Haiti speaks to my heart. It embraces everything we seek to accomplish at Urban Zen – the need to preserve culture, a crisis of healthcare, and a way to educate children to help secure a future of sustainability. I traveled to Haiti in September as part of the Clinton Foundation to see where the opportunities lie for creative business development. Now we return to put our plans in action. My team and I couldn’t be more inspired to do the actual work.
The vision for Haiti is simple: help Haiti help itself by utilizing and organizing its artisans, natural resources and production potential to create business models that can be properly marketed and distributed throughout the US and Europe. As an American designer and businesswoman, I have a good sense of what makes a product desirable to the western consumer. This trip is about working with the creative communities and helping them in anyway I could.
Success starts with the team you work with. This trip was organized by Joey Adler and her organization OneXOne, including Jojo Maislin, Greg Milne from the Clinton Global Foundation and Dimitri from Richard Cole’s factory Multitex. My team included John Hardy. I’ve always considered Bali to be the perfect model for rebuilding Haiti, and John founded a successful jewelry company in Bali, which was the inspiration for this trip. John now is Bali’s exclusive bamboo expert, as well as founder of The Green School, so I am thrilled to have John and his team on board. I’m also traveling with my friend and designer Isabel Encinias, as well as Marni Lewis, my chief of staff who keeps all our connections connected.
We arrive and we hit the ground running. John goes off to look at Wynne Farms, which we inspired us from our last trip, along with the IDB Bank. The rest of us meet up with Anne Pressior from Aid to Artisans at Proix de Bouquet to meet a team of metal workers we had met on our last trip. We’re there to give them pieces of inspiration to help build on what they are already doing. Led by Serge Lolimot, whose work is incredible, though the finishing I find is still a challenge.
Later that night, we go to restaurant Papai to look at a gorgeous iron chandelier I remembered from our last trip. We wind up staying there for dinner with the IDB Bank people and meet the owner. We find out the owner’s sister, a woman named Cookie, designed the chandelier. If ever there was an object of desire, this chandelier is it. And if it can be made in Haiti, then anything can be made in Haiti.