Happy Friday, Bombers and Bombshells!
I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Haiti. I was in Cap Haitian for less than 24 hours before zooming off to Port au Prince. JPHRO and the Clinton Foundation graciously invited a group of fashion influencers to give us some background on the country and also introduce us to local artisans, designers, and factory workers.
Y’all know I came ready to stunt! I wanted to wear gowns by Haitian designers and imagined myself teetering on precipitous cliffs in heels (impractical? Yes. But so what??!). I bought shiny new Giuseppe Zanotti flats… cover ups and swimsuits…and while there are absolutely lovely resorts, pools, and hidden gems in Haiti, this trip was moreso about rolling up our sleeves, getting dirty, sweaty, and bug bitten, and figuring out how we can use our fantastic privilege and platforms to affect a real change in Haiti and the world.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: Haiti is suffering. Riding from both airports at Cap Haitian and Port au Prince, trash populated the side of the road. Dogs and goats ran free. Roads are unpaved. We learned about the startling rate of unemployment. How many people don’t earn a living wage. And on and on.
We also learned of the amazing possibilities.
1. Cotton was once Haiti’s fourth largest agricultural export (until the 1980’s). Brands like Timberland have helped re-introduce the crop to the land, and now Haiti might once again be a great exporter of the cash crop.
2. We met many skilled seamstresses and tailors who make clothing for brands like Donna Karan, The Brooklyn Circus, and even Rihanna’s newest Fenty collection. Unlike China or Bangladesh, Haiti is 4 hour flight from New York, and might one day offer competitive pricing for clothing production.
3. All those plastic bottles we saw on the side of the rode can be turned into clothing. We visited a company called Thread that does just that, and hires locals to accumulate and sort different types of plastic, which is recycled into fabric for bags and clothing, and more.
Fashion people, flashing lights, sirens, and light bulbs should be going off in your heads. Though not everything is in place just yet, Haiti might be the next fashion mecca as far as production is concerned. New designers who don’t want to make the trip to Asia or spend handsomely in Europe can zoom down to beautiful Haiti and explore the possibilities…
As far as I’m concerned, I always knew I wanted to be more than a writer. I always knew I wanted to be more than a *very* amateur model who takes pix occasionally. Looking at the industry holistically over the past 10 years, I’ve seen the trends. I know what’s happening. I know what changes need to be made. Beginning designers have a tough time from the outset mainly because they tend to not have the financial and intellectual resources they need to scale. Haiti has resources. And the exchange could result in a beautifully fruitful relationship for both sides.
As I traveled to my fatherland, I felt warmly embraced. I felt like I could make a difference. And as I pursue Claire Care’s (my new philanthropic organization whose goal is in fact to help designers scale), I know Haiti will now be a very key part of the equation.
Just getting started…
Love & Light,
**Thank you to Greg, Ann, Azede, Nathalie, Sabine, Cassi and everyone else who included me on this life changing trip! I was sick the whole time (traveler’s flu), but I’m glad I was involved. Can’t wait to go back!
*Photo credit: Liam Storrings.