Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, gave an example of how the creative industry is contributing to Jamaica’s growth at the recently concluded 8th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference in Kingston Jamaica. She noted that there was a 4.8 percent increase in visitor arrivals during the Carnival period from 2017 to 2018, with spending up 7.4 percent to 2.2 billion US dollars over the period.
Encouraged by the numbers, and energy of the sector, Minister Grange applauded creative entrepreneurs for helping to lift the social and economic status of the country.
“We’ve invested a lot in our creative and cultural industries because we’ve seen how many of our people have been able to lift themselves from poverty to prosperity through our own creations… Recently we got the green light to begin operationalising the National Cultural and Creative Industries Council (NCCIC). The NCCIC represents the next step in providing meaningful support for our creatives to ensure that they earn from their creations and abilities”, she said.
Indeed, one of Jamaica’s creatives, Randy McLaren, recognises the potential and is proving that the business of creativity is an important pillar in the island’s economic and social development.
McLaren, and his brother Davian, founded Bresheh in 2015, a bag design and manufacturing company. Made from vegan leather, the stylish backpacks, totes, and pouches are a luxury handmade product that can compete on any market.
But, why Bresheh we asked the Chief Dream Maker, his title within the company.
“Bresheh is the Jamaican word that rural people use for breadfruit. I am from St. Thomas and the first breadfruit tree was actually planted in Bath, St. Thomas. When we were trying to decide on a name, we said why not Bresheh, something that represents us culturally, something that people here and abroad will connect with. I want to, as we grow as a brand, to take the essence of who we are as a people, as Jamaicans, with us”, McLaren explained.
His most popular product lines is The Roast by Bresheh collection, inspired by the roast breadfruit.It comes in charcoal black, rusty brown, and ash grey. The inside is lined with cotton calico in a cream colour to match the inside of a breadfruit.The high quality leather will not strip and is guaranteed to last for at least ten years said McLaren. And importantly, all materials are locally sourced, including the vegan leather. In fact, Bresheh uses this non-animal product to be socially responsible.
“At Bresheh we decided to go with vegan leather as an alternative to animal leather. We realised that there were certain issues in certain parts of the world where people were killing animals for the skin. We don’t want to be a part of that process. So, we try to keep our supply chain as clean as possible”.
“There is a niche market for our bags. We [Jamaica] were importing over a million backpacks annually, so there was a clear opportunity for import substitution, to build a brand right here in Jamaica that we can share with the world; something that’s known for quality, something that’s authentic, something that’s creative”, he added.
According to McLaren, Bresheh is a social enterprise company employing a small, but growing team including young single parents, youth, and some from the deaf community. He sees his role as Chief Dream Maker to pass on some of the opportunities for others to achieve their own dreams. To help his employees ‘get there’ he is in the initial phases of setting up a Bresheh Academy that will provide training in ‘soft’ skills.
“When we started, working with young people, we had issues with them taking the work seriously, coming to work on time, and productivity. We see the gap, we see things that need to be done. Workforce training is necessary, so we are looking to bridge that gap”.
With his sights set on opening a bigger commercial space, McLaren and his team are looking to create new lines. Look out for the ‘Fry’ collection coming soon.