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A Caribbean Couturier in Lewisham: Sylvia's Space and Contemporary Couture Workshop by Joy Prime

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

Discover the forgotten textile legacies of Lewisham's Windrush Generation 14-28th October 2022 11am - 6pm, Monday to Saturday, Lewisham Shopping Centre




Black History month is celebrated in the United Kingdom every October, however this year, there is also another year long celebration in the Borough of Lewisham.

WE ARE LEWISHAM: London Borough of Culture 2022

"Step into Sylvia’s space, an interactive installation recreating the 1960s room where Caribbean couturier Sylvia Prime, lived, worked and raised her children. Lovingly curated by her daughter, Joy, the installation draws on memory, oral histories and family photographs from the Hummingbird Senior Citizen’s Club and the wider Caribbean community to tell the story of the Caribbean women who produced made-to-measure, couture gowns alongside their day jobs in Lewisham. The project is the culmination of a year-long project led by Joy Prime exploring the forgotten textile legacies of the women of the Windrush Generation who had a lasting impact on Britain's cultural landscape, but are largely excluded from the history of British Fashion.

Next to the installation is a contemporary making space where designers will be in residence, recreating mid-century, period couture garments. Come and watch them work, or, put your face through Windrush themed photo cut-out boards designed by artist, Nadine Walker.
A People’s Fashion Show on 27 October will bring the exhibition to a close, featuring original, mid-century made-to-measure garments modeled by community elders – full details and registration."

I was invited by my good friend Joy Prime, MA, BA (Hons), PGCE, Caribbean Fashion History Researcher, to be part of this wonderful experience. I didn't quite know the extent of what she had created , and I was pleasantly surprised when I went along for the first time last Friday, to get measured up and entered the exhibition space. I was initially told that she wanted me to model a garment for her as part of her exhibition, however, what I was not aware of (and I should have done my due diligence and researched the event) was the significance of the outfit she was creating.

Behind the concept of the couture dress that was being made from scratch, Joy Prime was using techniques, ideas, concepts and structural mechanisms to create 'Caribbean Couture'. This process is what those from the Windrush era, and before would have used. Processes that accurately represented her community, Her people, Her Story, Our story, Their Story. But most importantly one could say, Joy Prime was creating a masterpiece ... indeed she was, but I smile here because creating masterpieces were second nature to us, it was our secret language, maybe because it defiantly was stating:

"You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I've got diamonds

At the meeti