Jamaica Gleaner | Carolyn Johnson, Freelance Writer

Fashion went Spanish on Saturday night as the Embassy of Cuba presented ‘A Night of Cuban Fashion to Celebrate the National Day of the Cuban Culture in Jamaica’.

Hosted at the Courtleigh Auditorium, New Kingston, and produced by Saint International, the show was short and spicy with fabulous fashion and good music from Jamaica and Cuba. As a symbol of this, the otherwise white stage featured the Cuban and Jamaican flags.

After the playing of both countries’ national anthems, compère Adrian Atkinson introduced Cuban Ambassador, Her Excellency Gisela García Rivera, who explained that the concept of the show was to showcase the culture and heritage of Cuba, past and present. In so doing, the show featured the work of Cuban designers, Carmen Fiol and Emiliano Nelson, displayed by Cuban and Saint models. There were also performances by Cuban musicians, José Pérez Salgado and family; singer, Milisset; Richie Stephens; and fashion by Jamaican designer, Neah Lis.

Nelson, a veteran designer, has 20 years’ experience in the fashion industry. His résumé also boasts designs made to order for prominent figures including Fidel Castro and Prince Albert of Monaco. His pieces were mostly earth tone, with many linen-cotton blends. He also utilised crochet, which was incorporated in many of the pieces.

Practicality of the pieces

The strong point of the designers’ collections was the practicality of the pieces shown. One outstanding aspect of Nelson’s work was the spin he gave to the traditionally bland bush jacket. Long sleeved, his pieces came alive with colour and patterns running vertically along the front and back of the shirt. These were worn with easy slacks.

The most striking thing about Carmen Fiol is not necessarily her designs, but that she manages to continue designing trendy pieces at age 83. A woman for all seasons, Fiol’s collection began with the youngest model of the group, the daughter of Ambassador Rivera, who appeared to be barely a teenager.

Fiol’s designs were colourful with the exception of a line of all white, which included many free-flowing dresses. Among her designs were khaki capris with a shirt which had sequins. Her last piece was a brown-and-yellow spaghetti-strap dress with a high split, which seemed to flow with the dress and so did not appear provocative.

Good show

Neah Lis gave as usual a good show with many colours and beautiful designs. One piece which stood out was a pink-and-white top with short puff sleeves and a high collar and long silky skirt of the same colours.

But the models were just as outstanding as the designs. They were at home on the stage, walked and interpreted the pieces well. Among the Cuban models was a dark-skin young lady with grey eyes, an attitude for the catwalk. There was also a male model who stood out as he seemed much more mature in age than the others.

With Milisset’s popular Spanish renditions and Richie Stephens’ energy, Cuba and Jamaica had combined for an explosive night of entertainment.