Artisans Are Thriving Again In Post-quake Haiti
"We want people to come buy from Haiti not because they have pity for the Haitians but because the product is well-made, it's well-priced and it's something they can use," said Nathalie Tancrede, co-founder of the Artisans Business Network.
Macy's is the biggest U.S. retailer selling handmade Haitian goods, followed by the West Elm and Anthropologie chains, along with stores such as MI OSSA in Charlottesville, Virginia, and online boutique shops like Noonday Collection and Maiden Nation.
Designers including Rachel Roy, Chan Luu and Donna Karan have also become big post-quake boosters, purchasing and selling jewelry designed by Haitian women.
At an Anthropologie store in New York, papier-mache busts of zebras and rhinos pop out on a wall display. Children relish the animals made of old books, cement bags and French-language newspapers."A lot of customers like them for their kids' rooms or for the living room," manager Megan Hovey said by telephone. "It's an item customers come in for specifically. They're unique." The gains by Haiti's artisans fit in a larger trend called "ethical fashion," in which small businesses employ women craftsmen in developing countries to produce one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted designs for socially conscious consumers. Willa Shalit, CEO of Fairwinds Trading Inc., a for-profit company that works with developing world artisans and entrepreneurs, says the 2010 earthquake generated interest in all things Haitian. "All of sudden Haiti was on everyone's minds," said Shalit, whose company received a three-year loan of $174,832 from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. "The brand of Haiti became instantly recognizable." There are no solid figures on how much Haiti's arts and crafts contribute to its exports, but they rank far behind clothing. The garment sector accounted for 93 percent of Haiti's $768 million in exports last year, which were up from $563 million the year of the quake, according to Haiti's Central Bank.
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