Is­land Finds

Haitian de­signer Pas­cale Théard in­cor­po­rates cul­tural el­e­ments into her work.

Porthole Cruise Magazine - - What’s Inside - BY SARAH GREAVES- GABBADON

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.”

Is­land In­spi­ra­tion:

“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.”

Mis­sion Pos­si­ble:

“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.”

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