Photographers' Blog

Fashion forward Haiti

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

By Swoan Parker

For anyone who loves fashion, an announcement of Fashion Week brings to mind runways in New York, Paris, and Milan, but never Haiti.  So when my editor requested that I cover Haiti’s first Fashion Week, I was pretty intrigued.

I immediately began researching Haitian designers who live and produce their creations on the island.  I first contacted Michel Chataigne, who I learned was very accomplished in his own right, having shown internationally and with his ready-to-wear lines already selling in major U.S. stores.

Michel is a charismatic person and we clicked immediately. I first visited his atelier, which is home to his beauty school. Michel’s career first began in hair, and he is one of Haiti’s best known hair designers. Michel then put me in contact with fellow designers David André and Giovanna Menard.

I met David in his studio, which is a small space in a section of his family’s home. David, like Michel, has shown his creations internationally, but expressed frustration with he lack of support for the craft in his native country. He believes that the arts are seen as a hobby by the majority, instead of a legitimate profession.

Because Haitian designers don’t receive the same brand recognition as their international counterparts, it seems difficult to get a strong foothold here. The segment of the population that has the purchasing power to afford designer brands will most often travel out of the country to purchase them, even if at a higher price.

Seen on the fashion scene

By Allison Joyce

Held twice yearly in February and September, New York Fashion Week features designers from all over the world, displaying their creations on the runways. A small venue of tents pops up in Lincoln Center to house the crowd of celebrities, designers and models who descend upon the city. The event also draws its own share of notable and outrageous personalities, fashionistas, and those who come just to be seen on the scene.

I am now into my fourth year of covering the event and have started to recognize a group of colorful, sassy characters who come to Fashion Week each year. Some are former models, some are bloggers, and others seem to be famous just for their outlandish outfits or feline sidekicks. A few of them stand out because they are decked out in the same colorful suits, ostentatious hair styles and eye catching accessories year after year, appearing in the lobby or on the pavilion like clockwork. Most of them seem to be there for the same reasons, to network and be part of the scene.

While most New Yorkers are sitting at their desks or following their daily routines on a Monday morning, ten blocks away, an entirely different scene is unfolding. Backstage, there is a flurry of hairspray, lipstick, clothes, shoes and champagne. On the runway, Anna Wintour is perched on her front row seat next to Nicki Minaj, watching the show to the boom of house music. Meanwhile, out front in the lobby, Janet Finkel is walking her cat, Natasha, while Cognac Wellerlane struts by, coiffed in her beehive.