’s. Mothers with bright red and orange hairstyles. Teenagers with ripped stone washed jeans. Men with their shades at the back of their heads. Blonde asymmetrical hairstyles. Bright talon like nails. Basically, my plane looked like a flying fashion show! And true to the dynamic Jamaican demeanor, when the plane touched down in Kingston, the plane broke out into rapturous applause and cries of jubilation. Yes-I knew I was about to have a great few days.
However I was stopped in my tracks as we queued up to go through customs as I suddenly heard my name called repeatedly over the tannoy. ‘‘Can passenger Jasmine Dotiwala who recently arrived on the British Airways flight make herself known to an officer!’’. Gulp. my host Jessica Huie and I exchanged horrified glances as I blurted ‘’honestly my passports with me and I’m not smuggling in anything’’. We gingerly approached the officials who basically smiled and informed us they were here to meet and greet me and ensure swift and easy transport through customs to our driver. Phew.


Accompanied by head of international PR Jessica Huie, we were here for Caribbean Fashion Week, which had the city of Kingston buzzing with designers, models and the very fabulous fashion industry big wigs attending. We had a few diva demands of our own and were staying at the hotel with the best pool in town-the Pegasus- where we ordered curry goat and rice on arrival, gobbled it down poolside before rushing to our rooms to change for the opening reception the same night at the uber classy Spanish Court hotel.
The reception gave me a good inkling that this crowd was not just stylish but classy and sophisticated with very graceful, beautiful Jamaican women smiling and holding very articulate conversation everywhere you looked.
The next morning was the opening press conference for all journalists both local and international (like London’s luxury fashion consultant David Jones and Jamaican Observer writer Novia McDonald-Whyte), where the main man Kingsley Cooper (CEO Pulse who organized CFW) welcomed everyone and told us all about the few days ahead, what to expect, and that this week was not simply about showing great designs but getting them out to an international market so that the designers could make a living. He laughed ‘’ its lovely to see fashion on the catwalk but when it comes off it needs to go to the bank!’’
Also in attendance was Shurwayne Winchester (soca musician from Trinidad and Tobago, who has twice won the Road March title). He took the mic at the podium and sang his appreciation LOL.


The thing I became quickly aware of was that the old fashioned stereotypes about what Kingston Jamaica was about are truly gone and buried. The often-misrepresented international idea that this city is a corrupt, violent nightmare couldn’t be further from the truth. We could’ve been at any major fashion week in New York or London the way the organization and visuals stood so far.
If you think about it, this big Caribbean island sets trends all across the western world. In western slanguage with patois infiltrating the English language, dances like the bogle, butterfly, willi bounce, thunderclap, Nuh Linga, Tek Weh Yourself and Daggering. Music from Bounty Killer, Beenie Man and more, drinks like rum punches, dancehall fashion that mainstream designers like D&G often imitate and more. Some say that now’s the time to get on board. I say we’ve all always been aboard-we just don’t realize it.


As we arrived at the Jamaican Indoor Sports Arena for day 1 of the show I noted that this was people watching on a higher scale. The audience was very ‘’sho-sho’’ and had made the ultimate effort to look uber fashionable. We had long classy regal gowns, short flesh baring dresses, ruffles, frills, coloured hair fashioned into hat shapes, Chrissy Lou heels of vertiginous nature and this was the fiercest most perfectly overdressed very expensive front row I had ever seen!. This front row was just as sexy as the collections we were there to see! Men in the front row were taking pics with their I Pads too.This is a crowd with much spending power that international designers are missing out on branding to big time!
I was sat sandwiched between Rita Marley and Lady Saw and was surprised to see that the real life persona of Lady Saw is really very ladylike, elegant and demure!


The nightly shows were split into 3 main sections, each section with around 6 designers, broken up with free cocktails at the bar, which made for a long but fun evening. Designers that stood out for me on the first night were Sgfh by Kazz Forbes, which included short sexy colourful beach/ resort wear- in particular a stunning turquoise electric blue floaty dress. I also loved Femheka by Raxann Chin which was my fave- here I fell in lust with her striking long floaty Grecian one shouldered pretty princess gowns. We cheered patriotically for London based House of Oshae by Jhaniel Smith who had some gorgeous Organza outfits in neutral colours. We were debating whether we loved or hated Wilmas Original (by Wilma Stomp from Surinam) collection which showcased really clashing colours, prints and styles of structured jackets with clashing tartan waistcoats with boxy shorts.
As expected there were collections for the fuller figured woman-how could there not be? Kerry Kay by Kerry Christian more than proved that bigger framed ladies could work their sexy too-and the confident, swaggering models got massive cheers as they worked that catwalk runway!.
There was also a collection of glasses and specs which was quirky and sexy and had me feening to get my sexy secretary look on.
The models weren’t just stunning as expected, but their bodies were like racehorses. Curvy and strong in all the right places and they walked with such brilliant personalities. Haughty, jovial, feisty, elegant, nonchalant, perky-it was enchanting!


The men were particularly mesmerized at Olympia’s Fashion, which saw numerous very sexy red and gold swimwear.
Sea, sex, sun wasn’t just in the air but also the title of a collection by David André. There was much applause as white and Turquoise linen with cute ruffles and very clean lines resembling a St Barts crowd was shown.
The nice thing about the shows was that designers from all across the Caribbean were showing their designs in a collection of unity. Shelniel by Cassandra Motley from Barbados represented her island well as the Babans in the crowd cheered for her cute swimwear with jewel coloured fringing.
Not to be outdone next out the door was Hak Gwai By Lori Antoinette Williams from Trinidad who’s citrus coloured rain macs with cut out panels had the ladies oohing and ahhing.
There’s always much eagerness to see what veteran designer Meilling from Trinidad has to show and this was no exception as she shook up the stage with a live performance from a local music artist as her clothing featuring many flounces and peplums on white resort wear went down a treat and flounced along the runway.
One common theme amongst designers is long names and Bondig by Blondi by Dionne Richards was the next collection that made us sit up and look. Wild looks with bright orange and brocade. Shorts and crop tops. I noted miserably that you’d have to have a really skinny fat free figure to drop this collection but with its very over the top giant gold, studded denim I can imagine LA fashionista’s like Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton picking this up.
Finishing the show one night were Grammy Award-nominated Jamaican recording artist, Babycham and London’s very own Estelle.


The Jamaican crowd were ecstatic at Babycham’s one hour long set during which they screamed, danced, shouting and became quite hysterical. I’d forgotten just how many hits he had! His set was wild and infectious with the crowd unable to stop bopping in their seats. When he brought out his wife Ophelia to help him sing his hits the audience went nuts at their energy. She who had never sung before and this being her 2nd ever show smacked it!


Before Estelle came and closed the show the much-anticipated collection from bob Marley’s daughter Cedella Marley was shown. There was a long break before her set and we heard it was as she had insisted backstage that all the models change their hair and make up. (Diva!). It was worth it though once they re-emerged, the models were all hyped up and dancing along the catwalk. Models were throwing thunderbolts and gunshots as they rocked the Jamaica 2012 Olympic kit.
The crowd loved it with them all jamming in their seats, foghorns were being let off and blaring. Cedella had been asked to make the Jamaican Olympic teams kit with sports brand Puma so we saw the national flag colours Yellow, green and black on sexy dresses and swimwear. Marijuana leaf prints on sportswear (not sure how that will go down on official Olympic wear?) but it was a big moment! Cedella’s mother the great Rita Marley was sat next with us in the front row and they greeted each other with pride as cedilla took her final walk of jubilation. This range WILL sell!!
We ended the night all standing and singing along to Estelle who brought some international flavor with the crowd singing along to all her hits! Particularly her Euro dance sounding tracks, which the Jamaican crowd is really into judging by nightclub Fiction, which we attended that night!


The next day I was given a surprise of my own as I was approached by a lady from Prive Blend called Claudine Forrester who introduced herself and informed me that she represented nail polish company Priti NYC in Jamaica and other territories and that they had mixed a nail colour in my honour called ‘’Jasmines Juice’’ after my VOICE column which apparently is popular out there! Well you could’ve knocked me down with a feather! My colour is a gorgeous classy egg shell princess pink- suitable with anything! They’re coming to London soon so you could have your own bespoke colour and name too!

The final night of shows brought out even glitzier crowds and excitement than the previous 2 days.
Gavin Douglas from the UK really impressed with his all black, ckean cut, very European lines which looked rich and sophisticated for a business woman with attitude!

The Zadd and Eastman collection by Nigel Eastman and Ozman Khan was very well received. Set to a musical soundtrack of lovely French old skool black and white film music, the clothing showed regal rich textures juxtaposed with rainbow colours and was very wearable Parisian fare.


The whole event closed with 19 times Grammy nominated R&B superstar Brain McKnight who really put in a great set where he sang whilst playing both the piano and guitar at intervals. I was more intrigued to see if he would sing the P**** song that has caused him much Internet drama in recent weeks. Or whether he would acknowledge his twitter spats with fellow music stars like Chris Brown. Alas he didn’t and was the utmost professional.
The whole arena was turned out and screamed hard as he had them eating out the palm of his hand all night. With a lot of personality he was very entertaining and funny! He sang songs by other people who had inspired him like Michael Bolton, James Ingram, Stevie wonder and Michael Jackson.
When an eager fan in the crowd shouted pout a song title that they wanted Brian to sing he quipped “Its not request hour”. He continued “that’s my biggest fault-I can hear everything. In restaurants I hear folk say ‘huh he would never be with her if he couldn’t sing’ but I want to clarify that I have NEVER sung to a lady I am dating, my Mum said never use your talent for your own needs”. So ladies dating Brian wont get you serenaded!
He did clarify that to be serenaded by him you have to be following him on twitter and to prove the point he called out a twitter follower who he brought onstage to her utter hysteria and excitement. His fan, lucky lady Karisha was impressed.
He told us he felt that Spanish men with an Antonio Banderas accent can make anything sound sexy and proceeded to impersonate a sexy Spaniard.
I was surprised at how conversational and absolutely enrapturing this mans live show skills were-truly one of the best R&B shows I have seen!.
When he finished his set with the huge classic hit “Anytime”, the JA audience sing-along had to be heard to be believed- they sounded like a choir!
Can everyone in JA sing??

Everyone agreed that Caribbean Fashion Week 2012 exceeded its own expectations, with outstanding entertainment provided by Brian McKnight, Estelle, Baby Cham and Trinidad’s Shurwayne Winchester, enhancing a year which was particularly poignant as the 12th annual CFW came as Jamaica and Trinidad both celebrate fifty years of independence. 2012 saw a record-breaking number of designers on show, whether from the diaspora, such as Gavin Douglas, Shaco, or Tiger Lilly; or from within the region, such as the superb Meiling, Mutamba, or the Mushroom. The caliber of the collections on show was exceptional with UK fashion expert David Jones, credited with having taken Karen Millen from start-up to multi-million pound brand, blown away by the potential for Caribbean fashion on an international stage.

Some of the many highlights included Cedella Marley’s Olympic range for Puma and the Mission Catwalk finalists such as Crystal Powell and Ryan Chan. Brit boy Gavin Douglas (of Jamaican heritage) did Britain proud with his outstanding collection, emanating sophistication, drawing gasps from the audience and closing the show to applause.

The energy amongst the designers and attendees was electric, partly due to the fact that the Caribbean Export Development Agency, one of Caribbean Fashion week’s key sponsors, spent the weekend deciding on which handful of designers would be chosen to fly to London this August to stage a catwalk show at the plush Grosvenor Hotel as part of the African Caribbean Business Expo which aims to capitalize on the global spotlight on the Caribbean as a result of the Olympics, and raise awareness of the Caribbean’s creative industries which are ripe for investment and export opportunities. For the successful selected designers, it is a fantastic opportunity to launch their brand in an international market with the support of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) supporting and committed to driving regional growth.

CFW Founder Kingsley Cooper said, “ It’s been a great year and now we are intent on showing the fashion industry that we have design talent to compete in a global arena– our time is now.”

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