artisan

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.

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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.

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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.

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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
42.00
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Rope Tote
34.00
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Leather Scrunchie Bag
68.00
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Mini Taino Convertible Bag
52.00
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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

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.

Enjoy!

“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