Creating goods is a complicated beast.
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.