Monday, June 22, 2009
CFW 2009: LaMaica
For the Friday shows at CFW, one usually would opt to either not come, or to arrive fashionably late. If you decided to do either, this year, chances are you missed a rocking show from LaMaica.
It was the third show for the evening, and after seeing it, I only wondered why... Still, having spoken with the designer, Marvalyn Nelson, she really didn't care where she fell in the show; one gets the feeling that she just loves what she does, and gets her fulfillment from the opportunities of sharing her work with others; viewing the pieces up close, her talent and craft shine through.
Opening the 2009 collection was an over-the-top silk organza design replete with a huge straw hat and market bag, equally fitting for model Shevolee Bell's storming of the runway. The girl walked so fast and fierce, I didn't get to take one decent pic! Lucky for us, the collection only got better. There was plenty of handkerchief prints, feathered head pieces, burlap, animal prints, tie&dye and earth tones accented with reds, blacks, whites; drama was obviously intended, and easily achieved.
What was most striking about this collection though, was that Marvalyn (yes, we're on a first-name basis) was able to not blur the line between over-the-top and cartoonish; the tailoring and precision of the pieces kept within the boundaries of high fashion.
It's easy to use clichés like chic to describe the collection, but one got the sense that the designer dug a bit deeper, giving us something a bit more exclusive and extraordinary than that on CFW's first night. So what was the inspiration for the line? The colourfulness of the Caribbean? The uniqueness of its people? A heightened variation and presentation of their lives? Well, yes, and no... Those influences are there, yes, all with a punk-rock edge, but for Marvalyn, she takes inspiration directly from the fabrics that she uses, and what great fabrics they are! There's the usual fare- the above-mentioned burlap, tweed, cottons, chiffon, breathable stuff; but where Marvalyn stands out from her contemporaries, is in her use of authentic animal hairs and skins to create luscious, jaw-dropping, one-of-a-kind bags, PETA be damned. In every colour imaginable, from cowboy brown and white, to caboose red, the models paraded with bags that would make Carrie Bradshaw salivate. If ever you want to make a statement with what you carry in your hand or on your shoulders, this, ladies, is the go-to-woman. Inspiration was taken, also, from the Edwardian era, evidenced by a lush white, chiffon Victorian blouse.
Ready-to-wear pieces like a newspaper-print dress, a white pant-suit number with black leaf-like patterns, and summery beach dresses also made an appearance, but never dulled the collection with anything trite as simple cuts. For the men, there were a few earth-toned burlap jackets adorned with floral patterns, as well as loose-fitting slacks.
So the question then arises, at least for me, what does one like Marvalyn (holder of an A.S. degree from Miami Dade Community College in Fashion Designing, as well as a B.S. degree in Apparel Management and an A.S. degree in Accessory Design from Florida International University) get from participating in CFW year after year (this is the designer's 5th or 6th showing)? For the designer, it is a way to network and develop her own astonishing craft; my mouth literally fell open when she admitted to start and finish the entire collection in a mere three weeks! She admits it was an impossibly hectic and stressful three weeks, but doesn't need to comment on the dedication she spent with the collection- it spoke for itself.
Jamaican-bred, Marvalyn professes to be influenced by her environments, transmuting the elements into fabulously unique pieces. If anything is remembered from this collection, she wants it to be the first and last pieces that strutted out; but if this blog has a say in the matter that's highly unlikely. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Marvalyn plans to bring back the LaMaica line to our shores at next year's staging of Caribbean Fashion Week, and dear readers, I cannot wait!
From top to bottom: A plethora of eye-catching bags made using animal skins and hairs; the designer, Marvalyn Nelson with model Nadine Willis wearing the collection's last piece; black and white patterned dress and pant-suit; floral-print jacket and earth-toned slacks; turquoise-spotted beach dress and more earth-tones (images from SociaLingua used by permission)