Haiti Design Co

How one bag is breaking down the cycle of poverty

Behind the tropical beauty of palms, cobblestones and balmy weather, there is an inspiring story of hope, education and sustainability on the beautiful island of Haiti.

The hometown of Haiti Design Co; a non-profit artisan production and training centre in Port au Prince, it provides hope and sustainable futures for more than 70 artisans employed to develop quality, hand-finished leather bags and accessories.

We caught up with Haiti Design Co. founder, Chandler Busby, to learn about the story behind their sustainable bag collection, and hear from the woman that inspired our own journey, in bringing People’s Collective to life.

What inspired you to start Haiti Design Co?

In college I was studying apparel design and retail merchandising. I came down to Haiti in 2010 and learned the term and meaning behind ‘economic orphan’. The reality that the majority of children living in orphanages here have one or more living parents that simply do not have the financial means to raise their own children – this was a wakeup call for me. I saw so much money being poured into orphanages, feeding programs and short-term aid solutions, but not much effort being put into the root issue – the immense lack of jobs in Haiti.

I was also very passionate about design and seeing the power of the fashion industry being used for good. So, the solution seemed simple – I wanted to focus on creating jobs while making beautiful things. Products that both maker and customer could feel excited about.

Describe Haiti Design Co. in three words

Family, Craftsmanship and Wellness.

Chloe in the Juliette convertible bag worn as a back pack

Why ethical fashion? 

As a fashion student I was very curious about the disconnect between customers and the supply chain behind our products. The more research I did, the less appealing those ‘big sales’ and fashion brands became. It became apparent that the industry was responding to a demand for ‘more for less’ and always new, however no one was talking about the people behind the curtain; the people working tirelessly to make those products. It started with curiosity and a longing for more connection with these products that we use every day.

I think there is something beautiful and sacred about the products that make up our daily routines – what we clothe ourselves in. I truly believe we all our connected – our actions, small and big, create a ripple effect across the globe. This is one of the biggest things I have learned living in Haiti.

My background is in apparel design and my husband is a leatherworker, so we know what goes into making things with your own hands. We know the heart and soul that our artisans put into their work.

For us, it wasn’t necessarily choosing ethical fashion as much as choosing what just felt like the right path for fashion in the first place. There is something very special about the honourable business exchange – our customers provide our staff with dignified, holistic employment, and our artisans provide our customers with product with soul, product with a story. We are all connected.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview with Chandler where we talk sustainability and why we meed to rethink aid.  

Chloe with the classic leather tote
November 5, 2017

Shop this Look