We are thrilled to announce our lunch program is up and running at the Design Lab in Haiti. After a tiresome search for the right equipment for the kitchen (honestly finding anything in Haiti can be trying at best) we can proudly announce the kitchen is (and has been for awhile) in full swing.
Not only do our fantastically talented team of tailors get to feast on delicious eats each lunch hour, so too do the rest of the workers at the facility. It’s Creole in all of it’s glory. The rice and beans paired with plantain and picklese in Haiti are the best we’ve tasted (we’re working on a Haitian fusion cookbook, just wait!). Each afternoon we are treated to the sweet scent of fresh cooking-the day I departed from the Caribbean sun the dish was crab and fresh veggies, DIVINE! The food is definitely one of the things we miss most as we have since returned to the polar vortex of Toronto.
Our beautiful, hand-crafted bow ties, beaded cell phone bags, clutches and metal cuffs are the perfect way to shower your lover with care. Each piece is unique, hand made by artisans in Cite Soleil, Haiti from up-cycled materials. Woven into each item is the unique story of Haiti’s garment industry. All items provide sustainable, fair-wage jobs and breathes new life into old materials.
Last year we were fortunate enough to commence a partnership with Cornell University (funded by the EPA) and the ‘dream team’ of professors and students to help us work on creating zero waste pattern design at our design lab in Port-au-Prince. Our team consists of fashion and design officiandos, fibre scientists, fashion historians and a whole lot of creativity. After a few months of product development we welcomed Dr Tasha Lewis, the chef of our Cornell team, to visit us in PAP to see the progress. With her arrival we began to manufacture 4 new beautiful pieces designed by yours truly with patterns and technicals made by the Cornell dream team.
We are working to minimize our waste through the design process with the ultimate goal of zero waste pattern design. In the meantime we are looking for creative and innovative ways to use our scraps created from our design process. We are inspired to collaborate with other artists, designers and professionals in Haiti to create a network that allows us to share our resources and to find innovative ways to create sustainable business models in Haiti. This is merely the tip of the iceberg of where the dream team will go!
Over delicious eats last night I found myself explaining the LB business model to a new group of friends here in Port-au-Prince. As I started I realized how deep the manufacturing sector runs in Haiti and how closely it is tied to the economy. In order to properly explain what we do, I had to give a brief history of the economic and political strife in Haiti and how it relates to the garment industry. It wasn’t just about explaining pepe (second hand clothing) in Haiti, but its international origins and how the once large manufacturing sector has since dwindled, only to be slowly rekindled these days. Haiti was once the main manufacturer of Levi’s, produced for the GAP and Banana Republic and stitched 90% of the Major League Baseballs. At one point fibre production even took place here. As the industry has declined, Haiti now imports all of its fabric resulting in less value stays for the country.
Since starting LB designs (formerly Local Buttons) we have been fortunate enough to become privy to the way the manufacturing sector works. Over the past 3 years we have met people from all aspects of the sector who have helped form our opinion of how we can best shape and gently nudge the garment industry towards a new path forward.
When we first started we had no idea how complicated manufacturing clothing really was. Thankfully. I am not sure we would have had the gusto to take on the challenge were we aware of all the hurdles. The garment industry is intrinsically linked with many other sectors that when you seek to shift one area you open a flood gate. It’s not just about how you pay the people or the conditions at your workplace. It is also where you import your fabrics from, what fabrics you use and their impact, where you export to, what taxes you pay, what international trade agreements you are aligned with and how much money is staying in the country you produce in. That’s before you even begin to think about design, aesthetic, quality, consistency & sizing. It’s an ongoing challenge, but an interesting one. We get to fuse our academic backgrounds with our creativity to find the most exciting ways to address issues.
Here is a look at our Design Lab in Port-au-Prince, where the theory and the practice meet.