Creating Caribbean Clothing

When it comes to creating clothing suitable for the Caribbean, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist. Just look around you at what people are wearing, and you will get a pretty good indication of what works, and what doesn’t.

Key to getting it right is knowing that regardless of how fashions ebb and flow, everyone has a go-to garment in their closet that remains a firm favourite year in, year out, at least as long as it remains presentable. And long after presentable has gone out the window, it will still be around, just because. Clone that garment, and you can build a brand.

According to Hugh Treadwell, this is exactly the design ethic that guided him when creating Caribbean Canvas Company.

“Caribbean Canvas Company designs and manufactures bags, clothes and accessories for people who live, work and travel throughout our islands. It’s about making the kind of stuff that you go back to and use or wear, over and over again,” he says.

Far from creating another tourist t-shirt shop, the idea behind the company was to create a line of clothing that would make sense to locals and be practical clothing for the Caribbean, as this is vital when attempting to create an authentic brand. After all, if the locals don’t wear it, there is nothing authentic about it.

According to Hugh, it was a bit of a shocker to realise just how many people travel off island to buy the basics, when they really should be able to find something in the Caribbean, and in Cayman more specifically, that ‘gets’ who they are and what they do.

“We really felt that a company could exist that could make and sell a lot of things that people on the island need, at a fair price,  and that people visiting the island would find either useful or a much better souvenir, or both. Until now, that company didn’t exist,” says Hugh.

Although the weekend tends to mean outdoor activities regardless of who you are, during the week Cayman and the whole Caribbean have various faces bringing very different dress codes along with it. This was also something Hugh took into account when the clothing line for Caribbean Canvas Company was in development.

“Some of us have to work and have to wear suits and ties, some just shorts and T-shirts, others jeans or khakis and button downs or polos, it runs the whole gamut. We really focus on the common denominators, the stuff you really use a lot, and we try offer you a good choice of styles, colours, qualities and sizes,” he says.

This means classic shorts, a few pants, lots of tops, t-shirts, along with technical sporting apparel for those who take to their outdoor activities with a zeal bordering on the competitive.  Hugh says that although price is an important consideration, be believes value is much more relevant.

“To us, value is that intersection of price, design, materials, construction, features, durability and exclusivity. When it comes to looking at each of our products in the context of each of those specific areas, we are very confident that we provide tremendous value for your hard earned money,” he says.

Even though it is a new company, the designs and materials the company employs are deeply rooted in the Caribbean and especially in Cayman.

Some of the t-shirt designs come straight from the archives, going beyond cool visuals to anchor the company firmly in Cayman. There is even a line of t-shirts boasting designs by local artists, which will be rotated on a fairly regular basis.

A unique element in the store is a line of t-shirts called Chari-T, with a portion of the price going toward the local charities featured on each shirt.

As the name implies, canvas plays a very important role in the company’s line of products as it holds to the maritime heritage of all the islands while at the same time creating durable and wearable clothes.

“Our canvas shorts, pants and hats are built to last and our classic designs and styles guarantee that you’ll still be wearing them as long as they last. Everything we do in clothing has a purpose and anything we don’t make out of some sort of canvas is made out of other specific materials that are exactly matched to what the item is and what it does,” says Hugh.

There are some wonderfully unique touches on many of the clothing, with a subtle maritime theme carrying through most of the products. Even on the dress shirts there is the option of a subtle tropical touch – you can have the shirt with regular or coconut buttons.
Apart from the clothing, the store boasts a selection of bags that are some of the most practical one can imagine.

“Sailing and boating is still part of our DNA in the Caribbean and over the years, all of us seemed to have a few different canvas bags that we used again and again, lots of them were hand me downs, but they all had the same thing in common: they worked and they lasted. We always thought there were some ways we could make them better,” says Hugh.

There is a bag for whatever you want to do, from smaller more basic bags ideal for a quick trip to the shops to monster bags made of very thick canvas that can take whatever life can throw at them. Whether you need a duffel, a cooler, or a technical bag for your dive gear, Caribbean Canvas Company has a bag for that.

There is even a cool line of dog gear, called CK9 (Caribbean K9), that offers unique dog collars, leads and other accessories making use of nautical lines and hardware for a durable yet fashionable accessory that Fido is sure to appreciate.

Located on Fort Street in the Flagship Building, Caribbean Canvas Company is definitely well worth a visit. WH

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