Yahdie Conscious Style Centric Image

by Nneka Jackson

Amidst a sea of Forever 21 and other overbought, mainstream retail clothing brands, Yahdie Conscious is a quickly growing clothing line that strives to stand out and remain true to its Jamaican roots. What originally was intended to be nothing more than T-shirt collection has blossomed into much, much more. Jamie Spence, designer and head of the local clothing company shares with IrieZine what the increasingly popular YC brand is all about.

While still in high school Spence had the idea of starting a line of T-shirts emblazoned with positive phrases related to Jamaica. The concept didn't materialize until 2004, during her first year at University. With financial help from her father Jamie and her then business partner purchased blank T-shirts and began the process of designing and selling male and female T-shirts.

The budding designer had always envisioned that she wanted a name which was distinctly Jamaican, as she remarked, "In high school I wanted a name that was obviously Jamaican. I was saying 'yahdie' (a slang term used to refer to Jamaicans) a lot at the time so that was in my head, and then (socially) 'conscious' music was popular at the time so I put the two together," According to Spence the end result was more than fitting, "the synthesis of the brand's name implies the presence of a Jamaican who is aware of themselves and their culture, and ready to make a positive impact."
Inspired by the work of international designers including; Alexander Wang, Alice &Olivia, Wildfox Couture, and Mariel Haenn, the line has over the years developed into unique tailored pieces for women and now goes by the more sophisticated moniker, YC.
However her original muse still inspires the clothing creator the most, "Jamaica inspires me, dancehall fashion as well as the music. I love to play hip hop or dancehall and start sketching, or watch music videos that I think showcase great style and get inspired by that. Fabric is also a major inspiration. I design ready to wear, edgy female fashion including t-shirts, dresses, skirts, swimsuits, and more recently a line of accessories." Her enthusiasm comes through in her work, as YC's one of a kind pieces have become must have items for local fashionistas.

Becoming a known fashion label is not easy task in Jamaica's economic climate, as the creative stylist explains, "The hardest part of the journey has been trying to compete in an industry that is so saturated, not only by local designers but from retail pieces that are imported and sold for much cheaper than designer clothing."

Ever resourceful, the fashion maven describes her marketing strategy, "I pride myself on the fact that YC has remained a very affordable brand while still maintaining that level of exclusivity. I rarely produce more than two of the exact design."

Opening up her market space internationally via the internet has also helped Spence who comments "Going online took years in the making. It was a big accomplishment for YC but a necessary one. The brand has been available online since Dec. 2010 for overseas purchases, though we are only shipping to the US right now."

Jamie is a survivor in a sometimes unforgiving marketplace, and has had her fair share of doubts, "I have considered giving up more than once, perhaps even more than twice. It's not easy chasing your dreams but I believe in myself and I have a lot of people who believe in me so that helps. I have a long way to go and I'm excited to see where the line will take me."

Hoping that her endpoint includes an international following, Spence is moving toward global merchandising, "YC is making large strides. The next plan is to make the line available for worldwide shipping and for distribution in stores abroad. That's my focus now."

Always looking to the future, Spence excitedly remarks, "We will be revamping the web site soon, adding new pieces, and are incorporating my hair accessory line GlamHEAD."

YC clothing is available at 'Style Savvy' shop#16, 7th Avenue Plaza in Kingston.
YC accessories are available at Stanley& Empress Boutique, 94 Hope Rd.
'GlamHEAD' accessories are available at Nylorac Barbican Centre.
Shop online at www.yahdieconscious.com
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