ID: ‘Heir Apparent’

It is always heartening to see the acknowledgement of our cultural icons. Paying tribute to our elders in the field of artistic achievement and creative excellence is an essential and critical aspect of our social development and our human civilisation – certainly a powerful proclamation for today’s story. Yes, it is a revealing indicator of a society’s soul when due recognition is accorded to those paving the way culturally.

At the recent fashion week ‘O2N Style 2…Style me Caribbean!’ held at O2 Park, ID DLR Designs presented a refreshing collection in honour of Boscoe Holder. I immediately appreciated the texture and architectural construction of La Roche's work, reminiscent of Holder’s classic and timeless Renaissance man imagery, bespeaking his early French Creole influences - the flounces and frills - a la Trois Femmes.

Dominique La Roche, the designer, in his own interpretation of our Afro Caribbean plurality, captures what he deems is his ID. That natural impulse that seeks to avoid pain and maintain pleasure, but more so reaffirming an indigenous design (id), in terms of celebrating our hybrid culture. Here, I discern corresponding streams of consciousness with Holder's distinct desire to represent our Caribbean aesthetic. Both share a compulsion for identity - their work symbolise an ID band, as it were.

La Roche has always portrayed a theatrical bent in his conceptualising of our modern Caribbean style. Eccentric and avant-garde, this Cacique award nominee has allowed his client to revel in a dynamic drama which fuses costume with ready-to-wear. It’s couture, but evidently, one borne out of a biography quite dissimilar to European origins but bears exclusive custom-fitted clothing methods, utilising much craft and hand-done details.

A brief chat with this unassuming, post-modern stylist reveals eclectic insights. “I’ve always been marvelled by the works of The Cloth, I truly believe that its contribution to design and fashion is unmatched and resonates a unique vibe, executed nowhere else in the world; Heather Jones for her masterful surface-treatment imagery; the late Garnett D'Andrade of Simply Garnetts was a master, with his impeccable use of San Blas Art techniques and his resourceful skill set of needlework and Ronald Guy James, the first real couturier I met, and with whom I had the pleasure of working during the early stages of my style development - the lessons of silhouettes, construction, draping and finishes have stuck with me to date.” Regionally, Wayne Smith of Barbados, Kuumba Designs of St Lucia, Shazi Chalon of St Lucia/Martinique and most recently Shirrine Gillon of Antigua & Barbuda have impressed him with their intrinsic Caribbean style yet possessing extrinsic global appeal. Internationally, he is influenced by American, Geoffrey Beene; Italian, Gianfranco Ferre; and Japanese brands Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garcons and Issey Miyake.

“I stumbled upon this creative arena, by accident. My first love was animals and nature. I was actually studying to become a veterinarian but I was always involved in creating something to suit my immediate needs and persons seemed drawn and excited by the outcomes.” Now, he sees himself as contributing to a regional design landscape, not limiting himself to apparel but encompassing accessories, events and spaces. Evidently, La Roche is an all-rounder with an acute sense of style and a mission to make our aesthetic reverberate through his creative practices.

He credits yours truly, Richard Young, for giving him his first big break, the late Godfrey Sealy for encouraging him to do costuming for theatre and his deceased father for continuous motivation and support. Prepossessing a spirit of the new guard, yet cognisant of his predecessors, I deem him ‘heir apparent’  to a whole new generation of Caribbean style arbiters, notched impressively, on the global totem pole of style, the benchmarks of which were pioneered by the inimitable Boscoe Holder.