Finance minister tells design sector to go digital

MINISTER of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke has urged the local design industry to harness digital technology as part of a wider push to have the country rebound from the economic ravages of COVID-19.

The novel coronavirus pandemic is expected to cost Jamaica an estimated $120 billion, $80 billion of which is lost revenue, while the rest is unplanned expenditure. The island’s economy is expected to decline by up to 10 per cent this year.

“[Our] creativity goes beyond music to the general area of design, and as we seek to build an economy post-COVID that’s more resilient, more diversified, that has more streams of revenue — design offers the opportunity to achieve that most important objective,” the minister said during his welcome address at yesterday’s fourth annual staging of Design Week. The Jamaica Observer-staged event, held virtually, had an impressive line-up of panellists who provided details on the latest design tips, innovations and trends.

In making his case, Clarke referenced Congolese clothing brand Hanifa’s 3D digital fashion show, carried live on Instagram in May, as a great example of how to make technology work for fashion. The show used virtual models to showcase the pieces, giving the impression that items of clothing were walking the catwalk by themselves, each artfully draped over an invisible human form.

“These avatars that were moving on stage, if you see them move; the avatars have hips!” the minister said to much laughter from other panellists, as he jokingly tried to take back the comment. “It’s something that needs to be seen, because it’s a testimony to the power of digital technology, the power of innovation, and the power of saying, ‘No pop dung business, we gonna move ahead, we gonna innovate, we gonna be resilient, we gonna find a way to go ahead’.”

He added: “It’s an empowering story. A story that says, with resolve and determination and creativity, the world is our oyster. And with the access to digital technology and the usage of it, we can move beyond borders and achieve our goals and our mission.”

The knowledge of what is possible has given the Government a fillip in its drive to making technology more readily available, said Clarke, who told his audience that the Administration “is going to be extremely focused on ensuring that we improve in the area of access to digital technology”.

“We will put in place measures that are conducive and supportive in the way that I am here today, supporting the continued growth of the design industry, because it has a huge role to play,” he added.

The finance minister has spoken at all three previous stagings of Design Week, which brings together industry players for a frank assessment of where the sector is headed.

“Through digital technology, you can push on through COVID and emerge stronger and better than before. The Government is here to support all the established designers, all the emerging designers across a range of industries and fields,” he said.

Pointing to the work already done through the Government’s COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) programme, in identifying and getting funds to those in need by harnessing technology, Clarke said more would be done in this regard.

“We’re going to need to bring more services online. And I say to the design community, using the Hanifa Pink Congo Label example, that the digital world offers opportunities for you to go beyond the normal borders and boundaries,” he said. “We are encouraging our creative industry entrepreneurs to continue to leverage the opportunities available through this unusual time, and we want to broaden the design to include animation, which is a lot of design as well, and other electronic forms.”

Other speakers at the two and a half hour-long event included president of the Jamaican Institute of Architects Stacey-Ann Dennison-Heron, senior learning consultant at True Value Manufacturing Todd Myers, director of Palmer’s Unique Furniture Manufacturing Prince Palmer, principal of Angelie Spencer Home Angelie Martin-Spencer, interior designers Cecile Levee and Vanessa Paisley Clare, film producer Maxine Walters, and production designer Donna Noble. The host was the Observer‘s Senior Associate Editor Lifestyle and Social Content Novia McDonald-Whyte.


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