A Day in the Life - by Carl

Our advanced English class was tasked with writing an essay about something that is important to them - and to document it with a roll of film and a disposable camera. We loved every bit of reading their work, and what it reveals about the beauty of Haitian culture and the people we get to work with.


My name is Carl Mathieu, but everyone just calls me Carl. I live with my mom and little brother, and both my brother and I work at Haiti Design Co on the leather team.

In Haiti, I live in a little town on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince called Bon Repos. I would say every day is generally a great day for me, because in spite of everything, all of the problems and issues happening, I still love it here.


Usually every morning my brother and I ride a motorcycle to work, and take tap-taps, which are pick-up trucks that function like buses and taxis. I prefer taking a motorcycle to work, because in Port-au-Prince there is always a lot of traffic, and I get to work a lot faster. It’s also a lot easier because with tap-taps you have to change vehicles at their stopping points and that takes time as well.


At work, I spend most of my time on the sewing machine because that is my primary role on the leather team. I create a lot of products at work, sew, and trace out the leather. 

When I get home from work, I usually hang out with my friends and spend time playing soccer or basketball. When it gets late or gets dark, I usually sit around the table with my family and friends and talk about a lot of different things like politics, religion, and about what we want our futures to look like. Sometimes if we have some spending money we go out and get some drinks together and just cherish spending time together.

This is what a typical day looks like for me, and I would say that it is a day that was well spent


Coming Home: A Design Fellowship from the Heart

My name is Manoucheka van der Pol. I was born in Haiti and adopted with my older sister by my Dutch family when I was three years old.


Growing up in a big family in the countryside in the Netherlands has really shaped my personality. As I grew older I felt a connection to Haiti grow stronger and I wanted to find out more about it and uncover the Haitian woman inside of me that had been hidden for so long.

I graduated as a major in fashion design at the Willem de Kooning Art Academy in Rotterdam and then worked in different fields in fashion as a fashion designer, visual merchandiser, as well as a freelance stylist for different commercial brands. Working for big commercial companies gave me a firsthand look at how fast fashion develops and the effect was that I found myself becoming more interested in sustainable, ethical craftsmanship.

An aspiration of mine has always been to work in Haiti and to make a contribution to the development of Haitian society. Seeing the ongoing struggles of the Haitian people in the news always had an effect on me. In 2017 I really felt that it was the right time for me to go back to Haiti. I wanted to combine my two passions: to volunteer for a sustainable creative organization and to learn about my country of birth. I wanted to stay in Haiti for a couple of months to really experience life there. An extended stay there also meant more time to get work done. My journey began by researching platforms for emerging Haitian craftsmanship and that's how I found Haiti Design Co.


I worked as a designer for the Haiti Design Co design fellowship for 5 months. For the new collection I tried to stay true to the craftsmanship and style of Haiti Design Co. My inspiration came from the beauty and fibered look of the island in combination with minimalistic and timeless shapes and forms. Using neutral colors and mixing leather and canvas was a key point in the collection. I loved working in the studio where I had the freedom to play around, work on designs and make patterns. The sewing team worked downstairs where the leatherwork and fabrics were back-stocked. As a designer, having all this at my fingertips was really great.

The sewing ladies were very driven and picked up different techniques quite fast. Everyone was so enthusiastic and eager to learn new technique. I was so amazed at how talented and skilled the sewing team was. I wanted to create a collaborative atmosphere where I received as well as offered feedback. The end result was that we all learned from one another.

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Working for Haiti Design Co was a life changing experience, it was love at first sight. It was an amazing and natural collaboration. No lengthy meetings were needed to finalize this collection. The designs came together naturally. I learned that overcoming your fears brings you closer to yourself and leads you to places and experiences that your life wouldn't have taken you otherwise.

Moving to Haiti was a big step for me. Returning to the place I was born was deep fear within myself that I never even realized I had. I was preventing myself from realizing the whole of my identity, which finally came into view during the time I spent there. I couldn't have done it without Haiti Design Co, who became my Haitian family. I was back in Haiti for the first time after many years and Haiti Design Co was the family that I returned to. I could never have imagined how important this journey ended up being for me and I will keep this amazing memory in my heart forever.


During her Design Fellowship, Manoucheka designed our holiday line, released last October, as well as our new Summer bag line, released in May. You can shop some of these new designs below, and if interested in applying for a Design Fellowship with our team, you can apply here.

Canvas Circle Bag
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Rope Tote
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Leather Scrunchie Bag
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Economics + Budgeting Seminar

Last month, HDC held a seminar on “Understanding Basic Economics in Order to Budget Well”


“I think this training happened at an essential time. With inflation rising to an almost unlivable level in Haiti, the cost of living has risen considerably, and it has become harder and harder for Haitians to cope with rising costs in order to support themselves and their families. We always want to try and support our artisans and equip them with training as life continues to get harder, and I think simply having a conversation on how to budget and save money when you feel like you can’t save anything at all, was very helpful. Many of our artisans stated that they have since applied some budgeting principles that they learned in the training, and some have said that they have given more effort towards paying off debt, and working towards accomplishing their goals. “ - Courtney Sanon, HDC Social Programs Coordinator

This training helped me learn how I can limit my spending, start saving, and start thinking more about my future and how I can manage my finances better!
— Anne Rose

Art - by Jerry

Our advanced English class was tasked with writing an essay about something that is important to them - and to document it with a roll of film and a disposable camera. We loved every bit of reading their work, and what it reveals about the beauty of Haitian culture and the people we get to work with.


My name is Jerry and I am a artisan working at Haiti Design Co. There are many definitions of art, but instead of trying to provide the meaning of what art is, I want to give you a glimpse of what art looks like in Haiti, and why it is important for us.

In Haiti there are so many different accessories and styles. Even in just our workshop, you will find a variety in our collection. We have products at our workshop made with paper mache, horn and bone, metal work, aluminum casting, leather, beadwork, wood, and fabric. There are so many things that give us inspiration. Our trees, their leaves, the shape of our houses, our valleys, our mountains, the color of our beaches, there are so many different things that artists can gain inspiration from. 


Art is something that you can learn by studying, by practicing, and through observation. But in Haiti, art is something that we learn to do not only because we are passionate about it, but because it helps us to earn a living.

Art helps us to grow relationships with other countries, and it helps to change Haiti’s image as a country that is beautiful and resourceful. Art shows a different side of Haiti, a side that represents the good in our country. 

Art is a reason for people from all over the world to come and visit Haiti, and to meet so many great people and professional artisans.


Haitian Cuisine - by Ismaella

Our advanced English class was tasked with writing an essay about something that is important to them - and to document it with a roll of film and a disposable camera. We loved every bit of reading their work, and what it reveals about the beauty of Haitian culture and the people we get to work with.



Every country in the world can be recognized and represented by what’s on a plate.

Just as we can recognize Italy by its pastas and pizzas, so can Haiti be recognized by its original Haitian patty stuffed with meat, veggies, and sauce. Patties are usually eaten in the morning and can be enjoyed with a hard-boiled egg, spicy sauce, and a banana.
Haiti has a variety of foods unique to our culture, like tontonm, which is made from breadfruit with okra sauce, and tchaka, which has a base made from corn and beans.


Some typical foods listed on our daily menus are: Cornmeal with beans and fish sauce, soups made with bread and leafy greens, Akasan, which is a smooth and creamy breakfast item, stews made with tender goat meat, and yams and cassava with sauce.

Some foods come from our African origins, and some come from the cultures of countries who had colonized our island, like our pumpkin soup that we make every January.

Some say that when our ancestors were slaves, they used to watch as their oppressors drank the soup from the pumpkins that they had labored over, and when the slaves became free, they drank the soup in triumph, in light of their victory over their former masters. So this is why on our independence day, on January 1st, all Haitians here in Haiti, and around the world eat pumpkin soup.

Our spices have such flavor and foreigners always testify to how exceptional everything tastes. Each province in Haiti has its own specialty, and the different dishes are countless.

If I was going to write about the entire list of Haitian cuisine, I’m not sure when I would be able to finish.
I might be a little biased, but in my opinion, Haitian cuisine is the best!


Fashion Revolution Week: PART 3

Fashion never unnecessarily destroys or discards but mindfully redesigns and recuperates in a circular way. Fashion is repaired, reused, recycled and upcycled.
— #7 from the Fashion Revolution Manifesto

We have a very strategic “Waste Not, Want Not” mindset when it comes to designing our products. Our team members are not only talented craftsmen and women, but have an eye for design and resourcefulness. From leather remnant jewelry to up-cycled aluminum- our artisans can turn what once would have been discarded into new treasures. To check out pieces from our Remnant Jewelry Collection, click here.

Meet Sandy Dulorier from the Jewelry Team-

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“My name is Sandy, I’m 22 years old. I live in Petite Place Cazeau, and I love my neighborhood because it is calm and peaceful. My bedroom is painted salmon pink because it makes me feel comfortable. I’m a believer that men can still be manly if they wear pink.

I like to swim, go out to eat with friends, and dance, especially to African music. When I am having a bad day, I like to listen to music and tell jokes. Something that always makes me laugh is when people fall or trip, it always gets me.

This might be weird but I really like the dark. People complain when the electricity goes out, but this usually makes me feel happy because it’s dark out. When I’m at home I spend a lot of time styling hair, and trying to create new styles out of clothes that are too big for me. I love the summer time because it’s hot and there is a lot of stuff going on, which usually makes people happy, and I love getting to see people smile. I wish I had a superpower that would give me the ability to unify people, so that I could remove discrimination and fighting. I just like when things are peaceful, when I can laugh, and see the stars when it’s dark out.”

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Fashion Revolution Week: PART 2

Our team members are the heart of what we do at Haiti Design Collective. Aside from a commitment to creating stable jobs, we provide what we call “holistic employment”- benefits that support the overall well-being of our artisan communities, addressing much more than financial need. To learn more about our Wellness and Education programs, click here.

Fashion measures success by more than just sales and profits. Fashion places equal value on financial growth, human wellbeing and environmental sustainability.
— #9 from the Fashion Revolution Manifesto

Meet Berlain Saint Cyr from the Leather Team-

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My name is Berlain but I earned the name Abella after mispronouncing the spanish word “abuela” (meaning grandmother) in Spanish class. I live in Bon Repos, and really love my neighborhood because you could literally dig a well anywhere and find water.

Apart from being an artisan at Haiti Design, I am a mechanic and love cars. My favorite is the Nissan Frontier- I love the new model; it’s as close to perfect as a vehicle can come. I have always loved fixing things, whether its cars, or sewing machines, or a broken toilet. I love watching how-to videos on youtube and teaching myself how to do things. I’ll fix anything. I don’t have my own car, but I do have a motorcycle- I call her Ti ble, which means Little Blue. Ti ble never loses in a race, and rides as smooth as butter. I taught myself how to drive, and I wasn’t afraid, even at first.

I remember not being afraid during the earthquake too, even though I was at school and the building was shaking and falling down. When it started shaking, I was running trying to get out, but one of my friends got trampled under the crowd and was yelling for me, so I went back for him and got him out. That was probably the bravest I have ever felt. Maybe this is why Superman is my favorite superhero- because he is the bravest, and let’s be honest, all the other superheroes had to bring him back to life because he was the only one who was powerful enough to win. He also wears red and that's my favorite color, because red is a color that feels vibrant and alive. It makes me feel strong when I wear red.

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Fashion Revolution Week: PART 1

We are excited to join in on Fashion Revolution’s movement to bring more transparency to the fashion industry. We highly encourage you to take a moment to read the 10 pillars of their manifesto here.

Fashion liberates worker and wearer and empowers everyone to stand up for their rights.
— #1 of the Fashion Revolution Manifesto

In honor of this very important week, we want to spotlight 3 of our artisans and dear friends at Haiti Design Collective.

Meet Darline Felix from the sewing team-

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“My name is Darline, but I love the nickname Dadou because it’s really simple and I like it. I like to listen to music a lot, and even though a lot of people in Haiti don’t like reggae music, I’m a fan of reggae. I also love to dance, and even learned how to dance folklore before I had my son. My son is always making me laugh with his funny questions. My son is so important to me. Back in 2015, I went on a vacation and when I came back home, everything in my home was stolen. I had to become pretty strong after that, and I learned to become more selfless to take care of him. I have pretty much replaced everything that was stolen at this point, and everyone comments on the good changes that they have seen in me since then. I love wearing bright colors because I tend to get a lot of compliments when I wear them. I love wearing green the most. Green makes me think of perseverance, and that is a quality that I feel like defines who I am. I would love to have the ability to teleport- to just disappear whenever I wanted to. I think this is why I love when people style their hair and have bangs, because it always hides their foreheads really well. Bangs should never go out of style.”

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Psst… Darline is sporting her FAVORITE new piece from our new collection. The Essentials Crossbody in Pale Yellow leather is coming very soon! Stay tuned friends :)

Photos above were taken by Kelsey Cherry Photography


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In Haiti, we have so many different kind of hairstyles that it has become a real art. And this is something that I feel excited to write about because it is part of my field of work as well.

When I was little, it was difficult for my mom to do my hair in the morning before school. My hair was so kinky and different that she used to create different styles that would be able to last for a while, so that she wouldn’t have to do my hair every day. The styles that she often chose were Ti Kouri, which are twists, and Ti Tres, which are little braids.

I started to style my own hair when I was ten years old because it become such a hard task that I was the only one who could do it. I began to love it. I loved combing through my hair every day, and even though my braids and twists weren’t traced very well or styled perfectly, I was pretty proud of myself back then.

I continued to do my own hair until eventually I became really good at it and other people started to really like the styles I came up with, and I began styling other people’s hair. It became a passion for me, and it soon became a way that I could also earn money, as so many people began coming to me to style their hair.

There are so many different kinds of styles in Haiti. Braids, twists, cornrows, buns, fishtails, curls, ringlets, waves, and braids that are intricately braided into other braids. Hairstyling is truly an art in itself.

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International Women's Day: an Ode to Empowered Women!

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In honor of International Women’s Day, we want to share with you a very special, and personal message from one of our jewelry artisans. Ismaella and her mother, Carmelle, have worked with Haiti Design Co since 2013. They have a special bond that is undeniable.

Ismaella is a part of our in-house advanced english class. As a final project for 2018, the students were asked to write an essay about something they are passionate about. Below is Ismaella’s heartfelt essay on her personal role model and representation of women’s empowerment.


“At Haiti Design Co. we have several teams who work in the workshop and I belong to one of these teams, the jewelry team. Every team has their own name, and mine is Fanm Djanm, which means strong women. The person who gave us this name is our manager, Guerdy, who is a devoted wife, an amazing mother, and is the definition of a strong woman.

There are several of us, and among us there are single mothers and independent women, and all of us are strong. I am a strong woman because of my mother. She is a single mom and a brave woman.

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My mother told me that when she was pregnant, she had to run away from her father and leave her hometown and her house because he wanted to hurt her. He had become her enemy for years. A lady took my mom in like a foster mom after her escape, and it was in her house that I grew up.

My mom had to become a street vendor in order to earn money to ensure our survival. She sacrificed a lot for me. She was both my mother and my father as she raised me. She fought to give me what is good and what is best. She has fulfilled all of her parental duties, and I won’t ever stop thanking her for everything that she has done for me.

In Haiti, life is difficult.In an unorganized society, men often don’t respect women, and fathers often do not take responsibility for their children. Women have to become strong to survive and to support their children.

This kind of woman is everywhere. She could be a friend, or a family member, or a stranger. We can meet them throughout the day and not even know it. But for me, I don’t have to look any further than at my work. We are a small community of strong women. We share good and bad times, and because we spend so much time together, we have become a second family.

There is no shortage of strong women who work at HDC. HDC gives us the opportunity to earn money and allows us to become better than we could have imagined. We can go farther, and we can understand that we have potential for great things. HDC helps us realize that we don’t need a man to help us, but that we can take care of ourselves and our families.

In our eyes, you can see hope, in our hearts, there is courage and love. We are women who know how to overcome adversity, women who know how to get up after a fall. Strength is the best word to define us, and that’s why we are called Fanm Djanm.”

Make sure to send some extra love to the strong women in your life today.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Photos by the talented Kelsey Cherry Photography

New Year, Same Us

Many use the month of January to create a new mantra for themselves, turn a new leaf, start fresh,
but in the midst of this turning of pages, we want to remind you that while we are ever-growing, and ever-inspired to build on new ideas, our mission is the same:

We employ and partner with local artisans in Haiti
to provide economic, educational and wellness opportunities.

Here’s a glimpse into our partnership with Horn & Bone Artisan, Andre Paul:

+ on partnership with Aluminum Casting Artisan, Jeff:

Also as a reminder, you play a key role in this mission and this partnership, because with every purchase, you generate momentum for artisans’ work in Haiti, providing more and more opportunity for them and their goals.

How’s that for a New Year’s resolution?

The Gift of a Shift in Perspective


Do you ever think about the little treasures you’ve picked up along the way during your travels? Both emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Maybe creative inspiration, maybe a phrase in another language that just expresses the message better than your own.

In Santo Domingo I learned that if you’re going to take a tequila shot, you MUST do it with a lime wedge that’s been dipped in sugar on one side and coffee grinds on the other. Try it.

Haiti travels taught me about resourceful artistic expression. And luckily my home now has these gems scattered throughout.

Trips to New York push my style outside of its comfort zone. It makes me want to try new things and be more expressive in the way I dress.

And Italy… oh Italy. It made me appreciate quality. In food, in architecture, in experiences. It made me want to slow down and appreciate the delicacies of life.

We lucky ones have been able to travel to new places, maybe internationally or maybe within our state lines, and fill up on inspiration. We fill up on goods or ideas and then we take them home and make them our own. Everything we pick up along the way becomes a part of us, but made new. We come back rejuvenated and infuse our new perspective into our surroundings.

This is precisely the experience we want to give our artisans. While we can’t provide it for everyone, we can send a few, and then they can come home to Haiti, make it new, and share it with others.


While in Italy in 2017, Josh and I stumbled upon a traditional leather working school in an old monastery in Florence. There were students from across the world gathered in the small, beautiful classroom studios. We had the pleasure of meeting with the director and getting a tour. One of the first things she said to us was this-

“If you’re looking to train factory workers, this is not the school for you. We train up artisans- they become masters of the process from design to production.”

This spoke right to our vision at Haiti Design Co. To invest in and send out leaders, true artisans, that can run their teams with integrity and create quality.

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Since then we’ve been dreaming about the opportunity to send off a few of our most promising leather artisans and give them this once in a lifetime experience. To learn not just technical skills, but to experience the shift in cultural perspective. To be immersed in a country rich in history, art, craftsmanship, and with fellow students from across the globe. To get the freedom to be removed from the chaos of their own beautiful nation for a few months to learn, be challenged, be inspired, and then come home and create.

We know this isn’t the typical fundraising request you hear from Haiti. It’s not for an orphanage, it’s not for a feeding program, it’s not for aid. While those things are vital and have their place, we decided early on our approach to development was going to look a little bit different. It was going to involve digging deeper into our relationships with the artisan leaders, investing in opportunity, and letting the ripple effect work as it will. We’ve seen success from this so far- and are eagerly awaiting what’s to come once this particular dream of ours is able to become a reality.

Please join us in investing in these individuals, and inherently investing in the future of their communities as well.

With much love and gratitude,


Meet the Makers: Winter 2018


Every product is made by a person -
Here are the faces behind this season’s Maker’s Box goods:

Ostine: Sewing

Haiti has everything a person can need, but a lot of people feel obligated to leave because they can’t find a way to provide for their families. HDC has given me a job to not only use my skills, but provides me with a way to remain in the country that I love and provide for my family. This work is so, so good for my family. Thanks for purchasing our products, as every product we sell allows us to keep doing a job we love.
— Ostine

GILBERT : Horn + Bone

I love how delicate this work is, and love refining our materials to make them into the design we want. I have become really close to the members of my team. We always have so much fun together, are always positive, and live like a family.
— Gilbert

Order the Winter Edition of the Maker’s Box, featuring products from the Sewing and Horn + Bone Teams: