Wayne James Does It All–With Style!

Wayne James Does It All—With Style!

St. Croix-born fashion designer and former senator Wayne James is, as the saying goes, “Cooking with gas!” And there is nothing on the back-burner:  His sought-after seasonings have been expanded, rebranded, and relaunched as “Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men”; he is directing a film on the Golden Age of Cuba; and he is filing a Rule 2255 against the Federal Public Defender who presented no defense during the August 2018 criminal trial.

5 blends of Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men: all-purpose, salt-free, seafood, vegetarian, and holiday/game.

An iteration or reprise of the two-blend Wayne James’ Carnival Seasoning, which debuted in 1992, was lauded by the Washing Post in 1993 in an article titled “Wayne’s World,” and was sold everywhere from supermarket chains to gift shops to military commissaries, Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men now boasts five all-natural, no-preservatives, kosher-certified blend:  All-Purpose, Salt-Free, Seafood, Vegetarian, and Holiday/Game. And the new brand’s upscale packaging is decidedly and distinctively masculine:  glossy black caps to complement glossy black labels with metallic gold lettering, appearing more like the packaging for chic French colognes, fine  Cuban cigars, or condoms.

“The men’s market is huge but rarely targeted and oftentimes underserved, the presumption being that women do most of the shopping—for everything. But the demographics are rapidly changing, with men, especially because of the convenience of online shopping, packing a huge purchasing-punch. Men account for half of the world’s population and eat half of its food supply.  But very few food products are marketed specifically for men,” James said.  “My seasonings for men are the food-industry equivalent of Just for Men hair dye or Venus razors for women.  You go for a niche. And when the niche is huge, you can corner that huge market.

Marianne Kotubetey and Derek wrapped in white silk dupioni. Photograph by Amr Mounib.

“In addition,” James added, “marketing to men fits well with my overall persona as an influencer of modern men’s lifestyle, which began taking form with the publication of my critically acclaimed Manly Manners books on contemporary male etiquette. There’s no ‘Martha Stewart for Men’ out there.  But there is a need for one. So, I am working on filling that need one product, one concept at a time.”

And responding to modern trend of online shopping, James’ Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men are available exclusively at his online Concepts Store which he launched in July at www.WayneJamesLtd.com 

“Of course, women can use the seasoning!” James responds emphatically. “They’ll love it just as much as men.  It’s the best seasoning in a bottle, bar none.  And women will use it to enhance the flavor of whatever they are cooking too.  And women will purchase it for the men in their lives: brothers, fathers, boyfriends, sons, co-workers.  Based on the early indicators, women are buying the seasonings as gifts for their men. That never was the case before.  The seasoning is now a gift item for Fathers’ Day, birthdays, housewarmings, Christmas, July 4 backyard barbecues, you name it.”

But man does not live by food alone.   James is also in the throes of directing Going…Going…Gone:  The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba, a 90-minute docufilm based on his private collection of more than 450 rare photos of 1890-1925 Cuba, the photos issued in 1925 by the Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd., cigar company of Havana, Cuba. 

“The collection was started back in the 1920s when my maternal great-uncle, Alexander Messer, born on St. Croix in 1888 to Andrina Prince Messer [1865-1941] and Christian Messer [1859-1927] migrated to Cuba in 1918 to work as a sugarcane laborer and musician. Messer  would periodically mail home letters containing picture-cards of Cuba to his parents and siblings. Alexander’s younger brother, Alphonso Messer (1896-1973), safeguarded the  photos for a half-century, passing the collection on to me upon his death.  And over the years I have serendipitously added to the collection, my collection now believed to be the world’s largest.  The Cuban Heritage Institute of the University of Miami, for example, one of the world’s foremost repositories of Cuban documents, only has 60 of these photos.  I have more than 450.  And in October of 2009, when I visited Cuba in my capacity of Senator of the United States Virgin Islands, I donated copies of 250 of the photos to the library at the University of Havana, which had no prior archival knowledge of the photos. So, I’ve decided that its time that the images be shared with the world,” James said.

Going…Going…Gone is slated for a December 2021 premier at the Miami Hispanic Cultural Arts Center.  Thereafter, it will be available free of charge on YouTube, Vimeo, etc.  And an eponymously titled book will complement the film.

“I started working on this film back in June of 2020, inspired to take on the project by my dear, dear friend, Luis C. Garcia-Menocal, great-grandson of Mario Garcia-Menocal, Cuba’s third president [1913-1921]. Little did I know that Cuba would become a socio-political hotbed one year later,” James said.  “The timing of the film is at once prophetic and fortuitous.  I look forward to sharing it with the people of Cuba and the world. I hope it will inspire people to preserve the largest pearl of the Caribbean, beautiful Cuba.”

Also simmering—but about to escalate to a rapid boil—is the filing of a Rule 2255, in which James will petition the court to grant him a new trial on the grounds of the ineffectiveness of his defense counsel during his August 13-15, 2018, criminal trial for one count of embezzlement and two counts of wire fraud during his 2009-2011 term in the 28th Legislature.

“What the general public knows is that Wayne James was found guilty and hauled off to prison to serve a 30-month sentence,” James said.  “But what people don’t know is that I received no defense at trial.  My Federal Public Defender, Omodare Jupiter, turned to me in the courtroom after the prosecution had rested its case-in-chief and said that he was not going to present a defense because he didn’t think that the prosecution had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.  So, Jupiter called no witnesses, entered no documents into evidence, nothing.  It would be the equivalent of an O.J. Simpson trial where Marcia Clark says that O.J. Simpson is guilty as sin, but Johnny Cochran never comes on to say, ‘If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.’ My Constitutional rights were trampled upon in a trial that was, at best, a travesty of our criminal justice system.  My Federal Public Defender never intended to defend me.  I remain convinced that he was compromised from the very beginning,” James said. “This was a case that took over two years to finally come to trial. But he was frantically scribbling down his closing arguments on a yellow pad in the courtroom during the trial itself.

“The presumption seems to have been,” James said, “that Wayne James—that tall, slender, elegant man—couldn’t do prison, that the ordeal would break him. And that if, by chance, he happened to make it out alive, he’d be no good to himself—a ‘has-been.’ And in no position to right the wrong done to him at trial.

2003 watercolor by New York artist Suzanne Eisler of Wayne James at home at “Victoria House,” Frederiksted, St. Croix.

“But… Surprise!” James exclaimed.  “You see, they don’t know me.  I come from sturdy Crucian stock. I descend from people who survived the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Did they really think I wouldn’t survive prison? Really?  Survival is in my DNA. Give me a break…. So, not only did I survive prison, I thrived there. They, apparently, mistook my finesse for weakness.  Big mistake. They should have asked people who went to school with me.  I know how to take care of myself.

“For me, prison was a ‘lime’ on the Fed’s dime—a much-needed vacation on-the-cheap. A room without a view.  But I am a creative-type; it is my nature to find beauty everywhere, even in the underworld called prison. So, I hosted invitation-only dinner parties and jumpsuit-required cocktail parties. I outlined my upcoming fiction-based-on-fact novel titled Culo! Culo! Culo! in my cell in Puerto Rico. And I came up with a brilliant food franchise idea while doing time in Pensacola. I invented a cooking-gadget that I’ll patent and call a ‘WayLu,’ and I wrote the synopsis of a book I’m writing on the rapidly emerging Bromosexual subculture. I even wrote the script for the pilot episodes of a cooking-program to be called “Manly Meals:  Recipes for the Modern Man.” And in that program, I’ll have a segment on prison cuisine. It’s fascinating what you can create with the stuff they sell you in the prison commissaries.  I call it ‘Mean Cuisine.’

“I’ve been in seven different prisons—foreign, local, state, and federal—on this journey, and I found each one more interesting and intriguing than the next. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. It’s the stuff books are made of. With me on that journey were mafia men, stranglers, ‘Cho-Mo’s’ [prison lingo for “child molesters”], gang-bangers, rapists, ponzi-specialists, pimps and wimps, alpha-males with their transgender females, political leaders, drug-dealers, you name it.  So, to add to my collection of high and mighty friends, I can now truthfully say that I have friends in ‘low’ places.  Yes, the Bureau of Prisons neglected my glaucoma condition, and I am now blind. Thank God I had seen the known world several times over and the world’s greatest works of art before going blind. Ray Charles was blind. And so is Stevie Wonder. So, I’m in good company.

“I did prison the Wayne James way—with style and elegance. So, I am very much here, and I am very much ready to file a 2255 so that justice can finally be served,” James said. “Once you control the keys to your self-esteem, inner peace, and oneness with God, you can never be confined,” James concluded.

Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men is available exclusively at www.WayneJamesLtd.com  .  Going…Going…Gone:  The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba will premier in Miami in December during Art Basel Miami. And James’ deadline for filing the Rule 2255 is October 4, 2021.

Leather Scarves, Seasonings for Men, and Belts with Buckles of 18K Gold and Sterling Silver: Wayne James is “Ba-aaack!”

A Leather Scarf, Seasonings for Men, and Belts with Solid 18K Gold Buckles: Unique Products Rolling Out at Wayne James Ltd.com

An exquisite, buttery-soft leather scarf that drapes like fabric; a line of seasonings formulated for men; and belts adorned with buckles made of solid 18K gold are just a few of the cutting-edge creations rolling out at  www.waynejamesltd.com , the online Concepts Store of fashion designer Wayne James. 

“The mission of the Wayne James Concepts Store is to offer innovative products directly to consumers:  No middlemen, no department stores, no brokers and distributors.  Just a free-flow of ideas between the designer and the ultimate arbiters of trends—the customers,” James said. 

Fashion Model Cameron Alexander in a Wayne James Leather Scarf. (Sold in exquisite, handcrafted pine box for safe storage.)

Leather has been used for practically every fashion accessory—from hats to shoes and everything in between—but never for scarves. Enter: Wayne James’ urban-chic, 18” X 72”, seamless muffler that is turning heads (and necks) even in the über-creative world of fashion.

And who had ever heard of a seasoning for men? No one—until James unveiled his Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men, a five-blend line of all-natural, kosher-certified dry-rubs created for the modern man.

“Of course, the seasonings aren’t off-limits to women; they’ll love them just as men will.  But men need a quick-fix seasoning that they can just sprinkle onto or into whatever they’re preparing and get instantaneous, chef-like results. Men’s cooking has evolved beyond the backyard barbecue. These blends are crafted to make a meal prepared by a novice taste gourmet,” James said. “Men aren’t getting married to pretty, petite home-ec majors right out of college anymore.  The modern man in the Western World is now getting married in his late 20s/early 30s, and he needs to feed himself until—and then during (and perhaps after)—marriage.”

Newly launched Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men. Available in five blends: All-Purpose, Salt-Free, Seafood, Vegetarian, and Holiday/Game.

Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men comes in five blends:  All-Purpose, Salt-Free, Seafood, Vegetarian, and Holiday/Game. The packaging is decidedly masculine:  black labels and caps, gold lettering—a subliminal nod at men’s products such as razors, liquor, and cigars. The seasonings are available as individual bottles, in exquisite natural pine giftboxes, and by the case of 12, exclusively at www.waynejamesltd.com .  

The belts with 18K gold buckles, made in Copenhagen of fine leather imported from Italy, will be unveiled in 2022.

Italian Leather, 18K Gold, Sterling Silver, and Danish Craftmanship. Sold in Mahogany boxes. Coming Soon!

Wayne James is no stranger to causing ripples in the fashion industry.  In 1987, while in his last semester of law school at Georgetown, his debut collection was reviewed in the Washington Post on March 1st; he showed the collection at the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York’s SoHo on March 31st; on April 6th Bergdorf Goodman, arguably America’s most discerning retailer of fashion, bought the New York exclusive to James’ collection; and he received his Juris Doctorate on May 28th.  Within three years of his emergence onto the fashion scene, he was being touted as one of the “rising stars” amongst young New York designers by Washington Post fashion editor Nina Hyde and Kathleen Silvassy of United Press International.

But James’ journey has not always been as smooth as silk. In June of 2016, while in Italy writing Manly Manners, his now-critically acclaimed treatise on modern men’s etiquette and lifestyle, he was arrested by Italian authorities at the request of the United States Government for alleged “fiscal inconsistencies” during his 2009-2011 term as Senator of the United States Virgin Islands. At the August 2018 trial, James’ Federal Public Defender offered no defense on James’ behalf, claiming to James in the courtroom at the conclusion of the prosecution’s case-in-chief that he did not believe that the prosecution had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, thereby necessitating no defense, no calling of witnesses, no presentation of evidence.

“I remain convinced that my Federal Public Defender, an employee of the Federal Government, was compromised.  And I intend to file a Rule 2255 (Ineffective Counsel) by the October 1, 2021 deadline,” James said.  “Even Derek Chauvin, George Floyd’s murderer, received a defense.  I, however, received none. Talk about injustice.”

James served 30 months in Federal prison and was released, ironically, on Juneteenth 2020. But he lost most of his eyesight while in Federal custody. He will request a new trial as part of the Rule 2255 filing and is filing a law suit against the Bureau of Prisons for neglect of his glaucoma condition, causing his loss of vision.  

In the meantime, Wayne James is doing what Wayne James does best:  creating beautiful things, inventing useful things, and re-inventing himself.  Besides launching his online Wayne James Concepts Store less than one year after his release from prison, James has agreed to lend his collect of over 400 historic photos (ca. 1890-1925) of Cuba for a projection-art exhibition that will open in Miami, Florida, in December to coincide with Art Basel Miami 2021. He is also frantically finishing volume three of Manly Manners. Plus, he is penning an academic paper entitled “Mathilda McBean:  The Last Queen,” which chronicles the life of the heroine known for her leading role in the 1878 “Fireburn” labor insurrection on St. Croix. And he is making plans to divide his time between Little Havana and Old San Juan in order to write Culo! Culo! Culo!, a fiction-based-on-fact, tell-all book about life in federal prison in Florida and Puerto Rico.

“The world is bountiful, and life is beautiful. When we surmount the obstacles along the road of life, we get a clearer view of our destination. There are silver linings everywhere,” James concluded.

Fashion Designer Wayne James Directing Film on Golden-Age Cuba

Fashion Designer Wayne James Directing Film on Golden-Age Cuba

 Georgetown University law graduate and former United States Virgin Islands senator Wayne James seems to do it all—from fashion to furniture to food to federal prison.  And now the über-talented, ever-resilient author of the critically acclaimed Manly Manners can add yet another “F-word” to his credentials:  filmmaker.

Going…Going…Gone:  The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba is a 90-minte docufilm featuring more than 450 photographs of Cuba during its heyday between 1890 and 1925. The film will premiere in Miami on March 26, 2022, at the Miami Hispanic Cultural Arts Center.

But in many ways, Going…Going…Gone has been coming along for almost a century. In 1918, at age 29, James’ maternal great-uncle Alexander Messer, born on St. Croix in 1888, migrated to Cuba to work as a sugarcane laborer and musician. And while living in Santiago de Cuba, the island-nation’s second-largest city after Havana, Messer would occasionally enclose with his letters to his parents and siblings tobacco cards issued by Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd., manufacturers of fine cigars.  The cards featured beautiful images of Cuba:  churches and cathedrals, municipal building, private mansions, parks, bridges, monuments, casinos, theaters, bays and beaches, plantations, factories, etc.

“This was before the proliferation of the instamatic camera,” James said. “For Uncle Alex, sending picture-cards of Cuba was the best way he knew how to share his adopted homeland with his beloved family.”

Messer’s cards, totaling about 100, remained in the Prince-Messer family’s ancestral home in the town of Frederiksted, St. Croix, until 1973 when Alexander’s younger brother, Alphonso Messer, died, the seminal collection passing to James, who would turn 12 years old in September of that year.

“I was always intrigued by the photos, especially since Cuba had become a ‘forbidden land’ by the time I became conscious of the greater-world,” James said. “Those cards were always very sentimentally precious to me because they connected me to my great-uncles Alex and Richard, both of whom migrated to Cuba, never to return to St. Croix.”

In the late summer of 2005, while visiting a friend in Barcelona and partying on the enchanted isle of Ibiza, James came upon a cache of about 250 of the cards in an antique shop in old Barcelona, not far from the Pablo Picasso Museum, and quickly purchased them.  Then in 2009, while visiting Cuba in his capacity of Senator of the United States Virgin Islands, James donated copies of his collection to the University of Havana, which, at the time, had no archival record of the existence of the photos.

“That’s when I realized how rare the photos were,” James said. “I figured that if the University of Havana had never heard of a series of tobacco cards featuring Cuba in its glory days, I was onto something. And I knew that the photographs had to be officially shared with the people of the world. Also invaluable about the cards is that each photo was produced with an identifying caption, making it easy to recognize the structures, sites, and scenes even if no longer extant.”

In September of 2020, James’ collection again grew fortuitously when he noticed 150 of the photos up for bid in a Spanish auction house.  He won the bid, bringing his collection to approximately 450 distinct images, the collection now believed to be the world’s largest. The esteemed Cuban Heritage Institute of the University of Miami, for example, one of the foremost repositories of Cuban scholarly material, only has 60 of the images.  

Beginning in the 1870s and continuing until the 1920s, tobacco companies routinely inserted cardstock in order to stiffen the packaging of cigars and cigarettes. The cards also doubled as advertising, typically featuring the world’s royalty, famous athletes, celebrated beauties, and general-interest subjects such as exotic animals, churches, or circus characters, for example. Today, some of those cards have become very rare and very valuable.

“Very few of the ‘Cuba Series’ tobacco cards have survived the ravages of time,” James said.  “And little about them is known or documented, even by the great cartophilic publications and societies of the world. And unlike many tobacco card series, which were typically issued in sets of 25 or 50, the Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd., “Cuba Series” contained hundreds of cards, leading me to believe that the cards were never inserted into tobacco packaging but were, instead, presented as giftsets to preferred clients. How Uncle Alex came in possession of the cards has been lost to history. He was not a known smoker, and it is unlikely that he was a preferred client of Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd. In any event, the cards are today exceedingly rare, making it all the more imperative that they be shared with the world. Much of the Cuba depicted in the cards no longer exists or exists in a state of relative decline.

“I was inspired to put the collection on public display by my dear, dear friend, Luis C. Garcia-Menocal, great-grandson of Mario Garcia-Menocal, Cuba’s third president [1913-1921]. I was profoundly affected by Luis’ longing for his beloved homeland, Cuba, and knew that the sentiment was not unique to him. Cuban people need to see this film,” James said.  “Perhaps this docufilm will inspire Cubans in Cuba and those that comprise the diaspora to preserve one of the most precious jewels of the New World.”

Going…Going…Gone masterfully combines the breathtakingly beautiful black-and-white photos of James’ collection with archival film footage, contemporary photos, and television broadcasts that delve into the political landscape that is Cuba. Primarily a visual experience enhanced by the music of Latin American composers such as Cuba’s Ernesto Lecuona and Argentina’s Astor Piazzolla performed by PASO (Pan American Symphony Orchestra) of Washington, DC, the film looks like an exhibition and sounds like a concert.

“The Miami premiere of the Going…Going…Gone will be buttressed by an eponymously titled  exhibition and book,” James said.  “And, of course, the film will be made simultaneously available at no charge online so that people all over the world—especially those in Cuba—can share in the experience. This project has been a labor of love on many levels.  I am thrilled to see it bear fruit,” James concluded.

Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men–Flavor in a Flash!!!

Spices from the far-flung corners of the world are blended to create Wayne James’ award-winning dry-rub.

Fashion designer, former senator, men’s lifestyle influencer, and Manly Manners author Wayne James has unveil his new line of herb-and-spice blends and dry-rubs specifically formulated for the 21st-century man.  Called Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men, the line features five all-natural, no-preservatives, kosher-certified blends:  all-purpose, salt-free, seafood, vegetarian, and game/holiday.

“My aim was to introduce a line of ‘quick-fix’ seasoning-blends that enables the novice as well as the expert to prepare gourmet-flavored meals in a matter of minutes,” James said.  “The modern man is flavor-conscious, but he is also very busy. He therefore needs a product that gives him quick, easy, but excellent results. Today’s man wants a seasoning that allows him to effortlessly expand beyond the backyard grill. And if adding some sex appeal to each meal is part of the deal, then so much the better.”

Blended and bottled in Maryland, spice capital of the United States, James’ packaging is decidedly and distinguishingly masculine:  glossy black caps; minimalistic black labels with gold lettering; detailed ingredients and nutritional listings. “The packaging nods at quintessentially male products such as distilled spirits, shaving creams, cigars, and condoms.  I want men to instinctively reach for the bottles, whether on a supermarket shelf or in a kitchen cabinet.  The packaging looks manly—as if to say, ‘I am more potent than other seasonings,’ ” James said.

But James’ line of seasonings is not off-limits to female customers.  “I definitely see women purchasing the seasonings for the men in their lives—as gifts or to encourage them to demonstrate their masculine prowess in the kitchen.  I also envision women purchasing the products for themselves, perhaps out of curiosity at first, then because of the seasonings’ distinctive flavor-profiles.

All five blends are based on recipes that have been in James’ family since the mid-1700s and feature 18 to 29 ingredients. And the designer, a gourmand in his own right, is no stranger to the food industry:  In 1993, rather than launching a fragrance like most other fashion designers, James introduced the Carnival Seasonings line which sold in outlets such as Fresh Fields (now Whole Foods), Dean and Deluca, and in military commissaries.

Fresh herbs on dark background

“Our business model has now shifted to online marketing to meet the demands of the modern customer,” James said. “Wayne James’ Seasonings for Men will be available in a few key stores around the world; but for the most part, customers will have to purchase the product online on Amazon, eBay, and http://www.waynejamesltd.com ”

The History of the Polo Shirt

The Polo Shirt

For the more than two thousand years that the genteel team-sport of polo appears in the historical record, various garments have been worn by its players. In the late 19th century, for example, some British players would wear long-sleeved, turn-down-collar, oxford cloth shirts. But apparently the collars of those shirts would flap up into the faces of the athletes during the fast-paced game; so, eventually, the players started securing their collar-ears to their shirts by way of buttons.

Then in 1896 American John E. Brooks, grandson of the founder of Brooks Brothers, took the idea of the button-down collar back across “the pond” to America and started selling them at the store as “polo shirts.” The shirts quickly became, and remain to this day, one of the cornerstones of the establishment. Today, button-down-collar oxford cloth shirts are still called “polo shirts,” even though they have long been retired from the polo fields and are instead being worn primarily by businessmen and academics.

But for the most part, when a modern gentleman refers to a “polo shirt,” he is referring to the equally ubiquitous short-sleeved, cotton-knit (traditionally a piqué knit) shirt with a two- or three-button placket, a ribbed collar and sleeve band, and an extended tail (to keep the shirt tucked in while engaged in active sport). This modern polo shirt was introduced to the tennis—not polo—world at the 1926 US Open tennis tournament by Jean René Lacoste (1904-1996). Lacoste walked onto the court at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York in his new, short-sleeved shirt; shocked both the sports and fashion worlds; then five days later walked off the court with the championship trophy in his hands and what would become a fashion icon on his back. In an era where fashion ruled over function, Lacoste’s insistence upon comfort and practicality over form and tradition resonated with athletes in other sports—especially the sport of polo—which quickly abandoned its long-sleeved shirts with stiff, starched collars for the short-sleeved “tennis shirt,” so much so that the shirt would come to be called the “polo shirt” instead of the “tennis shirt.”

In 1933 Lacoste collaborated with his friend André Gillier, owner of a large French knitwear company of the day, to establish La Societe Chemise Lacoste (The Lacoste Shirt Company). Evidenced in its first catalog (1933), the firm produced the shirt design that Lacoste had first sported on the tennis court in 1926, as well as other shirts for sports such as sailing and golf, embroidering the company’s logo, a crocodile, onto each garment—thereby becoming the first company in recorded history to affix its logo on the outside of its garments. Then in 1951, the company decided to broaden its palette beyond classic tennis whites, adding a variety of colors. In 1967, American fashion designer Ralph Lauren established his fashion empire, “Polo Ralph Lauren”; and at its cornerstone were classic polo shirts—both the Brooks Brothers button-down-collar and the Lacoste knitwear varieties.

The Leather Scarf by Wayne James: Fashion’s Newest Invention

A Leather Scarf by Designer Wayne James:  Fashion’s Newest Invention

In the uber-creative world of fashion, where artsy types with their quirky ideas abound, St. Croix-born fashion designer Wayne James has done the next-to-impossible:  invent something truly new. And James’ invention is…: The leather scarf.

The “buttery-soft” accessory drapes and folds like silk. It measures 18” wide and 72” long and is made from one, continuous, seamless cut of super-thin top-grain cowhide. Unveiled in June of 2021, James’ leather scarf has already begun turning heads—and necks—in the world of fashion. It is available exclusively at the designer’s recently launched online Concepts Store, www.waynejamesltd.com  and comes in two earthy color options, a rich “cognac” and subtle “natural.” The heirloom-quality scarf, which is guaranteed to last a lifetime—and then some—is priced at $860.  A 20% discount is offered to qualified shoppers.

Leather has been used, from time immemorial, to clad the human body from head to toe: hats, jackets, belts, trousers, footwear.  But for some reason, designers have never thought of or figured out a way to create the leather scarf—despite its obvious capacity for providing warmth and protection from the wintery element.  In 2021, however, when James sourced an exquisite imported leather that flows like fabric, he jumped at the opportunity to execute an idea that had been on his drawing board for over 20 years, patiently awaiting the right leather.

“Anyone could have thought of a leather scarf.  But no one else did.  And that’s what makes this all so exciting and all so special. It is nice to be distinguished for creating something unique in an industry filled with creative geniuses,” James said.

Throughout fashion history, there have been only a few such “firsts” that could be definitively attributed to a particular designer.  The today-ubiquitous zipper was invented by Elias Howe in 1851; improved by Whitcomb L. Judson 40 years later in 1893; and transformed by Gideon Sundback in 1913 into the Y-shaped implement that characterizes zippers today.  But it was not until 1923 that American industrialist B. F. Goodrich coined the onomatopoeic word, “zipper,” to describe the invention. The 1920s’ concept of the bias-cut garment belongs to Madelaine Vionnet (1857-1956), and  Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971) is credited with the concept of “the little black dress.” In 1896, American John E. Brooks, grandson of the founder of Brooks Brothers (1818), noticed that British polo players would use buttons to hold in place the collars of the long-sleeve Oxford cloth shirts in which the fast-paced sport was played. And returning “across pond” to America, he began producing Oxford cloth shirts with buttoned-down collars and called them “polo shirts.” Jean René Lacoste (1904-1996) debuted the other type of polo shirt—the short-sleeve, cotton piqué, knit ones—at the 1926 U.S. Open tennis tournament, causing a stir and establishing himself as a fashion icon. The miniskirt is generally regarded as the invention of British designer Mary Quant (1930-present), the animal skins worn by mankind’s cave-dwelling ancestors notwithstanding.

“The common thread of fashion’s greatest inventions is that they all should have been obvious to one’s designer-peers but for some strange reason were not. Call it luck, serendipity, genius, who knows,” James said.  “This leather scarf is one such creation.  Scarves of all types and fabrics have been around forever—from Hermés’ iconic silk ones, to J.Crew’s 2020 cashmere ones, to grandma’s handknit Christmas gift ones.  Now, there is the Wayne James leather scarf.  And I think it is going to eventually take its place amongst the great inventions of fashion,” James concluded.  

A Leather Scarf: Fashion Designer Wayne James’ Newest Invention!

A Leather Scarf:  Fashion Designer Wayne James’ Newest Invention

Model Cameron Alexander in Wayne James’ Leather Scarf. Photo by Mark Jackson. Fall/Winter 2022 Collection.

Fashion designer Wayne James has launched his much-anticipated online Concepts Store, www.WayneJamesLtd.com. And the inaugural Concept is an extraordinary, exquisite, leather scarf made of an ultra-thin, über-supple, top-grain cowhide. Available in two earthy colors, cognac and natural, the “buttery-soft” scarf measures 18” wide and 72” long and is handmade in the USA of one, continuous, seamless cut of luxurious imported leather.  The Wayne James insignia—an interlocking WJ established in 1986—is discreetly debossed into one corner of the scarf, imparting the designer’s stamp of approval and mark of authenticity.

“A leather scarf is unique, even in the creative world of fashion,” James said. “There is nothing like it out there. And there has never been anything like it. It is truly a new concept, and I am happy to introduce it to the world. 

“The purpose of the Concepts Store is to debut cutting-edge products—things that even “fashionistas” and “style-influencers” have never heard of, seen, or dreamt of before,” James said.

The idea of a leather scarf was literally and figuratively on the company’s drawing board for 20 years—waiting patiently until James could source a super-soft cowhide that was wide enough and long enough to craft the scarf from a single cut of leather. Then, in 2021—just in the nick of time for the Fall/Winter 2022 Collection—James identified such a leather, a sanded, lightly buffed, top-grain hide cut to .78mm to 1.19mm (1/32” to 3/64”) thin. One of the cornerstones of the collection, the leather scarf is being unveiled as the online Concepts Store’s inaugural Concept.

“This leather scarf is the type of accessory that punctuates a wardrobe,” James said. “It is to a wardrobe what an exclamation mark is to a sentence, period. Whether paired with a wool crewneck sweater or Scottish tweed sport coat in the fall, or a suede or cashmere coat in the winter, the scarf makes a fashion statement:  that the wearer has a lot of confidence and personal style.

“And what’s great, too, is that the scarf mellows as it is worn and ages, draping around the neck like a second skin,” James said.  “This is an investment piece: It is classic and is therefore timeless. It’s the type of fashion accessory that becomes storied, that is passed from one generation to the next,” James concluded.

The leather scarf is available exclusively at www.waynejamesltd.com and is priced at $860 (less any applicable discounts).

Fashion Designer Wayne James Launches Online Concepts Store

Fashion Designer Wayne James Launches Online Luxury Concepts Store

Fashion designer Wayne James has launched his online Concepts Store, www.waynejamesltd.com, in celebration of the company’s 35th anniversary.  The online store will present James’ most cutting-edge design concepts, one concept at a time—from a silk-soft leather scarf, to a five-blend line of dry-rub seasonings formulated for male cooks, to a collection of belts with 18K gold buckles—each concept featured for three consecutive months before moving to the “Reserve Collection,” thereby making room for a new concept to be featured.  Only four concepts will be featured per year. And most of the products in the collection are made in the United States whenever possible:  an exquisite men’s robe made of imported Irish linen is made in New York City; a timeless white linen shirt made of the same Belgian linen used to make papal vestments is manufactured in Boston; and luxurious seven-fold ties made of Italian and English silks are hand-sewn in North Carolina.

“The aim of my Concepts Store is to simplify the online shopping experience,” James said.  “The internet is great; but it can also inundate.” The unique format of the store—believed to be the only of its kind—allows consumers to focus on the one item that is being featured.

“Shopping at WayneJamesLtd.com is easy and elegant,” James said. “And unlike other online vendors who simply pack their customers’ purchases into mailing-boxes and ship them off, no frills added, my online store keeps the experience upscale from start to finish.  Purchases are packaged in company gift boxes with company-colors tissue paper—just like the great department stores of yesteryear—before being placed into mailing-boxes for shipment. That way, each purchase arrives at your door as a ready-to-be-presented gift,” James added.   

St. Croix-born James established his fashion company in 1986 at the age of 24 and presented his first collection in New York’s artsy SoHo district two months before graduating from prestigious Georgetown Law in 1987. And within a mere two years, in 1989, James was being touted as one of the rising stars amongst young New York designers by the Washington Post and United Press International (UPI).

“I showed my very first collection at the Anita Shapolsky Gallery on Spring Street in SoHo in March of 1987, sold the collection to Bergdorf Goodman in April, and my garments were being worn on New York’s famed 5th Avenue by July of that year,” James recalls. “I was busy shipping my first collection of Ecuadorian hand-knitted sweater-dresses while my law school classmates were studying for the bar exam.”

Within the first decade, James’ collections had been lauded by fashion’s most venerated arbiters:  Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), New York Times, Washington Post, Elle, GQ, Ebony, Essence, USA Today, UPI, Daily News Record (DNR), etc. And his garments were being sold by fashion’s best—from Nordstrom’s to Bergdorf’s to Saks Jandel to Victoire’s in Paris, France.

Haute Couture model, Janice Joyce, in a 1989 Wayne James “Little Black Dress.” Photo: Amr Mounib.

“But fashion has evolved since the 1980s,” James said. “E-commerce has not only made brick-and-mortar merchandising almost irrelevant, it has also made the entire world your marketplace:  With a quick Google, Bing, or Yahoo search, a customer in Otavalo or Montescudaio can purchase one of my luxury products and have it delivered by courier across the globe. I saw it coming—from way back in the late 1990s.  And that’s when I started designing this online collection—way back then—patiently waiting until now that the average person is comfortable with online shopping. The designs in this online collection have been tested and re-tested to perfection.  I’ve been working on this for 20 years, and it’s now time for the roll-out of all these great products. It’s exciting. It’s exhilarating. I have decades’ worth of luxury products in the roll-out queue, all ready to be featured in the Concepts Store at the appointed time. 

Upcoming “Celebration,” Wayne James’ Men’s Fragrance

And James, who will turn 60 later this year, is once again looking to the future. “I have recently begun laying the foundations for bringing new, fresh talent into the fold of the company—design graduates from schools such as New York’s FIT, RISD in Rhode Island, and the Savannah School of Design. The objective is to have the Wayne James label endure long into the future—as a label that is synonymous with timeless innovation,” James concluded.

Caribbean Whelks: The World’s Most Delicious Aphrodisiac

West Indian Whelks–The World’s Most Delicious Aphrodisiac

West Indies WhelksCittarium pica of the family Tegulidae (also known as “magpie shell” or “West Indian top shell”)

The cuisine of St. Croix, thanks to the internet—with YouTube cooking programs, “foodie” blogposts, and website articles—is finally taking its rightful place amongst the great culinary traditions of the world.  And one of the most esteemed dishes in the pantheon of Crucian recipes is “whelks in butter-sauce.” Not only is the whelk locally regarded as one of the most delicious fruits of the sea, it is also considered by many Afro-Caribbean men to be an aphrodisiac, capable of palatably endowing a man with the characteristic firmness of mollusk itself.

Even the harvesting of the whelk along the island’s shoreline during low tide is steeped in age-old beliefs:  that whelks, upon hearing the human voice, will release themselves from the shoreline rocks into the safety of the depths of the sea and therefore should be harvested in silence; and that whelks detect the scent of humans and should therefore be “picked” against the wind so as to avoid detection.  Whelks are so much a part of Crucian culture that they have even provided a local name for official fashion terminology:  What the rest of the world calls “cropped pants” or “pedal-pushers” or “Capri pants” are locally referred to—even if unflatteringly so—as “picking-whelks” pants.  

Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) is today considered a delicacy; but a century ago, in the Caribbean, it was so commonplace that it was used as bait. And queen conch (Eustrombos gigas) has been regarded as a seafood staple for centuries. Not so, however, with whelks:

From time immemorial, this sea snail has been regarded as a delicacy on account of its compelling flavor, so much so that prior to preservation laws, it was harvested from coastline rocks to the point of extinction in several island-habitats. 

That whelks are highly coveted by Crucians is perhaps best illustrated in the following article which appeared in the St. Croix Avis in the immediate aftermath of the 1878 Fireburn, where a laborer invokes the “picking whelks” defense to explain away his presence on an estate to which he was not contracted to work:

St. Croix Avis, Wednesday, October 16, 1878

There is nothing new to report as to the state of the island since our last.  There are no doubt some runaways still hiding in the bush at Fair Plain and perhaps around Mt. Eagle and elsewhere. One was caught a few days since at Cotton Valley, and brought in by Mr. De Leon of Coakley Bay. He accounted for his presence in that neighbourhood by alleging his fondness for whelks, and protested that he was innocent.  It was explained to him that there was no objection to his taste for whelks, but that the question of his innocence must settled before the Policemaster in Bassin, and he was accordingly brought to the fort.

In another 19th-century article, a man’s survival on whelks alone is detailed:

Lightbourn’s Mail Notes, St. Thomas, Monday, June 17, 1889

During last week there were several disasters among the Fishing craft. At Savannah Island a boat was lost and one man drowned; the other was rescued from the island after several days’ hardship, during which he subsisted on whelks.  At “The Brass,” Cay off Estate Hull, there was also a boat lost, but the two occupants were saved—one having had to swim towards mainland for help for the other. Two more boats were cast ashore on the North side and totally wrecked, but fortunately without any loss of life. 

The West Indian (Caribbean) whelk, Cittarium pica of the family Tegulidae (also known as “magpie”), is a marine gastropod mollusk with a characteristic black-and-white shell. Pronounced “wilks” in the English-speaking Caribbean, it is known by different names in the rest of the region: “cigua” in Cuba; “quigua” in Venezuela; “bulgao” or simply “caracoles” (“snails” in Spanish) in the other Spanish-speaking islands. The species is not closely related to that known as “whelk” in Europe and the United States.


 Believed to have a lifespan of close to thirty years, West Indian whelks reproduce each year, between the months of June and November, via external fertilization: Males release their sperm into the water, and females simultaneously release their eggs. The species is believed to be a herbivore, feeding primarily at night by actively scraping algal growth off coastline rocks. And it is in the dark of night, when the whelks attach themselves to the rocks at water’s edge in order to feed, that men harvest them (in a process called “picking whelks”), sometimes being washed away by the waves to their deaths in the process. In the case of Bermuda, where whelks were harvested to extinction, they have been reintroduced.

Fabled to be an aphrodisiac, whelks are boiled in their shell, then removed from the shell, cleaned, and prepared in various ways, the most popular being in a traditional butter-sauce consisting of butter, onions, lime juice, some of the stock produced during the boiling of the whelks, and salt to taste. The traditional complement is white rice. Whelks are also combined with shrimp, lobster, squid, cockle, octopus, onion, bell peppers, olives and/or capers, lime juice, and olive oil to make a classic, chilled seafood salad, typically served with avocado and/or sweet potato.

The History of Guavaberry–The Caviar of Fruits

Guavaberry—The Caviar of Fruits

When a Caribbean-born person ventures far and wide, one of the flavors he most craves is that of the guavaberry. And today, with next-day courier services routinely making intercontinental deliveries, it is not uncommon for a package destined for a Caribbean national to include a jar of guavaberry preserve. It is as if the fruit’s unique, spicy, sweet-bitter flavor is in the DNA of the region’s peoples.

Myrciaria floribunda, a member of the myrtle family, is a shrublike tree native to the Caribbean and parts of Central and South America. However, the species is most commonly found in the Lesser Antilles, especially on the Dutch/French island of Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the British Virgin Islands. The tree bears a diminutive fruit called “guavaberry” or “rumberry” that has been dubbed “the caviar of fruits”: It is tiny—about the size of a large fish egg or a pearl. The peeling-bark characteristic of the guavaberry tree is remarkably similar to that of its close relative, Psidium guajava, the botanical name for the guava fruit, which is also native to the region.  Myrciaria floribunda is also botanically related to the Jamaican allspice and the South American eucalyptus.  

Harvested around October, the guavaberry fruit is either blackish-red or amber-yellow in color; has a delicious, distinctive flavor, so much so that it is one of the defining flavors of the Caribbean; and is both rare and prized. And because the harvest years and times are unpredictable, the appearance of the fruit is regarded by the region’s peoples  as a special blessing from Mother Nature.

The historic record indicates that pre-Columbian peoples prized the fruit.  And in 1767 Christian Georg Andreas Oldendorp, in his capacity as inspector for the Moravian Church, journeyed to the Danish West Indies to report on the Moravian missions, which had been established in the islands 35 years earlier, beginning in 1732. Oldendorp remained in the islands for a year and a half, observing the islands and their peoples.  In 1777 he published History of the Mission of the Evangelical Brethren on the Caribbean Islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John.   And of the precious guavaberry he writes: “I must also make mention of another small tree which I have not at all seen, but whose berries—they are called guavaberries—I have eaten.  Like cherries, they are very round, black or yellow. They have one or two small kernels, a pleasant spicy taste, and are quite healthful. They are eaten in the morning on an empty stomach. When prepared in rum, they take on a strong, sweet taste.”

Guavaberry is related to the Brazilian “jabuticaba” (Plinia cauliflora) and is similar in appearance and flavor, except that the guavaberry is about one-third the size and has a flavor of about ten times as intense as its South American counterpart. Guavaberry is also closely related to another Brazilian native, Psidium cattleyanum, also known as strawberry guava or cherry guava, and like guavaberry, comes in two varieties, purple-red and yellow.

The guavaberry plant tends to thrive in sunny, hilly terrain with rich, rocky soil. Because the tree is more shrub-like than tree-like, the fruits are most efficiently harvested when ripe by shaking them from the branches onto a drop-cloth or net. The somewhat-astringent fruit, which tastes like lingon berry, but with undertones of juniper, is oftentimes eaten fresh. But because guavaberry is relatively scarce, it is typically preserved to ensure an annual supply. Held between thumb and index finger, the fruit is gently squeezed, thereby expelling its round stone, which is about half the size of the fruit. The juice, pulp, and skin are then cooked with sugar to make a preserve that is traditionally used to make open-face tarts and as an obligatory topping of one of the layers of the authentic Crucian Vienna cake. The preserve is also added to rum then filtered (typically through cheesecloth or a coffee filter) to make “guavaberry liqueur,” customarily drunk during Christmastime throughout the Caribbean, but especially in the Virgin Islands, Sint Maarten/St. Martin, and part of the Dominican Republic. “Guavaberry rum,” on the other hand—also drunk in the region during the Christmas season—is made by macerating the fresh fruit in rum, thereby infusing the rum (traditionally kept in a demijohn) with guavaberry’s unique flavor and reddish color, a process which takes at least a year. Stored in a cool, dark, dry place in a tightly sealed demijohn or glass container, guavaberry rum can endure indefinitely, improving with age. Unlike its liqueur counterpart, guavaberry rum is not filtered; it is poured directly from the demijohn, the objective being for each serving to contain a portion of the macerated fruit.

On St. Croix, Armstrong’s Homemade Ice Cream, founded in the year 1900 by Minerva Petersen, ancestor of the present-day Armstrong family of the town of Frederiksted, makes a guavaberry ice cream that is highly coveted. Offered only during the Christmas season and on the occasion of the island’s annual Agriculture & Food Fair in February, people queue up—as if buying tickets for a rock concert or a blockbuster movie—to get their serving of the locally famous ice cream. 

The guavaberry fruit is so esteemed in the Virgin Islands that it has been honored in folksong.  Every Christmas season, from time immemorial, Virgin Islanders serenade each other—whether in the historic towns or in the countryside—with the lyrics,

“Good mornin’, good mornin’,

ah come foh mih guavaberry,

good mornin’… [to you an’ yoh family].”

The lyrics suggest the customary right of the visitor to politely demand the holiday treat from the person whom he serenades.  

Beginning in the late 1800s, when Virgin Islanders seeking employment opportunities in the sugarcane industry would emigrate to the Dominican Republic, settling in San Pedro de Macoris and La Romana, they took with them their age-old guavaberry traditions.  And today, when there is scarcity of the esteemed fruit in the Virgin Islands, it is fruit imported from the Dominican Republic that fills the void. Likewise, in keeping with the custom of honoring the fruit in song, “Santo” singer Juan Luis Guerra, in his song titled Guavaberry, pays homage to the drink made of the fruit being enjoyed in the streets of San Pedro de Macoris.

Three Kings’ Day marks the closing of the Christmas holidays.  And it is the tradition of the Virgin Islands to celebrate the occasion with a glass of the islands’ most venerated beverage:  guavaberry rum or liqueur. Such has been the custom throughout four centuries of recorded Virgin Islands history.