6 Pieces (& Designers) That Let You Wear Your Art on Your Sleeve
Updated: Aug 21
by Kara Martin
In case you didn’t get the heart-on-sleeve reference, this is a feature on Wearable Art. The body, too, is a canvas and fashion designers are, and have been, cashing in on this concept, especially with jewellery and accessory craftsmanship, too.
Adding high doses of fine art, eye-catching drama and theatre detail to pieces, is not only a way for designers to flex their creative muscles and show off talent and technique, but also to ensure that their label stands out in a rolling sea of common trends that each fashion season presents.
And life should be lived in vivid colour when and wherever possible so, as Caribbean Islanders, we’re all for it. The average consumer or budget-crunched fashionista, too, can own a work of art in this way, without actually ever taking out a cheque book, or a hammer and nail…
Turn your wardrobe into an art gallery via these artsy creations created by Caribbean designers…
Prajjé O. Jean-Baptiste
Photography by @desvaphotohaiti, Model: @casscheryofficial
We are completely…unreasonably…in love with this heavily-embellished, ‘holier than thou’ coat by a Haitian designer who is clearly worth following for an Art Class in Fashion. Jean-Baptiste’s designs are a couple things: playful and flirty, sometimes political (with statements graffitied onto beautifully tailored garments), and other times, positively print-heavy.
Head to his website for some standout print shirts, pantsuits and scarves, the latter of which are also very artsy, indeed (example, this stunning silk portrait scarf collaboration with world-renowned Haitian graphic artist and painter, Philippe Dodard).
@melissasimonhartman / www.simon-hartman.com
It’s a no-brainer to us to marry the worlds of art or avant garde fashion with Carnival costume design, and this London-based Trinidadian is front and centre of that movement thanks to her vast experience as both an artist and theatrical costume designer with a portfolio that includes award-winning designs for Notting Hill Carnival, and just recently, pieces featured in Beyonce's highly-curated 'Black is King' visual album!
Photography by@lukenugentphotography, Model: @charliiamlegend
Not only are Melissa’s creations breath-taking in their intrigue and intricacy, they also use materials and techniques that clearly back her Caribbean and African heritage. We dare you to wear this large macramé “lampshade” of a hat to your next brunch...
DOWN TO XJABELLE
@downtoxjabelle / www.downtoxjabelle.com
Photo by @johannwnolck, Model @katvas021
Isabella Springmühl has featured at London Fashion Week as an emergent designer representing her native Guatemala, has done a TEDx Talk, and in 2016 was named one of the BBC’s 100 Most Influential Women. She also has Down’s Syndrome and is a talent still blossoming in her 20s.
We are probably as enamoured as she is with fringe, tassels and elaborate embroidery and we’re quite impressed with her local takes on capelets, the traditional tunic-like huipil (a dying Guatemalan art form, by the way), as well as collars and embroidered “breast plates” (for lack of a better word), plus whatever this elaborate shoulder covering pictured is. Throw any of these over a plain tee, tank or dress and you’ve added drama in seconds. She is also no stranger to “Art-ing Up” a denim jacket and other everyday pieces…
Brown Cotton Caribbean
Spearheaded by Costume Designer and Stylist to the Stars, Ris Anne Martin, BCC’s ‘About Me’ page on Facebook literally describes the brand as “Caribbean-Inspired Wearable Art”, so here we are. Also, please see the fiercely Flower-Powered bomber jacket in the picture for proof!
The cool thing is that most BCC pieces are one-of-a-kind or made-to-order so you don’t have to worry too much about clashing with someone else at the next fete (except for maybe songstress Nailah Blackman, who is always performing in her designs).
Photography by @careem.gilbert, Model: @rain.nedd
Follow Ris Anne on Instagram as well for cool DIY video inspiration on ways to craftily upscale old or plain pieces (@risystyle).
We actually found out about this Trini metal works creator when casually strolling through a student exhibition at the Trinidad & Tobago National Museum & Art Gallery (where one of the pieces was actually stolen!) last year. Indeed, the artist made waves with a line of wallets that looked nothing like wallets…because they were shaped as rings, earrings, cuffs and necklaces. Not only are the bold (hidden and hands-free) wallet solutions highly functional, they definitely also represent artistic, showstopper High Fashion jewellery.
Photographed at the National Museum and Art Gallery, Trinidad
Fe Noel X Cliffannie Forrester
@fenoel / www.fenoel.com
Photography by @itayshaphoto, Model @fataoujobeofficial
Even if you’re not into the “avant garde” nature of most Wearable Art…you can still support art and artists in a chic and simple way via your wardrobe…
Fe Noel is Grenada’s internationally-trending fashion gem, and we talk about her (Felisha Noel) often because she never forgets to give home a shoutout in her work. Her latest Resort 2020 Collection ‘Daughter of the Soil’ (directly inspired by the Spice Isle) also features pieces “canvassed” by an actual young, black Grenadian painter, Cliffannie Forrester. The portrait on this breezy, sheer skirt (and Gabrielle Union-approved sweater) was displayed at the New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2016 (when Cliffannie was 18!).
FACT: Felisha has apparently always been a fan of Renaissance Art, and it shows too in this dreamy past collaboration with Afro-Cuban painter Harmonia Rosales, placing her Black Beauty-depicting art on airy dresses. (Ready to support Black creatives? Here’s your shot…)