Jawara Alleyne Is Bringing Freedom To Menswear

April 13, 2021
Written By:
Written By:
April 13, 2021

Fact: The rise of gender-neutral fashion is an overly recurrent topic of discussion.

Still, while we praise so many genderless brands and collections, a fuss is still made when it comes to men wearing dresses, or preconceived female clothing. Take Harry Styles wearing a dress in the cover of Vogue as an example, or just last week when Kid Cudi performed “Sad People” with a floral dress at “SNL”.

Every definition of what menswear should be by traditional standards is being challenged by the designer Jawara Alleyne.

His work goes beyond genderless clothing. It is about granting men freedom.

I want people to ask questions when they look at my work“, he told I-D in an interview.

I want them to question how they feel about masculinity, how they perceive manliness and how they act it out. How they view and judge people, all the way down to what they consider sexy or attractive.

Born in Jamaica, he moved to the Cayman Islands when he was 13, and that’s when his interest in fashion started to show.

By the age of 16, he had already put together his first fashion show, and proceeded to take a bold, yet incredibly faultless, decision regarding his next step: moving to London to study Fashion.

My research as a designer contemplates notions of identity to breathe life to a new man and a new vision of menswear. My work sits at the intersection of exploring masculinity and conscious design for the man who chooses to define himself. Growing up in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands also plays an important role in the stories I tell in my work and my approach to design.

Alleyne crafted his own path through hard work and determination. He graduated from the London College of Fashion in 2016, and last year was one of the praised graduates from Masters in Fashion from Central Saint Martins.

He then presented the collection titled “Self Made Man”, which speaks of his goals and desires as a designer.

“I was always searching for myself and my identity, as growing up as a gay person in the Caribbean was quite a challenge. My work has always been a case of searching for who I am, and what other possibilities are out there for me”,
Alleyne for I-D

Just this year, he’s made his debut at Fashion East in London Digital Fashion Week with the AW21 collection, a continuation of ‘Self Made Man’.

Acclaimed for his deconstruction of masculinity on the runway, he believes this is the time for a change.

We’ve found ourselves in a time where we need to re-navigate and that’s what I’m doing through my designs”, he told AnOther, following his debut.

It’s saying that we need to break away from what was, so we can think about what can be. For the past few years, my work has been centred around telling new stories for men and seeing where we can push that narrative to open new possibilities.

Coming from a place where masculinity is so particularly defined, and fashion not always being the obvious career choice, Alleyne has proven that the fashion industry was his, in fact, his true calling, and the right path for him.

At this point, the designer has made quite a name for himself and is reaping the rewards of his hard work. He has managed to score work with some of the big international fashion brands, and even made some illustrations for Alexander McQueen.

I mean, you know you’ve reached a stratospheric level, when you are the one adding Swarosky crystals to a Peter Pilotto suit to be worn by Beyoncé during a tour.

Alleyne was the Studio Coordinator for Peter Pilotto, managing the operations of design development within the studio.

He also co-founded Nii with photographer and collaborator Campbell Addy.

Nii was a modeling agency which was operative up until May last year, which aimed to represent diverse faces in the fashion industry, and worked with some of the biggest publications in the UK.

‘Layers of Self’

Taking a look at Alleyne’s earliest collections, it would be impossible to guess that menswear was not what he was first inclined to when he began his fashion studies. As a matter of fact, he only started showing interest in menswear in his final year of studying at the London College of Fashion.

One of Alleyne’s first collections was named “Layers of Self”.

The innovative menswear pieces were so remarkable, that they became the inspiration for a dance production, and for an exhibition of his work.

The collection explored the search for identity of Caribbean men through fashion.

The lookbook was shot by the designer himself in Barbados. He wanted the audience to question how our own feelings towards sexuality and masculinity can trap us in a state of “mental slavery”.

”Our identity is constructed of a series of layers and often I feel like I’m forced to choose between aspects of my own sense of self simply so others can place me in accordance to their beliefs”
Alleyne for Afropunk

“Layers of Self” also received well-deserved recognition in Cayman Island, where he won a bronze star for the Creativity Award at the Cayman National Cultural Foundation’s 25th Annual National Arts & Culture Awards.

Jawara explores the concepts of the many layers that make up who we are as individuals, commenting that though we have a common culture, each of our identities are different and what it means to be Caymanian and Caribbean differs for each individual.

What moves him is the search for identity, expressed in every design.

I realised that identity isn’t something that you find, or arrive at. It’s something that’s constantly in the works, something you create yourself.”

Want to redefine masculinity? You can get your pieces of his latest collection at Shop Fantastic Toiles or via APOC Store.

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