By Michelle Payer
Portrait by Paola Wells
Though his family pedigree is linked to the British Empire and his Rolodex is filled with famous friends including Elle “The Body” Macpherson and India Hicks, Jay-Jay Percentie’s roots have been firmly planted in the Bahamas for five generations. The Harbour Island District deputy chief councilor and locally recognized “Prince of Dunmore” quietly added fashion designer to his other credentials (event planner, realtor and jack-of-all-luxury-trades) when he and childhood pals Wynn Laffey and Nic Chatfield established Bryland menswear in 2013.
What started as one Turkish linen shirt in soft pastels exploded into an entire line that, until now, was largely known only to residents of Harbour Island and its tony global clientele, including Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece. The collection of just under 30 carefully crafted pieces traverses the globe with international visitors, and its “Lord Dunmore” rooster logo—an ode to the island’s mascot that’s painstakingly made with 2,200 stitches—is recognized in warm weather destinations by fellow “Brylanders,” as Percentie calls brand devotees. Practical, stylish and unapologetically whimsical, Percentie’s brand is driven by the island’s “magic pitter-patter” and his staunch desire to share Bahamian love, cheeky details and thoughtful functionality through well-crafted clothing.
“It was time for us to create something on Harbour Island that people would recognize as an eponymous brand,” Percentie says. “You know it’s from Harbour Island because it includes our branded rooster logo. Several of the pieces, like the linen pants with a drawstring and belt loop, are transitional to take a stylish man from breakfast to lunch, boat and dinner.”
They say the devil is in the details—and Percentie certainly has a devilish side. The “HI” initials on the back pocket of the linen chinos may stand for Harbour Island, or they may not-so-innocently beckon a double take. Inside pockets are stamped with Harbour Island’s latitude and longitude, providing wearers a style secret. “There are small yet important details,” Percentie says. “We use buttons instead of zippers, which are more sophisticated, and we tapered the inside of the pant so that if you roll up the pants while strolling along the beach, you still look smart and elegant.”
About the brand’s 100% cotton oxford shirts, Percentie says, “What you don’t notice is a bone sewn inside the shirt that stretches from the first to the third button, so that when unbuttoned, the shirt stays erect and doesn’t slouch. It’s genius.”
He calls Bryland’s shorts “one-of-a-kind” not only for the maps of Eleuthera and Harbour Island sewn on the inside lining but also for the combed cotton, light spandex, rubber buttons and pocket zippers that create water-resistant pouches while boating. “We live on the water here,” Percentie says. “Even as kids, we took the boats out, had things in our pockets, dove in and lost everything. We want you to be able to go to a nice lunch, then jump on your boat, get wet and still be comfortable and stylish.”
Bryland—a riff on the local Bahamian pronunciation of Harbour Island—is particular about its production. Polo shirts are made in England, while the rest of the collection is assembled by a New York team. The designer and “lifestylist” to the stars stays true to island hues: Bahamian blues and greens, teal, soft pink and white dominate the color scheme.
With a pandemic curbing the one-on-one consultations and trunk shows Percentie typically hosts to tell Bryland’s story and create an emotional brand connection, he’s turned to online sales with a newly expanded website. A new active capsule collection called Bryland Club debuts in November using different materials, prints, colors and trims.
“The polo shirts are more relaxed, knit shorts are free-flowing; it’s more of your everyday active easy menswear,” Percentie says. “Accessible and simple, comfortable with fit and form, pieces that someone can wear while working from home and stow in a bag for a visit to the park, beach or golf club. We want it to be a lifestyle brand that induces happy thoughts. It’s a ticktock, it’s a pitter-patter, it’s a rhythm that works.”
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2020 Issue.