Bridgetown, Barbados, July 10, 2013.  Caribbean Essence – A Fashion Showcase, an initiative of Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), presented five of the regions designers at the international fashion trade event The Gallery Berlin on July 2-4, 2013 which saw approximately 2,500 visitors from Germany and abroad.

THE GALLERY BERLIN was pitched as more of a creative lifestyle event this year at the new location – Opernwerkstätten, proving a special attraction for visitors.  The varied programme of fashion shows went down extremely well with buyers and the heavily publicised Caribbean Essence runway show took place on the 3rd July to an enthusiastic audience who were very receptive to the Caribbean Brands.  The brands, The Fifth Element, drennaLUNA, Heather Jones International and MEILING each showed their spring summer 2014 collection.  What was apparent was the difference between each the designers in the styles of their collections and their runway show, each coming with their own distinctly different styles.

The Caribbean Essence runway show opened with all white collection of drennaLUNA aptly named Montego Bay by Jamaican designer Arlene Martin.  The ‘simply elegant’ range displayed structure and softness with a fluidity of movement.  drennaLUNA was followed by Heather Jones International who is very used to attending trade shows and presents her collections to an international audience 6 or 7 times a year.

Heather Jones of Trinidad & Tobago presented her Colours of the Ocean collection, a range of fresh, comfortable, exquisite clothing that can be worn from the ‘beach to the alter’.  Receiving excellent feedback from the runway show Jones sees Germany as an emerging market and intends to go back again.  Jones has already experienced great success in Milan and travelled directly to Elba, Italy after the event to launch Heather Jones International.

When the audience heard Rihanna’s hit song Diamonds, it could only be proud Barbadian designer Andrea King’s, The 5th Element presenting her SS/14 line Layers of Beauty.  To a thunderous round of applause and energetic crowd, a collection of versatile clothing was shown, which featured garments that can be worn in several ways.  Also receiving great interest from the Berlin crowd, King stressed that this “should not be the last” time they come to Berlin as consistency is key to breaking in to a new market.

A first also for Trinidad and Tobago’s MEILING who presented her Cocoon line, a predominantly black line of geometric shapes with soft round edges, hoods and high collars that are symbolic of a cocoon in shape and feel.  MEILING participated in a Caribbean Export led study tour of Germany in 2012 along with King, which enabled her to take an initial look at the fashion landscape.  With Berlin’s fashion being edgy and out of the box MEILING designs would suit the German market quite well.

Following the runway show there was great interest in all the designers with a number of them receiving orders.  Oriett Domenech was unable to attend the event and so did not participate in the runway show.  Her line of clothing however was very well received at the stand by the visitors to the event.

For the most part the presence of Caribbean brands at The Gallery Berlin marks the start of a whole new relationship with Berlin fashion and come March 2014 Caribbean brands will be found in German stores and boutiques.  “Fashion is a high potential niche sector within the region that can benefit from EPA provisions.  Supporting designers to attend international trade fairs such as this is a key stage in penetrating new markets and the successes coming out of Berlin give us hope that we can compete” commented Chris McNair, Manager for Competitiveness and Innovation at Caribbean Export.