by Camilla Ridley
It's not everyday that you get to dress and spend time with a real life music legend. I caught up with Miss Pat founder of VP records to talk about music, motherhood, special summer dresses and her latest book
The legendary Miss Pat pictured here at the launch of her new book My Reggae Journey in New York wearing a statement Ridley London Liberty print floral top
Unless you’re in the music business, a native Jamaican or serious music aficionado, the chances are you probably won’t have heard of Patricia Chin aka Miss Pat. But for those of you who have, you’ll understand immediately when I use the term living legend to describe our incredible guest. Over a remarkable six decade career, this 83 year old 4ft 11 grandmother helped to pioneer reggae music through her much revered Greensleeves and VP labels, blazing a trail for working women, mothers and female entrepreneurs. At the same time she helped to transform reggae from a local Jamaican sound into an international musical phenomenon, shaping the careers of many of the greats from Bob Marley and the Wailers to Augustus Pablo, Toots & The Maytals, Gregory Isaacas, and later on the likes of Shaggy and Sean Paul. In the words of Hip hop pioneer, DJ Kool Herc "What Berry Gordy was to Motown Records...Patricia Chin is to reggae.” Miss Pat has recently appeared across the British musical media to promote her new biography 'My Reggae Music Journey’ and was kind enough to join us to talk about some of her career highlights, her relationship with fashion and how she believes being a woman made all the difference in her career.
Camilla: Miss Pat it’s an incredible honour to meet you and I must say you are looking absolutely lovely.
Miss Pat: Thank you Camilla, it’s wonderful to meet you to, I adore my Ridley top you made me that I’m wearing today. It’s so beautifully made, and I love the Liberty print fabric and the ruffles, it’s so feminine and just makes me smile.
Camilla: Thank you, that’s so kind and I’m so glad you like it so much. Now I must admit I'm not a huge Reggae aficionado, but my husband is really into his music, is passionate about Reggae and was unbelievably envious when he heard I was meeting you today. As a bit of a novice, for me, Reggae has this incredible tropical, exotic happy sound that’s just perfect for summer. What inspires you most about reggae music?
Well there is a beautiful language to it…it’s a universal sound and has a message that speaks to all walks of life. And it’s positive and uplifting.
Defining that authentic Reggae sound (clockwise from top left) Randy's quickly became Kingston's cult music destination. Miss Pat celebrates the launch of her book in a statement Ridley London Liberty Print floral top with leading artists including Gyptian (Top Right). All round creative genius and reggae super producer Lee Scratch Perry laying down some ground breaking tunes in Miss Pat's Studio 17 in Kingston (Bottom)
Camilla: If you were going to introduce someone to Reggae which 3 tracks would you choose and why?
I would choose “Stick By Me” by John Holt, “Thank You Mama“ by Sizzla Kalonji, and “She’s Royal” by Tarrus Riley, again because of the positive message of the lyrics.
Camilla: You’re an industry pioneer, having started Randy’s Record Mart in the late 1950s with a small shop. Starting your own business takes a lot of faith and presents many challenges. Were there any pivotal moments in establishing your business that particularly stand out? And what advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting their own business today?
I do have a lot of faith and that keeps me strong and motivated. It was not easy starting a business in 1958 in Kingston, Jamaica. And now, after 60 years in the reggae music business, we’re still here. So I am very grateful for all the beautiful artists, musicians, and producers we have worked with, and of course my loving family and dear friends. Without their belief and support, we would not have come this far. My advice would be to work hard and be passionate about what you do to stay focused. Never be discouraged and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You cannot grow if you don’t begin somewhere. I do not have any formal business training. I learned from my experience behind the counter selling records as we built the company from scratch. We just went from stage to stage, we grew organically.
Camilla: VP Records is still a family business. Tell us a little about your experience of building a business with your husband and family? Have there been particular highlights or challenges?
Being a woman, I have always had to work extra hard as I was working in a male-dominated industry. I try to make each day better than the day before and always have determination and passion about what I do. My husband and I always trusted each other in our business decisions and never doubted one another’s judgment. My sons and my daughter have been very integral to the business. They chose to be a part of the company. It was their decision. I never forced them. My son Chris was working behind the counter at Randy’s Record Mart in Kingston from when he was 7 years old. I’m grateful to them all each and every day.
(Clockwise from top left) global stardom beckons for a young Bob Marley seen here recording, Randy's Records NYC quickly gained a cult following (top right). And Miss Pat signs copies of her latest book: My Reggae Journey
Camilla: Do you think being a woman, mother and grandmother helped you in your business journey? And are there any unique skills, perspectives or challenges this brought?
Being a woman has helped in so many ways. I’m blessed to be compassionate and a good multitasker. Even if I was surrounded by men, they always respected me and I always respected them. Women are often the backbone of a business and being one of the few women in the reggae music industry was not easy. But I never saw myself as holding a man’s job. I worked like everyone else and raised my children and am thankful to be surrounded by the next generation, my grandchildren, who continue to teach me and show me their world. It also makes me very proud to see all the artists develop in their careers and achieve great success.
Camilla: I’ve read that you have more than a passing interest in the fashion, and particularly beautiful floral print dresses. What do you think is important about it and how has the right clothing helped you in your career?
Well, I used to make my own dresses in Jamaica, with crinoline and all the nice touches. We didn’t really have ready-made clothes so I would design and make my own styles because I wanted to be unique and different. I wanted to show a part of me and my culture. And I wanted the fashion to speak to my culture. When I started our Riddim Driven apparel line, I tried to embody and reflect my culture through the clothes. I also really love the idea of making beautiful things out-of-the-ordinary pieces. If you look at your dresses for example, the floral print silks are amazing, but the way you bring them together into your dresses and skirts that suit each person is really special. In business, presentation is everything and how we dress says so much about who we are and what we believe. And if you want to be seen as being something a bit different and a little special, it's important you dress, as you say Camilla to "celebrate your individuality" and show off the things which make you unique.
Camilla: Wow that's really insightful. If you hadn’t pursued a career in music, what else would you have done? I might guess diplomat or writer perhaps??!
Actually no, I wanted a career as a nurse because I wanted to help people. I was very inspired by role models such as Mother Teresa and Florence Nightingale. I was in nursing school when I met my husband Vincent, we just went into the record business straight away so I left nursing behind. I have no regrets and wouldn’t change a thing. I always believe in giving back.
Fashion and dressing with individuality has featured prominently in Miss Pat's journey (clockwise from top left) shown here in one of her own made to measure dresses. (Top right) a statement floral print summer dress from Ridley London. (Bottom) talking music and style with rap superstar Snoop Dogg
Camilla: Given this, what have you been most proud of in your long career so far?
Since day one, my goal has always been to give back. That is why I recently started my VandP Family Foundation (Vincent and Patricia) vandpfoundation.org – a philanthropic organization supporting youth by assisting in providing education and instruments to music programs in Afro-Caribbean communities. The Foundation’s purpose is to develop programs and initiatives that give back to the culture and the community, while preserving the heritage and legacy of Jamaican music. This is what really makes me proud.
Camilla: Finally, what makes you laugh and smile most?
I would say driving in the summertime in Queens, Jamaica, where I work and live, rolling down the window and hearing reggae music playing to my left and my right. Ninety percent of the music I hear has been released or distributed by VP Records. It reminds of my home in Kingston, Jamaica. Our music always brings me joy. It makes me smile to see how much people enjoy it. It’s a blessing to see what we started 60 years is still going strong.
Camilla: Miss Pat, thank you so much for your time. It's been absolutely fascinating to chat to you and hear about everything you've achieved and your approach to business and life. It's truly inspiring. For those of you who are interested in listening to some Reggae, here's a link to Miss Pat's Playlist which is a perfect soundtrack for summer. She's also kindly offering an exclusive charitable offer with her amazing new book which you can purchase directly by emailing: Karen.Proctor@vprecords.com
To enter our exclusive competition to win one of our beautiful Ridley London holiday sundresses, a signed copy of Miss Pat's new book and a personalised bottle of Duppy Share rum simply sign up to our mailing list at the bottom of our homepage and we'll draw the competition at 8pm on Sunday 4 July. Good luck!
The luxurious new collection of statement Ridley London floral print summer dresses and dresses for special occasions is available to purchase on-line and in Ridley's London store. Celebrate your individuality with a unique piece that's made to measure from your choice of any of our stunning new printed floral silks or cottons. Call us to arrange a virtual fitting:
Ridley London, 82 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 0DQ T: 01730 823097