Montserrat celebrates its national Madras with Madrastique

On March 14, the first edition of Madrastique was held on the island of Montserrat, a competition that is intended to celebrate the national Madras fabric through fashion and design creations.


Despite the eruptions of its volcano Soufriere Hills in 1995 and 1997 which destroyed its former capital Plymouth (now replaced by Brades in the north of the island) and caused the departure of almost two-thirds of its population, Montserrat has lost nothing of its optimism, dynamism and artistic creativity. Indeed, the island has several cultural events taking place throughout the year including: “Calabash” that values the gourd with a craft fair and a culinary fair, the food is served in utensils made with this fruit; “Cudjoe Head” that celebrates the African ancestors; “St Patrick’s Day” which commemorates the Irish roots and the slave revolt in March 17,1768; and “Madrastique”.

Madrastique is a fashion contest intended to celebrate Montserrat’s national Madras fabric. The idea to create this cultural event was born in 2015 thanks to the Montserrat Arts Council (MAC), an organization headed by Chadd Cumberbatch which “aims to foster the development of the arts, uplift the condition of the arts and artists and ensure the implementation of the cultural policy”.


To promote Montserratian pride and creativity

Madrastique aims to stimulate the creative sector in the field of fashion and to promote national pride. The first edition of the competition, planned for 2016, had been cancelled due to other obligations at the Montserrat Arts Council, but it was successfully staged in 2017.

Until last February 24, the MAC invited all designers, tailors and  seamstresses from the island and abroad to register for this competition in order to show the audience what they can create with the national Madras.

Eight creatives answered the call and, on Tuesday, March 14th in Salem, they presented their work to the jury and the audience during a gala ceremony where elegance and good cuisine were present. At the end of the fashion show, various cash prizes were awarded for the “Best Male”, “Best Female” and “Best Child” in each of the following categories : Formal Wear, Casual Wear, Resort Wear and Special prize for Fantasy Costume.


A fabric come from India centuries ago

In addition to being an event related to fashion, creativity, Madrastique is also an opportunity to delve into the history of our Caribbean region.

Indeed, in Guadeloupe and Martinique, this fabric is often associated with the arrival of the first Indians who came to replace the African slaves in the plantations after slavery was abolished in 1848. But, it seems that this cloth is present in the West Indies well before the arrival of Indian immigrants in Pointe-à-Pitre by the ship named L’Aurélie on December 24, 1854.

The real Madras fabric comes from the city of Madras (renamed Chennai in 1996), the state capital of Tamil Nadu and the fourth largest city in India. The Europeans will copy it and will produce it in their countries. In France, for example, this fabric was painted or printed and sold in Normandy and Alsace, as of the 18th century.

The real Madras fabric in silk and cotton is rarer and more expensive.

Today, what is certain is that the fabric called “Madras” is present in many Caribbean islands.


A national Madras fabric in Montserrat since 2002

According to the Montserrat Arts Council, the Madras would have been brought to the island in the 17th century. However, the national Madras that is used today was introduced in 2002. The green color is dominant and it is linked to Montserrat’s nickname – “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” – because of its resemblance to the Irish coast and the Irish ancestors of many Montserratians.

In Guadeloupe and Martinique, French territories, the Madras is also the “national” fabric and is used for making traditional clothes with white embroidery for cultural shows and ceremonies. Here, headgears in Madras are essential to complete the dress and to transmit messages about the woman’s sentimental situation (married woman, fancy-free etc.)

In Tobago, the Madras fabric is proudly worn especially at the well-known “Tobago Heritage Festival”.

In Grenada, and more exactly on the island of Carriacou, the fabric is worn at the Maroon Festival.

On the island of Saba, we can see young women with headgears in Madras.

Dominica, the Turks and Caicos Islands as well as Antigua also use the same fabric for their traditional costumes.

Jamaica’s traditional dress is also in Madras fabric dominated by red color.


Madrastique, a Caribbean event in the future?

In the US Virgin Islands (a former colony which was under the control of Denmark until March 31st, 1917), the Madras fabric was also chosen to make the national costume. However, this choice would have caused long polemic because, according to some inhabitants, the Madras would never have been part of this archipelago history, the enslaved African would have bleached sacks of flour to get dressed… Authorities would have opted for the Madras fabric to be in accordance with the other Caribbean islands. Today, as on several other islands of the area, in the Virgin Islands of the United States, people dress up naturally with clothes in Madras to practise quadrille, the country’s traditional dance which comes from France.

However, the most important thing is the Caribbean is gathering around this beautiful Madras fabric that has a historic past.

Madrastique is an interesting event initiated by the island of Montserrat which would deserve to grow up to become a regional competition where our designers, dressmakers, tailors, stylists would come to show their talents. About this idea, the Montserrat Arts Council says : “The possibility exists for Madrastique to become an international or Caribbean event, showcasing the talents of designers from across the Caribbean but that in itself would take inputs from partners on a regional level. Perhaps not an event on its own, but packaged to be included as part of an established event such as Carifesta. This option would be more feasible because of the fiscal challenges”.

In the meanwhile, next year, the second edition of Madrastique in Montserrat should be even more exceptional.


  • Fantasy (Costume) : Kirk Brade
  • Formal Wear (Adult Male) : Catherine Rodrigues
  • Formal Wear (Adult Female) : Sonnika Weekes
  • Formal Wear (Child) : Sonnika Weekes
  • Casual Wear (Adult Male) : Catherine Rodrigues
  • Casual Wear (Adult Female) : Karissa Romeo
  • Resort Wear (Adult Male) : Catherine Rodrigues
  • Resort Wear (Adult Female) : Catherine Rodrigues
  • Resort Wear (Child) : Laurian Brand