The next big thing in Haiti (besides Wyclef) may just be the newly formed organization, Brandaid, an enterprise of artist, Cameron Brohman, and others that partners with local Haitian artists and sells their works to the Hollywood celebrity circuit. Paul Haggis, Director of the racially charged film, “Crash,” is also a co-founder and has helped the small startup get the attention of Diane Lane, Charlize Theron, and Diane von Furstenberg and into New York Fashion Week. Cameron Brohman stops to tell Fast Company a bit more on the idea behind the innovative project.
How did Brandaid choose Haiti as a place to focus on?
Brandaid Project chose Haiti as a place to debut our work because Haiti is an extraordinarily creative culture. Haitians are almost supernaturally artistic. Within an environment of extreme scarcity they produce aesthetic miracles and make beautiful things from materials you and I would throw away. This talent is the foundation for launching branded products into the global marketplace.
What advantage does the involvement of Hollywood celebrities give you over other social enterprises?
Hollywood celebrities are like ambassadors. When they speak, people notice. The support from a popular actor creates momentum from something I've heard called "Buzz." This led to Vanity Fair magazine taking an interest in Brandaid. That sort of publicity gets your model in the public consciousness.
What role do artisans play in Haiti's economy in general? Why not focus on young scientists, for example?
Artisans are the backbone of the Haitian economy. Like most poor countries, it is a handmade economy where people make whatever they need from whatever is available. The artisans also channel the culture and ancient techniques. They are storytellers and employers in every community.
Do your artisans learn skills such as marketing as you engage them in partnerships or do you do all of the selling on their behalf?
We brought master artisans from Haiti to Vanity Fair events for Brandaid Project. The artisans we work with are learning a great deal about marketing and they participate in every step of the value chain. They collaborate with Brandaid as partners to design, develop new products as well as giving interviews to the media. I have no doubt that some day the artisans will be self marketers as many artisans in North America are on various e-commerce platforms.
[Images courtesy of Brandaid]