Fashion Designer Azede Jean-Pierre Shares Her Photo Diary From an Artisan Tour of Her Native Haiti

Here, I’m pictured at the Buisson home wearing Deux Mains sandals. Fetching clean water from my cousin Josue Makandal Bazile's dispensary. Following the earthquake, founder Julie Colombino and four Haitian partners constructed a workspace in a tent and began crafting sandals out of tires they found in the streets of Port-au-Prince. Six years later, the enterprise has grown to 25 full-time craftsmen and women, three of whom are managers and who also have ownership in the local business that has since been created, Deux Mains Designs. Deux Mains sandals are handcrafted with upcycled tires (more than 10,000 discarded tires have been collected) and locally sourced leather. They train, equip, and employ local craftsmen and women to make high-fashion sandals for sale in the international marketplace, provide them with living wages, and empower them to become leaders in their communities.Photo: Josue Makandal Bazile

They say you can’t go home again, but Azede Jean-Pierre would beg to differ. The Haitian-born, Atlanta-bred designer—whose modern, quirky, and architectural designs have become favorites of former First Lady Michelle Obama and Solange Knowles—consistently pulls from her Carib roots and heritage for inspiration, often traveling back to the island for references and ideas. With her latest visit, though, the designer was working to give back to her beloved home country.

In partnership with the Clinton Foundation, Jean-Pierre returned to speak to local business owners about female entrepreneurship, tour local artisan collectives, and devise ways to collaborate with a vast network of local creatives. “The stories of these artisans are truly incredible,” she told Vogue. “Seeing the creativity and diversity of their work is awe-inspiring. It is so important to me for them to have an international outlet to show their work to the world, so I am anxious to start sourcing and collaborating and to grow our businesses together.” With a line of accessories created with local designer Pascale Théard in the pipeline for Spring 2018, it seems her mission is accomplished.

Business aside, Jean-Pierre used the trip as an opportunity to experience the joys of her native country, from the breathtaking views to haggling in the market. Here, the hometown design hero lets us in on her fruitful and empowering trip.

Discussing brand building, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and dressing high-profile individuals with Chokarella of Radio One, 90.1 FM.
Sandilou founders Sandra Russo and her husband, Alfredo, make their mark in the textile industry with their hand-painted materials. All of their items are created by local, talented artists who hand-paint textiles for silk scarves and sarongs, dresses, and other apparel for the Caribbean tourism market. Sandilou also uses airbrushing and serigraphy techniques. Passionate about giving back to her community, Sandra also provides training to artists.
Jean-Pierre Island. My family is originally from Pestel, Haiti. Pestel is a commune in the Corail Arrondissement, in the Grand’Anse department of Haiti. The commune also includes the Cayemite Islands, known individually as Grande Cayemite and Petite Cayemite. My grandmother was something of a legend: The story goes that she lived alone on the smallest island and entertained suitors. She had many children with sailors passing through and never wed, that is until my grandfather came along. Now, only descendants of my grandfather Jean-Pierre are allowed to build homes and reside on this island.
With radio personality Carel Pedre.
Backyard views of Bidonville
Papillon Enterprise is a socially and ecologically conscious business with a mission of stimulating the Haitian economy by exporting and marketing Haitian artisan goods in the North American and European markets. Papillon's artisans work with pottery, papermaking, jewelry-making, sewing, and metal art, and the majority of the raw materials are sourced locally. The work environment is family-friendly, providing employees with onsite daycare and medical and social benefits. In addition to paying employees a living wage (about three times the minimum wage), it offers social empowerment services including language and literacy development and computer and software training.
Breakfast at Karibe.Photo: Sheively Buisson

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