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Caribbean Style: Uniting the Caribbean, Through Fashion

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - March 2, 2014

Above: Coat of Arms Co-Founder Laurent Gerville-Reache

IT’S CALLED Coat of Arms, and the new Caribbean clothing brand seeks to redefine the notion of Caribbean regional identity. To learn more, CJ caught up with Guadeloupe native Laurent Gerville-Reache, co-founder of Coat of Arms, whom we named one of the most interesting people in the Caribbean in 2013.

What is Coats of Arms and how did it come about?

“Coats of Arms” is a luxury fashion and accessories brand that was inspired by history and travel. In 2009, co-founder Richard Ercole was on a trip around the Caribbean and as he met and interacted with the people from each island he learned more about each island’s true culture. It had a profound effect on him and he wanted to share this experience with his son, to teach him that the Caribbean was more than beach, sunshine and good music. He searched for a souvenir, preferably a shirt, that captures the pride of heritage he experienced but there weren’t any that appealed to him aesthetically as an artist. Therefore he decided he would create one on his own. We met in 2010 after he moved from Paris to Guadeloupe, and as we chatted about our passions for the Caribbean, travel, fashion, history and cultural diversity, he shared his vision for creating a souvenir that celebrates the Caribbean true heritage and from these many sessions Coats of Arms was born.

What are you trying to do with the company and the brand?

Our vision for Coats of Arms is to be the brand created by the world for the world, which inspired our tagline “Dressed By the World.” Each product is crafted with respect for each nation represented in our collection. For us, it is a privilege to have our brand representing cultural identity and pride of heritage. The environment and the welfare of our workers are important to us and as we grow, we would like to maintain these values. We have been awarded for our business practices, we follow strict EU regulations) using bio cottons and non-toxic dyes as well as recycling and maintaining a high standard of condition for our workers.

What are the major influences and inspiration for Coats of Arms Designs?

At the core of each design, we are influenced by the heritage of the nations represented.  A Coat of Arms is an important symbol of identity and we respect the details that went into each original Coat of Arms, including the colors, emblems and what they mean to the people, which is why we take very special care when transferring to our collection. We are also inspired by Suzette Gerville-Reache, 86 years young, living in Guadeloupe. Throughout her life she has enjoyed a passionate love affair with fashion, travel and art and this comes alive in her creation of the most beautiful clothing. Her joie de vivre inspires us every day! Nature, especially in the selection of colors and materials, also has a strong influence.

How would you define Caribbean style?

Caribbean style is as unique as it is eclectic, and reflects the rich and diverse cultural heritage of our region.  While it is ever-evolving with modern influences, inspiration is still drawn from tradition and nature. This is evident in the vibrant colors, the revisiting of the madras in some islands and the popularity of bold, statement-making accessories.

Is there one kind of Caribbean style, or does it vary from island to island?

The magic of the Caribbean region is our diversity.  Each nation has a unique style or a unique representation of a common style.  Yes, there are similarities that weave us together which could have resulted in one style, but with so many style influences both internal and external, including from the US, Europe, Africa and Asia plus the varied degree of influence per island, we thankfully have a variety in style.

How would you define style in the Guadeloupe Islands?

At the moment, there is a celebration of the classic Creole styles. The madras colors and the traditional costumes are popular. There is equal excitement for traditional costumes as there is for the latest fashion from Paris.  Some wear the costumes in original designs while others interpret them with a modern twist. It is really beautiful to see traditions embraced so passionately because it means our Guadeloupean heritage remains very strong.

Where are your favourite places in the Caribbean to relax and unwind?

That’s difficult to answer because I aspire to different forms of relaxation and each island has its own unique characteristics. For trekking Basse-Terre here in Guadeloupe, Dominica and Jamaica are ideal. For a complete escape, for which I am overdue, I either hop over to Marie-Galante or La Desirade or get away to Antigua, Anguilla, Isla Saona, San Blas Islands or St Lucia; I love to go sailing in the Virgin Islands or the Grenadines. Still, other islands combine all these assets, very generously like Barbados and of course our own Guadeloupe Islands with its amazing diversity.

What are your goals for the company?

In the near future, we will expand ” Coats of Arms West Indies,” with the addition of new designs inspired by countries including Trinidad & Tobago and the Netherlands Antilles .. By the end of 2014 we will launch the Indian Ocean Collection from our Seychelles office (which we plan to open in late 2014) this will include designs from Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion Island, South Africa, Maldives, Lakshadweep and more. We will be debuting new Caribbean designs in 2014.

Where To Find Coats of Arms

The Coats of Arms collection can be purchased online at the company’s website http://www.coatsofarms.fr/en and also at the following stores across the Caribbean:

Saint Barth Caravan, Saint-Barthélemy

West Indies Mall, Saint Martin

CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, Anguilla

Esplanade Mall, Grenada

The Purple house, Mustique

Saint Francois Golf Course Club House, St Francois, Grande-Terre, Guadeloupe Islands

Galleries Lafayette – Martinique

Cave Shepherd & Grantley-Adams Airport – Barbados

A la Plage Paradise Island – Bahamas

— CJ

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