Joy Prime profile

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Joy Prime

University of the Arts London (2023)


Professor Amy de la Haye


A practice-based autobiographical investigation of the fashion material culture of Caribbean female couturiers from the 1930s to the present day


My childhood memories are showered with visions of effulgent difference. Dresses created by my mother festooned her workspace, each bedecked in organza, lace, bows, frills and matching accessories. Although this dress-style was standard formal-wear for many British-Caribbean families during the ‘60s to ‘70s, I saw little representation of Caribbean dressmakers throughout my British fashion education.

This practice-based research, situated at the intersection of cultural capital and British Caribbean dress history, is an autobiographical study of three generations of Caribbean dressmakers in Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, and post-war Britain. My aims are to instigate discourse on western narratives of Caribbean dressmakers; unpack relationships between British and Caribbean fashion material culture; and decolonise historical accounts of couture fashion by rendering the contribution of Caribbean couturiers visible through my practice and research. My research builds on Ehrman and de la Haye (2015) who identify British dressmakers excluded from London fashion scene narratives and Tulloch (2021) whose exhibitions contextualise her black British fashion research. My proximity to Tulloch’s research is reflected in my exploration of black British style and how it has been impacted by migration from the Caribbean to Britain.

My research began with A Caribbean Couturier in Lewisham, a project that celebrated the fashion contributions of my mother and her compatriots through a curated installation, infused with personal reflections, a panel discussion and a fashion show. Drawing on this project, I will conduct object-based research alongside autobiographical reflective practice to identify the relationship between domestic space enterprise and London's couture industry. Finally, I will produce a written thesis comprising the first historical study examining the role of Caribbean dressmakers in the Caribbean and London and a critical analysis of their distinctive designs, making and working practices, underpinned by a viva exhibition of historical Caribbean made-to-measure garments.