Local designers and the art of fashion

Those with an interest in art and fashion must take a tour of the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, which is currently hosting its aptly named Art of Fashion exhibition until Nov. 28.

The exhibition features collections by Caymanian fashion designers Isy B. and Jawara Alleyne. Commissioned by the Gallery to respond to their permanent collection, the designers were given free rein to interpret the artistic history of the Cayman Islands, from early intuitive art by Gladwyn “Miss Lassie” Bush and Charles Long, through to the emergence of the Native Sons, and on to the critically engaged contemporary art that is being practiced today.

Each designer has approached the challenge from a unique viewpoint using color and pattern, shape and volume, draping, and embellishments to reinterpret some of the most iconic artworks in the island’s history.

Guests of the Art of Fashion Costume Gala being held at the National Gallery on Nov. 30 will be given the chance to explore their own interpretations of the theme. This fundraising event always sees some incredible costumes worn by ticketholders, and this year’s theme will allow everyone to go all-out. Start getting your couture out of the closet, or create your own original masterpiece. Tickets are $195 per person and can be bought through the Gallery.

Jawara Alleyne

What inspired you to become a designer in the first place?

Growing up, I was always developing as an artist. I always had a sketch book with me in primary, middle and high school and as someone who wasn’t very social, I always used my time between classes to do little sketches and drawings and my favorite thing to draw was people. It was my initial intention to become some sort of artist but my desire to draw portraits and people naturally progressed into fashion as my characters needed outfits to differentiate them.

Jawara AlleyneDo you have favorite colors, fabrics and patterns that you gravitate towards?

Within my work I like to try a lot of new things with respect to colors. I wouldn’t really say I have a favorite. My work involves a lot of draping, so my design ethos and handwriting is generally surrounding lightweight fabrics that respond well to draping. I do want to explore more cottons and natural fabrics.

Where and when was your first show, and how did it feel to see models walking the runway in your clothes?

My first show was ‘Fresh’ at the Harquail. I believe I was about 15 or 16. To be honest, something that the general public don’t realize about people who work in fashion is that quite often we don’t get to appreciate the things that the audience gets to appreciate. I’ve never actually seen a fashion show as I’m always caught up backstage preparing and ensuring that everything is going according to plan.

I do remember there being a lot of adrenaline and stress as so many things went wrong. Models didn’t show up, things broke, it was a lot of quick thinking and on-the-spot problem solving. For me as a designer, I was more touched by the reaction from the audience and kind (and in some cases not so kind) words spoken about my work, so in a sense I’m experiencing my work through the eyes of someone else.

You have been featured in The Art of Fashion at the National Gallery – do you feel that art and fashion are closely related, and why?

As someone who exists in both the art and fashion world separately, I think it’s important to state that there are very large differences between art and fashion. Art can be fashion, and fashion can be art, depending on the context, however the two are not the same. There are a lot of art-related processes that take place in (fashion) design so the separation can become tricky when you’re looking at design and art.

Having said that, the theories behind design and art can be the same, and sometimes the expression can be the same. It all depends on the purpose of the designer and the context with which the collection is shown.

What future projects are you working on?

The next biggest thing for me with respect to my career and work is that I’m about to start my masters in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins which is the number one school for MA Design globally.

Outside of this I’ll soon be launching a small range of jewelry that will be available for purchase on island.

Isy Obi of Isy B. Designs

What inspired you to become a designer in the first place?

Isy ObiMy mum was a designer, and she learned from her mother before her, so while it’s kind of in my blood, design wasn’t my first choice of career initially. It felt “safer” to choose a career in finance rather than risk the unpredictability of a career in design. However, throughout I continued to feel the pull back towards my creative side, until I finally answered the call, and stepped into design in 2014.

Do you have favorite colors, fabrics and patterns that you gravitate towards?

I love a bold pattern and vibrant colors, anything from the freshness of tropical color and to the richness of deeper jewel tones. In fabrics I am a contradiction – I love the flow and feel of silks but I also love the structure and texture of leather.

Where and when was your first show, and how did it feel to see models walking the runway in your clothes?

My first ever show was Cayman Fashion Week in 2015. It was a little surreal the first time I saw the models on the runway in my designs, but it was pure magic to see each piece come alive on [its] model.

You have been featured in The Art of Fashion at the National Gallery – do you feel that art and fashion are closely related, and why?

Fashion is art. It’s the expression of an idea, concept or emotion visually through clothing. The design and creation of a piece of fashion is art, so too is how that piece of fashion is worn. That’s another reason I love being a designer, the creativity doesn’t end with me. The woman who buys that piece of fashion continues the creative act by styling that piece in a way that expresses who she is.

What future projects are you working on?

Right now, I’m working on the prints for the new collection and have been at the LA Textile Fair. I am also in development with some of the accessory pieces.