Saint, JBDC partner on business access for fashion designers
Jamaican models are in major campaigns for brands such as Gucci and Balenciaga, but local fashion designers are yet to attain similar levels of access.
Saint International modelling agency and the state agency Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) are now collaborating on a business development initiative meant to raise the profile of designers, which they dub 'Irie Magic'.
"Part of the deliverables includes creating commercially ready designers," said JBDC Deputy CEO Harold Davis after the launch of Style Week.
It also includes introducing the designers to boutique buyers, international buyers or persons with high net worth who buy fashionable wear.
"We are not about creating designers and hype; we are about creating business so our outcome has to be about sustainable business," said Davis.
The JBDC has operated a fashion incubator at its Marcus Garvey Drive complex for a number of years, but the 'Irie Magic' collaboration, which started last October, will allow the designers to tap into Saint's local and global network. This month will be the first time that the JBDC fashion cohort will showcase their lines at Style Week, arising from the collaboration.
"What is new is a partnership with Saint. Many times when working with new designers they do not have a platform that they can work with. Saint has the eyes. Also Saint needs an influx of design talent as well. Second, we are trying to target a new set of designers from Edna Manley College, University of Technology and wherever they are trained," said Davis.
The designers work with the JBDC on a daily basis to focus on their collection, production and business-network and business concepts.
"The end product ,I would say , is to define the ecosystem that can really move the fashion industry to the next level," said Saint International CEO Deiwght Peters at the launch of Style Week on Monday.
Peters explained that there is really not a "sophisticated infrastructure" for fashion as in other sectors. Part of the solution, he said, includes leveraging Saint's global connections "and know-how" with financial and educational institutions to maximise the exposure of designers.
Peters runs an agency described as a top exporter of black models to Europe. Over 20 Jamaican-international models will be showcased during the 14th staging of Style Week in Kingston, during May 16-20. These models are in campaigns for top-tier brands such as Balenciaga, Burberry, Gucci, Balmain and Valentino. In fact, Saint booked eight of its models for Balenciaga in March.
Currently there are 10 designers in the cohort at JBDC. The cohort will showcase their designs at some of the events in front of Janine Heidt, a style influencer and personal shopper at US department store Saks Fifth Avenue.
Peters said that Heidt is visiting to scout new fashion design talent and will stay the entire weekend in order to meet with Jamaican designers.
"There is big talk within that sphere that they want to find new design talent," he said.
"It is not an overnight thing to get into that space. Designers have to be committed, passionate and dedicated and unyielding, otherwise it just will not happen."
In 2016, investment promotion agency JAMPRO, the marketing arm of the Jamaican Government, facilitated investments in projects worth $330 million in the creative industries.
Most of these projects were for film rather than fashion, but films require wardrobe, stylists and other design props, which links to the fashion industry.