Vibrant and bright: Haiti’s fashion industry is on the up

 Models show off clothes designed by Michel Chataigne
Image caption Michel Chataigne has made a name for himself in the fashion world well beyond his native Haiti

Among the glamorous and influential fashion hubs of the world, Haiti may not be an obvious contender.

But the Caribbean nation, famed for its vibrant art, is home to a bold and progressive slew of designers on a crusade to turn that around.

The burgeoning industry is epitomised in the annual Haiti Fashion Week which this year will mark its sixth edition.

From the brilliant hues of the pervasive voodoo religion to the shapes inspired by indigenous dance, Haiti’s rich culture is woven into the fabric and forms of the garments.

And that, says eminent designer and Fashion Week coordinator Michel Chataigne, makes them unique.

“Haiti’s fashion is very different from other countries’ – it’s about colour and volume with lots of ruffles,” he tells the BBC.

Creativity unleashed

“People are becoming more familiar with it through Fashion Week which now attracts people and press from all over the world. Designers from Italy, Paris and the US come to see the shows and take part.

“I definitely think Haiti can become the fashion capital of the Caribbean.”

Image copyright Kisley Jeannot
Image caption Michel Chataigne says ruffles are a key feature in Haitian fashion

Traditionally, Haiti’s clothing market has been focused on low-end commodity apparel, a key export, and the sweatshops that churn it out tend to garner more headlines than the country’s sartorial innovation.

But Haiti is slowly making a name for creativity, diversity and even sustainability in the field with a previous Fashion Week theme centring on ecologically responsible materials. Mr Chataigne’s own collection incorporated banana leaves and natural tones.

One man who has been at the forefront of the scene for two decades is David André who specialises in resort wear for men and women, couture gowns and stand-out showpieces.

Passion for fashion

“My dream is to take over the fashion world as Yves Saint Laurent did in Paris and to be known internationally as a Haitian fashion designer,” he says. “If I make it to the top, Haiti will be on the world map.”

Image copyright Reginald Georges
Image caption David André wants to put Haiti on the world map with his designs

Born in Port-au-Prince to parents who owned a clothing store, Mr André dreamed of a career in fashion since he was a child growing up inspired by greats like Gaultier, Versace and Lagerfeld. He later studied his craft at a local school before heading to Paris to learn draping and pattern-making.

“I love to create new concepts, to play with fabrics and colours. It’s pure pleasure to wake up in the morning and go to work with so much passion,” he continues.