Kellie Magnus

May 1, 2022

"Sewing the Seeds of Success": Can Jamaica’s Fashion Sector Blossom into an Industry?

At this week’s Kingston Creative meetup, local designers debated the state of Jamaica’s fashion industry.

The verdict: we don’t have one.

Designers Carlton Brown, Kadian Nicely and lecturer Laura Jones discussed the infrastructure, supply and funding challenges that thwart the development of local fashion.

“We’re doing the best with what we have,” said Nicely, noting that the successes of individual designers haven’t led to a functional industry.

Critical gaps in the value chain remain including limited infrastructure for fulfilling large orders and a shortage of skilled labour, particularly for sewing and pattern-making. This, combined with limited quantities of desired fabric and high prices for fabric and accessories, make it difficult for designers to scale.

And like many sectors, the high cost of doing business in Jamaica -- including gas and electricity -- retards progress.

“We’re high on the creative side,” says Jones. “But that isn’t enough to drive business.”

The designers called for government support, including the reduction of import fees on raw materials, the revamping of the HEART Garmex facility and funding for promotion and development. Jones noted that previous initiatives stalled, in some instances, when external funding ended. The designers also called on industry members to collaborate to solve common problems, including internships and mentorships to address skill deficits.

Addressing these challenges is critical to tapping into current opportunities.

More Jamaican customers and retailers are turning to local designers due to supply chain disruptions. Nicely also noted more local interest in custom clothing and greater international interest in the work of black artists and designers.

Jones noted hopeful programmes from the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, the Development Bank of Jamaica and Kingston Creative as well as increasing small business programmes from local banks.

With unprecedented networking and promotional power from social media, maybe this time the industry can step out of its infancy.

Kellie Magnus

Writer and philanthropy/development consultant. Musings on creativity and creatives. Home is Kingston, Jamaica.