Jamaican fashion pioneer Ivy Ralph passes

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A report from Jamaica’s Observer.

World renowned Jamaican fashion designer Ivy Ralph passed away early this morning. She was 90 years old.

Ralph, who was in Nuttall Hospital, died at approximately 3:45 am, OBSERVER ONLINE was told. Regarded as a pioneer of Jamaica’s fashion industry, Ralph won worldwide acclaim when she created the Kareeba suit in the early 1970s.

“It was an idea I had as a child, a more comfortable style of dress for men. I wanted to help them get away from the jacket-and-tie routine, to something far more comfortably suited to the island’s climate,” Ralph is quoted in her biography.

Jamaica’s then Prime Minister Michael Manley, the bio explained, “saw the ensemble and immediately sought out Ralph. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. It took off like wildfire, everybody wanted a Kareeba and she was busy night and day just trying to keep up with the orders, exporting to Saks Fifth Ave, B Altman, and top boutiques across the USA and the Caribbean”.

The Kareeba, which was the subject of an article in the New York Times on March 24, 1976, was embraced by world leaders and celebrities, among them Barbados’ Prime Minister Errol Barrow, Guyana’s President Forbes Burnham, Tanzania President Julius Nyerere, the king of Swaziland, World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammed Ali, and American pop star Michael Jackson in his young days. In 1999 Ralph the Jamaican Government invested Ralph with the Order of Distinction for outstanding contribution to the promotion of fashion for export.

On Sunday, the Observer reported her equally famous daughter, Sheryl Lee Ralph, as saying that her mother was not in the best of health.

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