ISSUE 46  |  All in the Family

Fait La Force: Housewares Made in Haiti

November 18, 2014 12:00 PM

BY Margot Guralnick

Emma Allen named her new housewares line Fait La Force after the motto on the Haitian flag: “L’Union fait la force” (“Strength through unity”). Her connection to the country dates to childhood: She grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, the daughter of a pediatric geneticist, and she often accompanied her father on his twice yearly trips to Montrouis, north of Port-au-Prince, to volunteer at a clinic run by the NC-based medical nonprofit Consider Haiti. She also has a sister who is Haitian. And so, naturally, when she decided to launch her own housewares collection, she returned to Haiti to research what she could have made there. In Port-au-Prince she met Chandler Hamilton, an American with a merchandising background, who runs a small but growing Haitian production facility. Allen teamed up with Hamilton and spent months recruiting talent and holding workshops. Fait La Force is now just off the ground; come see. 

Above: Serant Banana + Palm Leaf Baskets are handwoven by Fait La Force partner Serant Valmont; $98 for the medium size (R) and $148 for “great big” (L). “The artists we work with who make baskets, weave rugs, and work with horn and bone are very skilled at their craft; we collaborate with them to create new designs or tweak what they’re already doing,” says Allen.

Above: To get quilt production going, Allen sourced canvas, cotton, and denim from the Dominican Republic. “I haven’t been able to find any textiles that are actually produced in Haiti. If anyone knows otherwise, please be in touch.” Bekah Stewart of online boutique A Well-Traveled Brand taught Fait La Force’s artisans how to do a Japanese running stitch. The results are the Cassan Linen Quilt; $245 in a full/queen size.

Above: The Cassan Indigo Quilt is made of denim and indigo-dyed linen; $245.

Above: A look at the colors, patterns, and detail work of the Cassan Linen Quilt.

Above: Wally the Whale is another collaboration with A Well-Traveled Brand; $25. Like the quilts, its made of selvage denim leftover from jeans production in the DR.

Above: A quilted Indigo Checkers Board with horn and bone pieces and its own travel pouch; $98. Horn Bowls and Soap Dishes are another Fait La Force specialty.

Above: Third-generation weaver Oblin Etienne hand-looms the cotton Oblin Mat; $58 each. “He’s one of the last loom-weaving artisans left in Haiti,” says Allen. See him at work at home in Port-au-Prince here.

Above: The Oblin Mat is 21 by 36 inches.

Above: Fait La Force’s leather goods were the trickiest to produce. Allen tells us, “We trained a group of leather workers from square one. We sought out people who were interested in doing this type of work and then spent 15 months working closely to create the type of bags that they’re now doing. Our leather manager, Cenise, was the yard maintenance guy when I first visited the workshop. He came to the class that Chandler and I organized and showed immense potential. Now he’s our leather manager and supervises our small staff.” The Cenise Leather Carry All is made of vegetable-tanned leather and can be carried as a backpack or tote; $398. Learn about the two- to three-day production process here.

Above: The denim and leather Dopp Kit is $42.

Above L: The multi-pocketed Everyday Tote, $98, is made of canvas with red stitching and leather handles. Above: R: A denim and leather version of the Everyday Tote; inquire about price.

Above: The hand-carved Republic Wood Rosary is sized to hang on a wall; $72 for large (shown) and $85 for extra large. Says Allen: “Our goal is not to provide charity but to provide jobs and skills and to create connections that will live on and grow.” View the full line at Fait La Force.

For more designer-artisan collaborations, see Dosa, A Housewares Collection with a Cult Following and Lagos Del Mundo: Mexican Basics Reinvigorated. Go to Gardenista for Artisan Accessories for the Outdoors.