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The Lush Kingdom is a brand that’s hard to miss with its bold prints, bright colours and Caribbean inspired motifs. It can be described as the ultimate expression of Caribbean love made visible in the form of printed clothing, stationery and home accessories. For JamesHackett, the man behind the brand, the Lush Kingdom was a concept that could have been expressed in many ways. More than pretty prints, itis an avenue for telling our stories, Caribbean stories. We sat down with James to explore what is the story he intends to tell with his brand and how he might have found a niche and community with his style.

Envisioning a Lush Kingdom: The Push for Something Better

James’s creative journey began with art and design thanks to the push of his secondary school art teacher. A teacher that not only taught him a love and appreciation for design but exposed him to local culture on a deeper level by giving him the opportunity to work on Carnival related projects. As a result, he was able to meet the greats like Peter Minshall and various locals and creatives.

The creative push within James didn’t stop as an adult but only grew stronger with time. A senior graphic designer at the time, James felt the need for something more. He craved challenge, an opportunity or avenue that would allow him to grow. In search of this next adventure, he found the Fashion Design Program at UTT. It felt like the push and challenge he needed. “Most of my family at that time didn’t even finish secondary school so I decided to push forward,” he says. Five years later James graduated UTT and like other designers he was ready to make his mark in the industry.

“Fashion expanded my creative vocabulary,” he says, stating that it was a wonderful place to bring his many loves together. “I can apply graphic design, I can apply art, I can apply storytelling.”

At its surface, The Lush Kingdom is a brand that offers bold prints, bright colours and Caribbean inspired motifs. Beneath the surface lies a more intricate web. A combination of many things which forms the foundation on which his kingdom is built. It is an expression of James, his influences, his love for Caribbean culture and the desire for something great: A Caribbean Ideal. “Imagine the best of what we can be and that is where the Lush Kingdom is,” says James.

With a foundation and influences so strong it’s no wonder that the pieces created from the Lush Kingdom is as visually distinct. It is hard to hide that kind of passion and his vibrant pieces reflect that.

Bold Face and Caribbean: Telling our Story Through Colour, Print & Design

For James, the use of vibrant colours, bold prints, shapes and motifs allow him to bring a level of authenticity to his pieces, representing ideas and topics that are familiar to us in the Caribbean.

“I’ve always been in love with our stories, folklore and characters. In love with who we areas a Caribbean people and how that is seen by the rest of the world. When you explore the work of our local artists you feel and understand that love for who we are,” says James. He seeks to find this honesty in who we are as Trinidad and Tobago and reflect it in his work. His goal is to build a new aesthetic based on the Caribbean experience with pints and design that tell a Caribbean story. Image of woman wearing lush kingdom designs

“It’s cool,” he says, “because we see a lot of people trying and doing different versions of this aesthetic, so I’m excited looking at that from other folks. I just have a particular version of that for the Lush Kingdom. It’ll always be bold textures, graphic and colourful.” This is a reflection of what he sees Trinidad to be.

He recalls the day he realised we were living in a Lush Kingdom as he admired the Northern range upon leaving Trincity. He felt a sense of home and warmth.” The sun, the colours, everything felt vibrant and there was a wonderful kind of energy. I felt really content living in the Caribbean,” says James.

To keep that authenticity in his work it means that you will get a print that might be mangoes instead of strawberries or orchids and a hibiscus as opposed to daises.

The influence to display Caribbean stories is so strong because as James was growing up, he saw the rise of influence in foreign media within in Trinidad and Tobago. He sees that love of Caribbean culture being juxtaposed with the foreign media we consume. While that media is great in its own right, his love for Caribbean culture had him thinking our stories are just as interesting, the products we create out of Trinidad could be just as good.

He describes it as being bold faced enough and having the audacity to say, “why not us” hinting that we have the capability produce things at a high standard and be seen on an international scale. “We tend to focus on the things that are great from other places, how about we focus on the things that are great from here. Prints that tell a story about Trinidad and Tobago, not the craft village kind of thing but something you really put a lot of effort into to make it look nice and amazing. That’s where I think you get folks really excited,” he says.

Populating the Lush Kingdom Community

With prints described as bold, graphic and colourful, it’s no wonder that The Lush Kingdom has found its niche. The style may not be for everyone, but one thing James knows is that the Lush Kingdom customer is anything but boring.

The brand attracts people who enjoy the idea of taking the ordinary and turning it into something fun, creative and cool. The Lush Kingdom gives a place for the artists, the creatives, those with the desire to be seen and stand out or stand firm in their authentic selves not afraid to wear or rock what they like. These may be the same people you always see playing Carnival. They are not afraid to be expressive or be seen. James notes that these people may not always be artists or typical creatives themselves. Even those labelled as the calm or shy introvert can have an expressive side one which the Lush Kingdom can provide an outlet for.

“Some of the best lines I would get from people are “You know I don’t always wear this kind of colour but the way that you do it, I like it!” he says.

His unique style has created a tribe and a community, one he is grateful for. Wearing a Lush Kingdom dress or walking down the streets of Port of Spain with one of his printed umbrellas is like flashing your ID letting the world know you are a proud citizen of the Lush Kingdom.

Image of Lush Kingdom designs on notebooksTo have a strong Kingdom you need the trust of your people, something that James has managed to accomplish. Consumers trust his brand; they know what to expect. They trust the potential and buy into the vision of what it could be. While James admits there is still a lot of room for growth within the Lush Kingdom, the brand is recognized by people for its unique style.

“I think the one of greatest achievements that I’ve pulled off since launching the Lush Kingdom, is that people would send me things or bring things to me and say, ‘you know what, this looks like the Lush Kingdom or I could see Lush Kingdom doing this.’ With that, I have the base I just need to continue to live up to the potential that people have in their minds right now,” says James.

How the Lush Kingdom Plays in the World of Fashion

From graphic designer, to fashion designer and creative visionary, James just wants to inspire. He hopes that the Lush Kingdom community has that effect on the people within it. He says, “During the pandemic the one thing I realized people wanted, if you couldn’t give them money was to give them ideas and inspiration.” Within this community he wants everyone to continue to be optimistic, motivated and inspired so they can then motivate and inspire.

Having worked with other creatives in the past and even now cultivating his own Lush Kingdom team, James has always valued community. He values the ideas and contributions everyone has to offer and believes this is how we push forward. “In my mind the community is one of the best opportunities for people to get together and create something amazing,” he says. This mindset has led him to work with other talented designers and creatives within the industry.

He has collaborated with designers such as Shoma the Label and the New York Based Fashion House Fe Noel. His work can also be spotted with brands such as J&K Signature Styles and Cedros Bay as he merges has talent for print design with the talents of other creatives in the industry. His custom prints create fabric and designs that cannot be found anywhere and everywhere allowing the brands that collaborate with him to have something unique to them.

The future for the Lush Kingdom

When asked what the future holds for the Lush Kingdom, James laughs before saying “Becoming very rich.” What he’d really like is the Lush Kingdom to serve Trinidad and Tobago by giving the world a glimpse of what Caribbean design can really look like. “When you want something that represents real Caribbean and awesome clothing, I want you to think about The Lush Kingdom as the best example of that. “

He is also working on a few things to be released soon. Most recently is his Tropical Ease Collection. A collection conceived during the heights of the pandemic with the aim of allowing people to lean into comfort, feel relaxed and a bit more optimistic. Whether you are home or on the go he hopes you’ll have a little bit of Lush with you.

To keep up to date with James and become a citizen of the Lush Kingdom check him out on Instagram @thelushkingdom. To see his full range of products you can visit www.thelushkingdom.com

Maria Ransome

Maria Ransome

Maria Ransome is a visual artist and content creator based in Trinidad and Tobago. Her work focuses on visual branding, graphic design and content creation for personal branding and social media.