Apparel manufacturing is the largest contributor to Haiti’s export sector, employing about 30,000 people, mainly in the nation’s capital of Port-au-Prince. This number is only a fraction of those who were employed in the garment sector during its peak in the 1980s, before a trade embargo imposed by the Organization of American States devastated Haiti’s apparel industry. Factories that had supplied various brands and retailers in the United States relocated to other regions of the globe, never to reestablish operations in Haiti. Today, in a post-earthquake economy, apparel production is returning and preferential trade agreements with the United States have been implemented to encourage US businesses to select Haiti as a sourcing option. The export of newly manufactured clothing from Haiti for consumption in the marketplaces of developed economies (primarily the United States) stands in contrast to the secondhand clothing imports that are sold in Haiti’s various marketplaces for local consumption. Used clothing is often imported to Haiti from the same markets that receive its new clothing exports. Secondhand clothing is frequently redesigned to suit local taste and body types by skilled seamstresses and tailors, resulting in a secondary informal economy driven by the selling of used clothing. This article discusses a novel business model implemented by a Toronto-based fashion startup in 2010 in an effort to support Haiti’s apparel manufacturing sector and also make use of the abundant secondhand clothing found it its local markets. This model presents a potential sustainable solution to the volumes of used clothing filling the global marketplaces of developing economies, often at the expense of economic growth that would be strengthened by local consumption of domestically produced clothing.
Research Article|November 01 2015
Local Buttons: Sustainable Fashion and Social Entrepreneurship in Haiti
Tasha L. Lewis
Tasha L. Lewis
Tasha L. Lewis is an assistant professor in the Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design at Cornell University. Her research interests include technology disruption in fashion, global and domestic apparel production issues, and the significance of social responsibility and sustainability in the fashion supply chain.
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Nka (2015) 2015 (37): 114-125.
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Tasha L. Lewis, Anne Pringle; Local Buttons: Sustainable Fashion and Social Entrepreneurship in Haiti. Nka 1 November 2015; 2015 (37): 114–125. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-3339794
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