Haitian designer Pascale Théard incorporates cultural elements into her work.
Meet Pascale Théard, a Haitian designer with a passion for fashion.
EVEN IF YOU’VE NEVER BEEN TO HAITI, you’ve probably seen Haitian art and craft. That’s because the island’s signature paintings (depicting multitudes of colorful stick-like figures crammed onto canvases) and creative pierced- tin and metalwork crafts are sold throughout the Caribbean.
But if you visit the island, you’ll be exposed to a much wider array of Haitian art, including that of designer Pascale Théard, who we caught up with at her chic Port-au-Prince atelier. Here, surrounded by a kaleidoscope of butter-soft leather tote bags, hand-beaded belts, shoes, and other leather accessories, she told us about her unlikely journey from the world of finance to fashion.
Art was the Start:
I’ve been surrounded by art since I was a child; my uncles were painters and I remember there were little artisans shops everywhere. But when I came back to Haiti from university in Paris, I noticed that they’d all but disappeared. Up until that point I’d never considered doing anything artistic. I’d just finished my master’s degree in finance and graduated head of my class. But during my Paris internship I somehow ended up doing the artwork for the cover of the company’s annual report. It was very well received, and my boss, who noticed how much more passion I had for art than for numbers, took me aside and said, ‘Pascale, you must do what you love.’ It was the first time anyone had given me permission to pursue art. So I decided to take his advice.”
Finance to Fashion:
“Transitioning from finance to design wasn’t easy, so I decided to do a Ph.D. in luxury marketing, which was a lot more creative than crunching numbers! During my studies, I ended up working with Hermès. I always had a passion for shoes and leather (my mother’s family owns a tannery in France) so I started designing my own, eventually collaborating with Hermès. It was important to me to incorporate elements of Haitian culture into my work, so my first collection of sandals, in 2003, featured veve [vodou flag symbol] motifs as a tribute to my country.”
“Everything I make is inspired by Haiti. For example, the leather tote bags are inspired by sacs djakout, straw bags that farmers traditionally used to carry animal feed. My beaded sandals are an elegant version of the casual bata sandals, which children here used to wear during the summer. The Tap Tap collection I launched last April borrows colors from our brightly painted tap tap taxis, with beaded belts, handbag straps and charms, bracelets, coin purses, and key rings. And my newest Makaya collection is all about nature, with leaf, flower, and tribal motifs embellishing shoes and other leather items.”
“Working in the luxury sector I’ve learned that people value most the things that are handmade. And Haitians are so creative, so good with their hands, that it makes perfect sense to produce my designs locally. So it’s become my mission to preserve our traditional artisanal skills, to make high- end craft here in Haiti, and to promote our culture by sharing it with the world.”