Fusing traditional cultures: a Caribbean story of Arawak traditions and local materials

Commonwealth Fashion Council

Explore the exchange story of designer Shasha Design from Guyana and artisan Launesha Barnes from Barbuda and find out how they created their look for The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, 2018.

“As I now play a more active role in the fashion Industry in my country, I’m becoming more passionate about the rights of the vulnerable groups in society. I’d like to use my talent as a way to inform the public and help these people. I also hope to continue pursuing my personal legends, being my best self, living every day as exciting and energetic as I can.”
Keisha Edwards
The Exchange: Guyana x Barbuda
For The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange 2018, designer Shasha Designs exchanged with artisan Launesha Barnes to create a look that was inspired by Antigua and Barbuda National Costume and their indigenous people. The look was unveiled at Buckingham Palace on February 19, 2018, and later moved to the Australian High Commission, London, where it was open to the public in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, April 2018.
Guyana: Designer Shasha Designs
Keisha Edwards is the owner and Creative Director of Shasha Designs. She launched her career in fashion by participating in the Guyana Fashion Week in 2008, where her designs received rave reviews, motivating her to launch her first fashion show in 2010 under the name Fierce Expressions. Keisha has showcased collections in Guyana, Haiti, Curaçao, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the USA. Keisha believes that education is key to national and regional development. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Guyana and has completed a certificate program in Fabric Selection and Design Style at The New School – Parsons School of Designs in the USA. She is currently enrolled at the Caribbean Academy of Fashion and Design, pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design.
Barbuda: Artisan Launesha Barnes
A recent graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design from the Caribbean Academy of Fashion Design (CAFD) under the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), Launesha has actively pursued her passion in the creative sphere for years. She showcased her first collection in the National Independence Fashion Show in Antigua, 2010, again in 2011, and upon her return from studying abroad in 2017. She has also participated in several regional and international fashion events including Carifesta, Suriname, 2013; Cameron University Fashion Week, Oklahoma, USA, 2014; Designer Critic competition in Trinidad, 2016 under the mentorship of Sean Griffith Perez, a Trinidadian designer; and finally her thesis fashion presentation, “Voices” in Trinidad and Tobago, 2017. She is presently working on building and establishing her brand TAOTM as well as co-chairing a budding Non-Profit Organisation for the development of the Arts set to launch in 2018.
The story behind the look
This look is inspired by Antigua and Barbuda National Costume and their Indigenous people, fusing elements of their Arawak tradition with their National wear. 

Illustration of the dress

Inspiration from cultural traditions

The neck of the dress is made with Burlap and is covered with seeds from the shac shac (flamboyant) tree. It is in the shape of a stick figure which represents one of the creatures that their shaman transforms into.

Hand dyeing techniques

The bodice is made with hand dyed Madras which is Antigua and Barbuda’s national fabric for their National costume.

The centre of the bodice is made with palm leaves and fibres woven into a plain weave.

Shac Shac seeds, jumbie seeds and buck beads create a triangular form on the front bodice of the design.

Natural dye

The look was naturally dyed with onion and beetroot then tie-dyed.

Natural dyeing techniques

The centre of the skirt is tie-dyed using natural onion skin and beetroot.

Inspired by architecture

The architecture of the Arawak Ajoupa (home) specifically the roof, inspired the full skirt of the dress, which is made with brown cotton and dyed burlap.

Buck beads were sewn on the red panels of the skirt.

Final look on display at Buckingham Palace, 19 February 2018

Final look on display at the Australian High Commission, London, 22 February 2018

Credits: Story

This content has been specifically curated for the Google Arts & Culture platform on behalf of the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange exhibition that launched on the 19th of February at Buckingham Palace in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and MATCHESFASHION.COM.

The project, created and managed by Eco-Age, with the support of The Commonwealth Fashion Council and The British Fashion Council.

More information about the images is available by clicking on them.
Read more about the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at http://eco-age.com/commonwealth-fashion-exchange/

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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