How Jamaican fashion designer Shampagne draws inspiration from cannabis

By Nicanor Gordon

Model Kadiya McDonald stuns as she poses with the washed-out punk skateboard behind her head. She’s dressed in an army green couture dress, with high-heeled boots and pearls draped around her neck. In another picture, she blows a cloud of smoke into the lens.

This shoot, aptly dubbed High Fashion, was the brainchild of super-talented, up-and-coming fashion designer and stylist, Shampagne, marking her debut as a creative director. She describes the shoot as “a marriage between femininity and softness, and boldness and being out there.”

In essence, she explains, the project thematically encapsulates social commentary on issues related to women’s empowerment, female underrepresentation in skate culture and the stigma around cannabis consumption in general, and women’s use of the herb in particular.

The idea for the shoot came fully formed. “I like to tell people that my train of thought is a bullet train. It’s not a regular train.” She remembers posing with the green fabric that she would go on to use to create the dress in the shoot. She posted it on her Instagram story, saying, “Doesn’t this look like kush?” Kadiya hit her up right away. The two were already close friends from working on other projects, and they immediately got something going. 

Shampagne instantly knew how important this new role would be. “I realize it’s a greater responsibility, it’s not enough to just have a vision,” she elaborates. “The concept is my responsibility, the style is my responsibility. I have to make sure JP’s (the photographer) brand is well represented, Kadiya’s brand is well represented, and my brand is well represented.”

That consideration oozes into her work. When designing the dress Kadiya models in, she aimed to create something that captured a bit of her character. “I remember I had seen her post this video of her skateboarding in a skirt and I just thought that was so powerful,” she shares. It was important to her that the dress not only looked glamorous, but was something practical, something Kadiya could realistically skate in. As for the pearls, they complete the dual look of grace and strength that she’s going for, but she also laughs, “I have this pearl agenda, I just love to see women in pearls.” 

JP Williams, the photographer and filmmaker with a growing reputation on the island for surrealist work, had nothing but glowing things to say about his experience on the shoot. “High Fashion was intended to feel more fun and free, less conventional…We wanted to convey a strong feminine energy, which would complement the outfit designed by Shampagne.”

At just 22 years old, Shampagne already feels like a veteran. She plans to convert her fashion line, SEOAR, from only custom-orders to including seasonal line releases. But more than that, she wants to put Jamaica on the map. “Jamaica, I feel, is the cultural capital of the world, and the cultural heartbeat of the world. I want to push that forward with coming projects, with everything that I do, to make sure whatever I do is new. It’s not something I’m adapting from something that exists… I try to create from raw ideas that aren’t based on anything I’ve seen before.”

Check out Shampagnex and the High Fashion crew online… 

Creative Director & Stylist: @shampagnex 

Wardrobe: @seoraco 

Photographer: @thestudioeight

Model: @kadiyamcdonald

Jewelry: @karibartsboutique

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