Fashion and family

Kenworthy's summer show brings together one-of-a-kind designs, food, music, and fun.

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Editor’s note: Jesse Sylvia grew up on the Island, and went on to become a champion poker player. His mom, Marlene, and sister, Randi, make up Kenworthy Design.

When you grow up here, it’s easy to miss. It takes time away to understand how truly rare and irreplaceable something is. Cookouts on the beach. Local bands playing a show in Owen Park. Little events to support local industries. Fundraisers. Potlucks. Smiles for strangers you walk by. Families getting together for casual celebrations of life.

Why does Martha’s Vineyard feel like home, no matter how long you’ve lived away? Why do we find ourselves returning to it over and over again? There are beautiful, pristine beaches all over the world. There are other clay cliffs, other ponds, other farms, and other rolling hills with endless views of the entire Atlantic. All those things are fantastic, but perhaps replaceable. There is something else — it is something more vestigial, something we can feel in our gut but might not always be able to explain.

I think it’s the gratitude you feel every day when you exist in a loving, generous community.

This sense of community was always deeply instilled in us growing up. My mom made costumes for local plays, flowers for events, wedding dresses, and food. She was always supporting somebody or some group. She was always so proud of the accomplishments and talents of everybody on the Island, and so empathetic about their losses. It was a trait that my sisters and I all gained. We always felt like part of something bigger than ourselves. In an increasingly isolated world, it is warm, liberating, tranquil.

I always quietly felt that those attributes carried over into Kenworthy in nearly every aspect imaginable. The style, for example, is drawn from cultures all over the world (fabrics are literally sourced from different countries they have traveled to), but still seems to naturally encapsulate the vibe and attitude of those who spend time on the Island. Their store showcases jewelry and items from many local artists, whose items they are so proud to share. Their care and passion is unrivaled: I’ve watched them work late at times to fit dresses to specific customers, their desire to leave people feeling as amazing as humanly possible outweighs the need for regular shop hours. I certainly don’t understand fashion with anything resembling a keen eye, but the greater message expressed in their work has always been clear to me.

There are now three generations of my family wearing the items they have created. My niece Vida, the world’s tiniest model, can be spotted donning little sarongs and dresses, the entire Island her audience, the windy beaches and old streets her runways.

I’ve always viewed their yearly fashion show through this lens: A time to get together with the broader community, enjoy drinks and food and music crafted by similarly talented individuals, and share with the world their newest creations. And for me, in that way, it has never been anything short of a wild success. It’s an experience that anybody who loves the Island and what it stands for can enjoy.

Kenworthy Fashion Show, Thursday, July 13, 5 pm until dusk. 231 Hines Point Road, Vineyard Haven. Music by Rose Guerin and DJ Pretty Ninja, El Gato Grande Taco Truck, and the Cocktail Caravan. Tickets available at bit.ly/Kenworthy_tix or at the Edgartown shop, 38 Winter St.