island fashion

a study of street fashion in the West Indies, mainly on St. Martin

SXM’s fashion melting pot

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the essential scarf

the essential scarf

you can't see them, but their there, the very 80s white  shoes and white shoulder purse, made this turquoise dress a real stand out

you can't see them, but the white shoes and white shoulder bag made this turquoise dress a real stand out

the red boots and red glasses, plus the only female hat I noticed that night

the red boots and red glasses, plus the only female hat I noticed that night

the mini

the mini

the killer heels, especially if you consider the floor

the killer heels, especially if you consider the floor

the suit

the suit

SXM is a mixture of styles. You have the African Caribbean vibes, the Latino Caribbean vibes, Puerto Rican Mammis and Pappis, the French Caribbean, the Dutch Caribbean, the rasta flavour, the high-end-brand -cosmopolitan-bon-vivants, the no-brand-too-poor-to-describe, the no-brand-nonconformists-by-choice, with a dash of American student styles, sprinkled with American tourist style and occasional European influence. There’s clearly no uniformity and plenty of different sources of inspiration for fashion self expressing.

While most countries tend to group around a limited number of trends, even if the people of  that country visibly belong to different fashion clusters, there still usually is a clear distinguishing feature inherent to all the clusters of a particular country. The Italians, the Dutch, the French, the English, etc, all divide into multiple subgroups (e.g. bohemians, ultra glam, ultra fashion oblivious, posh conservative, posh progressive, etc) evidently distinctive from each other, yet those who have a good eye, or who have ‘been around’ can still easily place the yuppi and the hippy in the same geographical area – somehow there’s something common to both of them which allows to guess they belong to the same country/region. Or maybe it’s not that the ultra glam and the ultra fashion oblivious have a common characteristic, maybe just all the ultra glams of country A do that something particular, ultra glams of countries B through Z do not do… Whichever the case, you intelligently and correctly guess they are from country A.

SXM does not offer that privilege. The plethora of styles is so great, the influences coming from so many different sources that it’s virtually impossible to summarise the style of the island in a limited number of pictures. What I’m showing in the blog is merely a glimpse. The variety is much bigger and the differences between the styles much more pronounced than anywhere else I’ve seen.  Sure NY has thousands of nationalities and ethnicities all coming with their respective fashion background, but within a short time of living in NY the where-one’s-from-differences seem to lessen; the poor/middle class/rich being the primary lines of fashion division.

In SXM the wallet of course dictates fashion expressions as well but the only group it seems to come close to uniforming is the poorest people. Nevertheless, members of this group still consciously express variety with their particular fashion statements. The middle class and the rich represent an infinitive number of fashion styles. No one seems to copy anyone else;) (although I guess my previous post showing men in hats contradicts this a bit). With people being from so many places, everyone seems to be able to dispose of, let’s call them, fashion tools (composed of clothing, accessories, trends, skills of matching, etc) which allow to create individual, almost signature, fashion styles per person. Naturally this is an exaggeration. The island’s small population versus the over 100 nationalities and multiple residencies (ergo influences) of so many of the inhabitants, allow many people a chance of being very unique.

The essesnce is locally present styles are not easily categorised into well defined few groups. There’s just too many influences mixing in a relatively small society. The few ‘tags’ I mentioned at the beginning do not really do justice to all the fashion categories present, although maybe the mentioned ones are the ones which have so far been for me the easy ones to distinguish in the very plural crowd, and the ones which were easy to name.

I would have loved to shown you more, but the lighting that night did not allow to capture all the interesting creatures of the night. I insist on taking candid camera shots strongly believing people come out better when unaware they’re being photographed, but of course this results often in not being able to get a full silhuette, or at least in not being able to show the elements of their look which create their fashion statement.


Written by eliku

December 3, 2008 at 17:03

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