When you hear “Caribbean style” you might think of sandals, beach hats, and maxi dresses. But luxury fashion has a long history of drawing inspiration and borrowing techniques from the region and its diaspora.
Take, for example, small independent brands channeling the flags and slang of their home countries or established fashion designers that make sartorial springboards of their childhood memories, like legendary designers Oscar de la Renta and Isabel Toledo, who often cite their Caribbean home countries as reference.
This Caribbean American Heritage Month, we rounded up some of our favorite Caribbean-owned brands and designers to celebrate their impact in the fashion space. From CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winners to footwear brands reimagining espadrille sandals and metalwork, here are 24 labels you’ll want to know about.
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Merch Carnival is an apparel and accessories brand and online retailer dedicated to celebrating Caribbean heritage through fashion that’s sourced from a wide range of designers. Born in St. Croix, founder Ashleé Douglas launched the e-retailer in 2012 with a mission to support West Indian designers and artisans. This is your source for “Island Gyal” merch and “Bush Tea” mugs.
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Bien Abyé, which means “well dressed” in Creole, is a ready-to-wear and accessories brand inspired by Creole culture in Haiti. Massachusetts-born designer Dayanne Danier focuses on recreating traditional styles like beaded bags and colorful scarves that live up to the brand’s name.
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This Puerto Rican brand’s sole mission is to elevate the island’s culture through clothing, releasing limited-edition items each season. From T-shirts and hats to socks and swim trunks, the brand finds a way to connect people to Puerto Rican culture with its use of symbols and slang terms that are uniquely Boricua.
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Born and raised in Brooklyn, the Jamaican-Chinese handbag designer creates trend-forward pieces that somehow feel like classics. Launched in 2015, the brand’s handbag styles are named after some of Blackwood’s closest friends and collaborators.
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The Brooklyn-based brand is inspired by the founder Felisha Noel’s Grenadian heritage. The uplifting assortment of casual yet elegant clothing, accessories, and swimwear are a celebration of culture and glamour.
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Launched in 2018, Isleñas is a sustainable footwear brand known for its color-blocked espadrille sandal styles. The line also runs a training and manufacturing program helping women through the non-profit Centro Sor Isolina Ferré in Puerto Rico.
As its name suggests, Jam + Rico is an accessories brand influenced by its founder’s Jamaican and Puerto Rican roots. Finding inspiration in the lush nature of both islands, Brooklyn-raised designer Lissette Scott focuses on translating the colors, shapes, and symbols found in the Caribbean into bright and bold metallic accessories like shell-structured bracelets and sun-shaped earrings.
Knitwear designer Krystal Paniagua is a favorite of Kylie Jenner. The Puerto Rican designer makes sculptural knitwear, including ruched asymmetric tops and uneven skirts, all made by hand in her London studio.
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Influencer and beauty blogger Kathleen Lights launched her apparel brand Lights Label last year. The collection of apparel, accessories, and bags, which draw from her love of astrology and many of which feature modern blobby designs (think of trendy novel covers), is influenced by Lights’s Cuban heritage and Miami lifestyle.
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Los Tejedores is a brand created by Natalia Ortega Gómez and Ricardo Ariel Toribio. Mostly composed of hats (there’s also an eyebrow-raising “disciplina” fly swatter), the line fuses weaving traditions with a modern aesthetic. The two Dominican designers work closely with artisans in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
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Jewelry line Luiny, a standard bearer of bold minimalism, was created by self-taught Puerto Rican designer Luiny Rivera. The brand is now based in New York City, where Rivera designs accessories in intricate shapes and textures inspired by her travels and her time at home.
Dominican-born designer Luz Ortiz creates accessories mixing her Caribbean upbringing and the modern, industrial, and organic shapes that surround her in New York City, where she lives. Each piece is handcrafted in Ortiz’s studio using precious metals and natural stones.
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Mateo New York
Jamaican-born Matthew Harris moved to the United States as a 16-year-old, eventually becoming a self-taught jewelry designer. His label Mateo New York now carries both jewelry and handbags, and became a 2016 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist.
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Puerto Rican jewelry designer Nina Rios is trained in metal smithing, creating accessories with a vintage finish. Launched in 2016, her New York City-based brand is focused on communicating the designer’s experiences living in New York’s urban landscape and the lush Caribbean island she grew up in.
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Launched in 2020, Olette is a line of chic basics in solid colors and organic fabrics. Dominican designer Carolyn Compres-Diaz worked on the brand for years before launching during the pandemic with a core collection of items such as high-waisted pants and shorts, as well as off-the-shoulder tops in white, cream, and green hues.
Pantora Bridal is a Brooklyn-based special occasion brand designed by Andrea Pitters, who is of Jamaican descent. The brand specializes in wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses, as well as ready-to-wear garments and marriage merch including nuptial face masks.
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Since 2013, Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Pyer Moss has become a mainstay in the fashion world, launching collaborations with Reebok and Brother Vellies. The Haitian-American designer is a master at injecting social commentary into his collections and making headlines with his fearless and impactful truth-telling within the fashion industry.
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Edvin Thompson’s Theophilo carries his Jamaican DNA throughout the line. Named after the designer’s middle name, the brand is full of vibrant mesh and leather pieces. The Brooklyn-based designer is also a 2021 CFDA/Fashion Fund winner and a CFDA Emerging Designer of the Year.
Santos by Mónica
Made from cactus fibers, the Santos by Mónica bags are a collection of sustainable vegan leather handbags known for their unexpected shapes and vibrant colors. Designer Mónica Santos hand crafts each order from her studios in New York City and Puerto Rico.
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Xio by Ylette
Named after the designer’s grandmother, Xio by Ylette is an online jewelry brand by Cuban influencer Ylette Luis. The brand’s collection is full of zodiac-themed necklaces and ‘90s-inspired accessories.
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Yayi by Yayi Pérez
Founded by designer Yayi Pérez, the Puerto Rico-based brand is known for its sustainable approach to fashion, producing capsule collections inspired by Caribbean living, including maxi dresses, short-sleeved button-down shirts, and delicate tops.
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The brainchild of former Public School co-designer Maxwell Osborne, AnOnlyChild is a contemporary label that’s rooted in the designer’s Jamaican roots, with a debut collection that featured breezy two-piece sets and silk dresses, as well as monochrome suits and mesh tank tops.
Santana & Co.
Founded in 2021 by influencer Gabrielle Santana, Santana & Co. is a jewelry brand focused on bringing Puerto Rican heritage to the accessories world, including thick chains, bedazzled hoops, and an azabache necklace.
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Launched in 2013, the luxury womenswear brand is designed by founder Sophia Demirtas, who is a Haiti-born, Turkey-based creative and entrepreneur. The line is known for its bold prints and casual dresses that are fit for a day at the beach of a cocktail party.
Shop Fanm Mon
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