Fashion landscape of the Caribbean, and how different shopping is on a whole.
I live in the Caribbean, and understandably, everything here is quite different to other more metropolitan countries such as the U.S.A and England, which have huge cities such as New York City and London. That is not to say that my region is not developed. It is, very much so. I hasten to make this point as I have been told stories of well- meaning tourists who were surprised to find we have wi-fi, multi-lane highways, and a very highly-rated educational system. However, in some aspects, the Caribbean is a wee bit behind. I mean, of course, in terms of fashion shopping. (You didn’t think I would tackle a serious topic, did you? I am the fashion-obsessed Misnomer after all. J )
More specifically, I am concerned with the difficulty of finding the same clothes I see on many blogs that are largely inaccessible to people here. For example, such clothing outlets such as American Apparel, Hollister’s, Topshop, FCUK, etc. , don’t exist where I live. This is interesting as the society I live in is very conscious of our appearances. People don’t leave home and go into the city without making sure they are well-dressed. What is even more interesting is that governments apparently do not pay much attention to the small (albeit growing) fashion industry. So this begs the question: if we care so much about our appearance, why don’t we take fashion seriously as an industry? And why don’t we have outlets that other countries have? Or why don’t we at least have store outlets selling clothes that Caribbean fashion designers create every year for Caribbean Fashion week?
Well in defence of my little chain of islands, we are fairly young societies, only achieving independence in the latter half of twentieth century. We’ve been more occupied with issues like… oh I don’t know… establishing ourselves in the world, improving health and education systems and seeking for the betterment of the people in general. Fashion comes a long way down the list of importance in comparison to these goals. However, it’s now the twenty-first century, and I think it’s about time we paid a greater focus to more artistic industries such as fashion.
Please do not think, however, that this stops anyone from wearing the aforementioned brand names. Where there is a will, there is a way. It is common practice in the county I live in to go abroad for at least two weeks every year to either go to New York, Miami or even London for the express reason to shop.
Another way we get popular overseas brands is because of the large presence of small privately owned boutiques which bring in an assortment of popular international brands. These small boutiques have been my saving grace. After I returned from a shopping trip to England in 2008 (I claimed I went to visit my family there, but I was a shopaholic at the time, and I don’t think anyone bought this story), these small boutiques helped me keep in touch with the London high street fashion.
Some of these boutiques are hard to find though. Certainly much harder than the large department stores which also carry international brands but grossly overprice everything. A lot of these boutiques I find on back streets and pushed in back corners of malls. Basically, you have to look really hard for them.
I love my little country though. And I even love how hard it is to find clothes sometimes. The only way I can describe the joy of finding something really nice here is by comparing it to vintage shopping overseas. Vintage stores may be compared boutiques here in that they are harder to find than the large department stores. Do you know the feeling of euphoria you feel when you find a little vintage store you didn’t even know existed after passing by a million malls with nothing in them that interests you? Well that’s how I feel after finally finding a cute boutique that has what I want. It’s not easy. But when you find it, it brings even more joy cuz you had to look so hard for it.
Well that’s my take on Caribbean shopping. I can’t speak for the entire region, because I haven’t been to every island, and I do recognize that it is easier finding big brands in countries like Puerto Rico, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Jamaica, but if I want to include the larger amount of ruralised countries like Dominica, I have to lean to this kind of interpretation.