144. Haiti Cherie

The Hand of Fashion - - CONTENTS -

Upon re­turn­ing to Haiti, and par­tic­u­larly the home of her grand­mother, Ital­ian-Haitian de­signer Stella Jean re­alised the is­land was very much her ‘sec­ond home’ and im­mersed her­self in the cul­ture, art and his­tory of the is­land of her an­ces­tors. Grant Fell learns of; Art Naïf as an in­spi­ra­tion and the pro­duc­tion of pa­pier-mâché and Fer Battu metal ac­ces­sories for her SS15 col­lec­tion; the tap-tap - Haiti’s ‘pop art on wheels’ and the unique and cre­ative in­dus­tries that thrive in Croix-des-Bou­quets and Jacmel. Pho­tos: Chloé Mukai

Grant Fell: Hi Stella, when did you make the trip to Haiti that ac­com­pa­nies th­ese pho­tos? Stella Jean: May 2014 Even though you are of Haitian and Ital­ian de­scent, was that the first time you had been to Haiti? No it wasn’t, my mother is Haitian and I have fam­ily there, although I was raised and still live in Rome. What was the first thing that struck you about Haiti once you had touched down? I’m Haitian, at least a half of me is. So for me, Haiti is my sec­ond home. What I’m most fond of are my grand­mother’s gar­dens and home, her pas­sion for the botan­i­cal crafts, the sea, the food, the smells, the mu­sic and the Naïf paint­ing. Tell us about that, about your dis­cov­ery of the artis­tic wave in Haiti, Naive art or Art Naïf. That’s some­thing that some­how is part of my DNA, it was not an im­promptu dis­cov­ery about the last pe­riod. Thanks to the de­vel­op­ment of my SS 2015 col­lec­tion and thanks to the support of ITC EFI, what I tried to do was show Haiti in a new light. Haiti, de­scribed by An­dré Mal­raux as “the most amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of the magic art of the 20th cen­tury”, is un­veiled through ‘Art Naïf’, a move­ment marked by ac­tive ob­ser­va­tion built around a sim­ple soul. This artis­tic per­spec­tive is an ex­pres­sion of life, na­ture and spirit, an­i­mated by the mar­ket women and their daily multi-coloured van­ity, a van­ity full of dig­nity. There are sev­eral prints in the lat­est col­lec­tion which were formed as a di­rect re­sult of this trip. Which prints are they and what is it about them that is unique to Haiti? The col­lec­tion is a dec­la­ra­tion of in­tent and con­firms my com­mit­ment in tes­ti­fy­ing, shar­ing and trac­ing back sec­u­lar tra­di­tions through nar­ra­tive images. Thanks to my sourc­ing trip to Haiti with the ITC Eth­i­cal Fash­ion Ini­tia­tive team, we got in touch with the Haitian tra­di­tion of Art Naïf, dis­cov­er­ing such a rare trea­sure of ar­ti­sanal and skilled hand­crafts. The mar­ket, act­ing as a so­cial barom­e­ter, is where we met proud ven­dors adorned with scarves en­hanc­ing their fem­i­nin­ity. Adding to the hus­tle and bus­tle of the mar­ket, “tap-tap” buses also have a strong pres­ence in recre­at­ing this at­mos­phere. The “tap-tap” is the tra­di­tional means of pub­lic trans­port, and is also de­scribed as “pop art on wheels.” The ve­hi­cles are adorned with sub­jects be­long­ing to re­li­gious, popular and his­tor­i­cal tra­di­tion; ironic phrases, proverbs or mes­sages; they are painted by artists who at­tend art schools that spe­cial­ize in tap-tap paint­ing. Don­keys, another im­por­tant means of trans­porta­tion and la­bor, and sugar cane, are also re­cur­ring Haitian el­e­ments that reap­pear on prints and hand-painted fab­rics, com­plet­ing the visual land­scape of this col­lec­tion. You have also cre­ated ac­ces­sories in Haiti, tell us about those... I had the op­por­tu­nity to de­sign th­ese pieces di­rectly with the lo­cal ar­ti­sans. The pa­pier-mâché fruits are pro­duced in Jacmel, the cul­tural cap­i­tal of Haiti and home to the coun­try’s largest car­ni­val, for which lo­cal ar­ti­sans craft colour­ful pa­pier-mâché masks and dec­o­ra­tions. The horn bracelets are pro­duced in a Port-au-Prince ate­lier of around fifty ar­ti­sans spe­cial­iz­ing in horn and bone ma­te­rial. This an­i­mal by-prod­uct is washed,

cut, shaped and pol­ished to per­fec­tion to achieve a smooth and glossy sur­face. The Fer Forgé Met­al­work jew­elry col­lec­tion was made in sev­eral dif­fer­ent ate­liers that are part of a large com­mu­nity of met­al­work ar­ti­sans based in Croix-des-Bou­quets, on the out­skirts of Port-au-Prince (see story on Mick­er­son Jean). There, the lo­cal met­al­smiths forged the Stella Jean pen­dants and ban­gles out of re­cy­cled oil drums us­ing just a ham­mer and phys­i­cal strength to cre­ate the de­sign. Is there a hub or ITC EFI pro­duc­tion space in Haiti yet? In Haiti there isn’t yet re­ally a Hub, but the ITC has a team of pro­fes­sion­als who man­age all the com­mu­nity groups of ar­ti­sans. I went to Croixdes-Bou­quets, an en­tire vil­lage of ar­ti­sans spe­cial­iz­ing in met­al­work. They used dis­carded oil drums that they ham­mer down into sheets of metal which is then cutout, painted and shaped into ac­ces­sories and home ware (called “fer battu”). Ar­ti­sans from this place pro­duced my tap-tap ban­gles and other metal com­po­nents I used in the ac­ces­sories col­lec­tion. We also vis­ited a group of old ladies mak­ing patch­work ta­pes­tries il­lus­trat­ing tra­di­tional Haitian life­style and land­scapes. Th­ese ladies also made beads from fab­ric off-cuts, which were also used in some of the footwear and jew­elry from the last col­lec­tion. In Jacmel (coastal city around 2-3 hours from Port-Au-Prince, and home to the fa­mous car­ni­val), we met with lo­cal pa­pier-maché ar­ti­sans who are masters in this skill and pro­duce some in­cred­i­ble things for the Jacmel Car­ni­val. We de­signed some pa­pier-maché fruits that were in­te­grated in SS15 bracelets and neck­laces. Another in­ter­est­ing ar­ti­san group was the cow horn group. They work from this nar­row lit­tle work­shop in down­town Port-au-Prince and shape, carve and pol­ish horn (a by-prod­uct from lo­cal abat­toirs). We also used some of their ban­gles in SS15. What about day-to-day life in Haiti, did you find any amaz­ing restau­rants, go to any art gal­leries, lis­ten to any lo­cal mu­sic? With a ques­tion like that, two things im­me­di­ately come to mind: the Caribbean mu­sic band Tabou Combo and the Ga­lerie d’Art Nader in Por­tau-Prince. Is there a spe­cial place you want to re­turn to? My grand­mother’s home.

Clock­wise from top left: 1. With Serge Jolimeau and Mick­er­son Jean, two ex­perts in “fer battu” (met­al­work) in Serge’s Croix-de-Bou­quets work­shop. 2. Study­ing the voudou flags de­signed by master artist Jean Bap­tist Jean Joseph 3. Study­ing more work inside the ate­lier of Jean Bap­tist Jean Joseph 4. Haiti has plenty of ar­ti­sanal work: paint­ing, met­al­work, em­broi­dery, wood­work, bonework and much more. A de­sign­ers’ heaven 5. Stella pos­ing in front of her favourite tree, the tree was a di­rect in­spi­ra­tion for the “Flam­boy­ant” dress in her SS15 col­lec­tion 6. Bro­ken down colo­nial build­ings are a common site in Haiti 7. With Paul An­dré, a cow horn ar­ti­san who pro­duces jew­elry items for Stella 8. Prod­uct de­vel­op­ment ses­sion in Lillavois, where Stella works with patch­work ar­ti­sans from Peace­quilts

9. Stella with Serge Jolimeau Op­po­site: Stella in Cité Soleil slum with school kids

Above: Lo­cal fruit and veges! Op­po­site: Fish­ing boats against a stormy Haitian sky in Jacmel

Above: A ru­ral mar­ket on the road be­tween Port-au-Prince and Jacmel Op­po­site: Stella and the tap­tap, the iconic Haitian pub­lic buses

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