The jewelry and accessories of Haitian designer Giovanna Menard spark elegance, richness and a deep cultural connection. They have been exposed globally at several shows and benefits including: `Shop For a Cause’ Haiti benefit at the Tracy Reese boutique in New York; the Russell Simmons’ Foundation `Art for Life’ fund-raising yearly auction in the Hamptons; the Museum of Art & Design of New York City (on display since November 2010) and shown on the catwalks of Islands of the World Fashion Week in the Bahamas. “My rings are a part of a big exhibit called `The Global African Project’ this exhibit will travel throughout famous museums for the rest of the year,” revealed Giovanna.
“It’s also a part of the yearly National Fair called `Women in Production’ organized by Women in Democracy who are the official representatives of Vital Voices, an international News Governmental organization who empowers women in the work force all over the world. All of these experiences were very rewarding, each of them made me realize how communication is so powerful when it is done in a positive way. Each time this allows me to show the world how great Haitians can be and how beautiful my country is “
Giovanna said that her core jewelry creations are made from semi precious stones, pearls, stones, gold, silver, local bone, wood and horn. “They all make sumptuous jewelry,” said the designer. For her handbag collection, Giovanna used burlap, cotton, silk, straw and Siam. She enhances these power-pocketbooks with beautiful embroideries, crystal beads and sequins, which she chooses carefully to compliment and embellish to create unique items. Veve signs and designs of the Voodoo religion come together. “All of these serve as entrancing inspiration. I am also inspired by the island’s stunning nature elements and the richness of the diverse religions which crossed Haiti throughout time.”
Giovanna was born in Port-au-Prince and raised by her grand parents. She followed her grandfather’s footsteps to become a lawyer, but grew up surrounded by the arts, especially from her mother, an art connoisseur as well as a brilliant dressmaker. Inheriting this creative gift from her mother, Giovanna wanted to explore her creativity and attended jewelry designing school while on vacation in New York one year. She returned to Haiti and created her first collection of jewelry and handbags, developing a brand name. The small collection sold out in just a matter of days. That was the start of her business, which has now grown to an additional brand – `Artisans au Soleil by Giovanna Menard.’
“The brand concept is to create and develop several lines of beautiful fashion accessories made of luxurious high-end, hand-crafted items like hand bags, jewelry, caftans, blouses and sandals. This brand also affords the opportunity for job training and workshops for people with creative potential. The first store opened in Petion Ville, Haiti’s most luxurious area. The company’s goal is evolve into a million dollar business going global with store locations in major cities around the world.”
Haiti, a struggling nation has always been, despite poverty challenges and an insecure future very perseverant.
Haitian artists and artisans are one of the greatest examples of people wanting to move forward for the best. The lack of almost every tool needed has never been an issue to their creativity. “A nation without art is similar to a human without a heart. This is why besides our passion to create; we are committed to make a difference. Offering training and workshops to young people in particular, helping them to develop their art skills and become sustainable is one of our priorities,” noted Giovanna.
In addition to all of the work that this designer does, she sits on many boards and steering committees, among them; the Digicel Foundation and AKSYON; a non-profit organization which supports education and environmental issues in Haiti. “Creativity is a second nature to the people of my country. I have been most fortunate to be one of them. I want my creations to be worn by women all over the world. Their natural beauty will definitely be enhanced by my creations,” said Giovanna. “But, even more showing the rich and beautiful culture of my country through my art is a leitmotiv for me and our artisans team.’
Published in Profiles98 Summer Issue 7 2011