Demand for Haitian Crafts Increases

  • Posted by Marina Vatav
  • November 5, 2012 1:25 PM EST
  • 1 comment

Once part of a thriving industry, Haiti's crafts companies have been losing a lot of ground on the international market in the last two decades. The main reasons were Haiti's political and social instability, and the increased dominance of Asian producers on the global marketplace who were able to deliver in large quantities, lower prices, and increased quality.

However, in the aftermath of the earthquake, we've witnessed dynamic changes in Haiti's crafts market. Some of the international support has been directed towards Haiti's artisan sector, viewed by some companies and organizations as one with huge potential.

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund has been one of the main supporters of Haiti's artisan sector considering it the "key for long-term economic development in Haiti". They have given over $1 million of grants and loans to help develop this sector. IDB is also preparing a $1.57 million project called, "Improving the Haitian Artisan Sector's capacity to respond to global market demands." It is yet to be approved.

In late 2010, Macy's has launched its new collection of Haitian crafts called "Heart of Haiti" in its stores and online. On its website, Macy's also presents personal stories of the Haitian artisans, reminding the world what Haiti has been going through.

The design icon Donna Karan was also impressed by the cultural richness of Haiti calling it "inspirational". Through her Urban Zen Foundation she helps artisans of Haiti promote and sell their works.

Based on Haiti's crafts market potential, future collaboration with such clients as Macy's looks promising.

Working on the 2013 fall collection

The Artisans Business Network (ABN), a foundation run by three artisan companies, has been supplying handicrafts products for Macy's "Heart of Haiti" collection since 2011. The relationship between ABN and Macy's was forged by Fairwinds Trading, an international trade company that first established this partnership.

The ABN artists are already working on some exclusive designs for Macy's 2013 fall collection as ABN is getting ready for a new important meeting with Macy's representatives.

"We are now working on the fall 2013 collection, and are supposed to be meeting with Macy's again in January so we can show them the samples that the artists have worked on. They can choose from those products and they will decide which ones they are going to be buying for their stores and for their online site," says Nathalie Tancrede, director of ABN.

Staying competitive

As the competition on the international market is fierce, Haitian companies have to make sure they stay competitive on many fronts such as delivery, price, quality, and other criteria.

With the support of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, ABN brought international designers to Haiti to work side-by-side with the local artisans to create new products that would appeal to American consumers.

ABN and other Haitian industry representatives also attend international crafts and gift fairs to build relationships with new clients, and to stay up-to-date with current market prices and design trends.

Managing the logistics

The three companies that make up the Artisans Business Network employ over 800 artisans throughout the country to create handicrafts for their international clients such as Macy's, Chan Luu, Inc., Wisteria, Noonday Collection, Cultural Cloth, West Elm, Viva Terra, and Lily Designs, among others. ABN manages purchase orders, offers quality control, packing, shipping, and customs paperwork among other services they provide to their clients.

"We are the link between the international buyer and local artisans because the local artisans know only how to create beautiful products, but they don't speak English, they don't have access to the Internet, and they don't want to be bothered by the administrative duties," says Nathalie Tancrede.

When it comes to logistics, some of the biggest challenges are related to Haiti's still underdeveloped infrastructure.

Artists have to work on meeting the demands well in advance as they often face electricity outages and lack of readily-available raw materials.
Shipping has also been a major issue mainly due to the high costs. "A lot of our profit goes into shipping," says Nathalie.

One of the things that the ABN is discussing with the IDB is to create a bank of raw material, and a website with information as to where local artists can purchase the materials they cannot find in Haiti.

Haiti is known as a very artistic country. Some of the most popular Haitian crafts on the foreign markets are the metal sculptures made of recycled oil drums, papier mâché and wood objects, tobacco and banana leaves collections. Haiti's crafts exports reached its pick in the mid-eighties and now has more hope to revive its sales internationally.

1 comment
  • Knight Consult LLC
    Knight Consult LLC This is really good news. One pool of potential buyers will be the interior designers across the US/Canada who may wish to decorate homes, offices, stores and lobbies with all sorts of art work, curios and knick-knacks that the artisans can produce in the...  more
    November 13, 2012