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Cayman fashion designer champions diversity in modelling industry

The modelling industry has long been criticised for its narrow representation of beauty.

But one Caymanian designer has been making strides to turn that tide around.

Jawara Alleyne co-founded a modelling agency called “Nii,” which champions diversity in the fashion industry.

Around 60,000 people from all over the world call Cayman home; it’s a melting pot of different cultures.

Miss World Cayman Kelsie Woodman is the perfect representation of Cayman on the world stage, but that stage does not always put diversity front and centre.

Caymanian designer Jawara Alleyne has hit out at this narrow representation of beauty, having struggled to get the right models for his collections.

He described the casting process as “frustrating.”

“We’d request a particular type of girl that we were trying to find for a story and their response and the girls that they’d send us, that’s not what this person is supposed to look like… their response was baffling, they just didn’t understand what it means to be black or ethnic,” he said.

Mr. Alleyne – whose collection is currently on display at the National Gallery – was so frustrated, he joined forces with a friend to start their own agency, saying “no-one really understands what it means to be diverse, so we wanted to do it ourselves.”

He said diversity was more than just skin deep.

“[It’s] not just about how a person looks on the outside, but about different kinds of people we wanted to include in the agency. For us, representation was really important, there was a lot of different things that came into play,” he explained.

Mr. Alleyne has now stepped back from his agency to focus on his design work full-time. But he said he was encouraged at the progress he was already starting to see.

“It was a really proud moment, having worked in the industry for a while, I could see how the the way we approach and view casting and representation is changing.”

Mr. Alleyne’s collection is currently on display at the National Gallery “Art of Fashion” exhibition, who will also a host a fashion show of his work on 30 November.

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