How a New York designer is putting Jamaican crochet on the map

About 14 years ago, designer Rachel Scott saw an article in her local Jamaican newspaper about a group of women on the north coast of the island who had a knitting circle of sorts. They met to crochet, embroider and share ideas. The story struck a chord with Scott, who was born in Jamaica and has a lifelong interest in crafts and crochet. And so on her next trip back to the Caribbean from Italy, where she was living at the time, Scott made it her mission to find this band. “I drove for hours asking, ‘Do you know miss blah blah blah from this part of Saint Mary? “Said Scott, who is now based in New York, on Zoom. “I finally found them and met a lady who was doing this form of embroidery where they pull the threads and the embroidery around. It’s something they’ve been doing for centuries. She learned from her mother; his mother learned from his grandmother. There was this intergenerational knowledge that was passed on. I thought that was amazing and always wanted to find a way to work with them.

A decade and a half later, it is. Scott’s new label, Diotima, launched today, represents a great collaboration between the designer and this circle of talented artisans. Working with the original newspaper article group years ago, as well as several freelance artists in Kingston, Jamaica, and another North Shore group, Scott offers an elevated approach to crochet.

Joshua Kolbo
Joshua Kolbo

Scott, who grew up in Kingston and is currently Vice President of Design at Rachel Comey, always knew she wanted to incorporate her heritage into her design. Throughout 2020, she got a little break from the daily grind of the New York fashion scene and started thinking more seriously about what she wanted to create on her own. “Everything that happened last year in America gave me more strength to think that there was time and space for every voice to participate,” she says. “I waited a long time. It was a time when I needed to talk.

Her collection is inspired by both her upbringing at a Jesuit school in Kingston and the Jamaican dancehall scene of the 80s and 90s. One of the centerpieces is her uniform skirt, a mid-length pleated khaki garment remixed with side slits. “A lot of schools are Catholic, so there’s this decorum of how you have to dress,” Scott says. “I was playing with it and trying to subvert this idea of ​​being suitable.” Dancehall signatures informed her costumes. “It’s so interesting how they play with couture and women play with power but also sexiness,” she says.

The real star of the summer 2021 collection, however, is the crochet, with the standout piece being what Scott calls the web top. The front looks like a cobweb, rendered in white and black yarn, with a circular pattern that runs all the way to the neck, almost giving the impression of a high, primitive collar. This illusion of propriety, however, takes an unexpected turn thanks to the back of the harness; it’s as complex as it is sexy. There is also a white miniskirt with a crochet drop on one leg and on the hem, a mixed fashion statement.