Paying Homage to Haitian Culture
Bijou Lakay’s bold line of accessories personifies Haitian convention, tradition, and vision. Daphne Floreal, CEO and designer, embraces her cultural identity and transforms this passion into pieces that reflect the modern woman- secure in her identity and unwilling to compromise on her taste and principles. This love, coupled with fine business acumen, allows Floreal to work with artisans from all over Haiti.
Daphne Floreal explores what makes Bijou Lakay unique, “I think my design and the way I use the international trend to adapt them to my design is one of my strength. We keep creating so the customer can expect to see something new from us every year.
Also, each piece has a story. As Haiti is a country rich of history and strong culture, each piece counts a something and celebrate the uniqueness of this particular island. I am artistically deeply connected to my ancestors’ island and Bijou Lakay is for me, a way to show the best from my country. We make good customer service A +, in our brand.”
The company employs seven artisans, many of whom come to the capital seeking a better lifestyle. While Floreal designs the pieces as she has since she designed her own pieces from specialized bull horn in her university days, the artisans handcraft the pieces from raw ox horn. The artisans themselves often learn their skills from long tradition passed down orally from one generation to the next. Ox horn has a reputation for difficulty, requiring patience and a special skill set. The horn is heated for malleability before the required design is applied. Once the pattern is applied, skilled workers polish, lighten, and perfect each piece. A piece may also require cedar or mahogany, lending a distinctive elegance to the piece. A few limited collections showcase jewelry augmented with turquoise, jasper, malachite, and pearls.
“My artisans are the centerpiece of the company. I am the designer but they are the person who allow my design become pieces that people can wear. So, without them there is no company, no business, no collection. Most of them come from the south part of the country. They came in the capital, Port-au-Prince, seeking for a better life. With their work, they support their direct and large family. Their children go to school and then could expect a better future. They can live by their own work not from charity, so this is the best gratification for an adult. But most important in my perception, they allow a rare type of art to survive through decades. As we don’t have crafts schools in Haiti, they learn their techniques from parents or mentors, orally,” Floreal says of the craftspeople who turn her to designs into functional jewelry.
Floreal herself reflects the future of Haitian identity and creativity. Before Bijou Lakay, she worked in banking for nine years. Design long intrigued her having grown up in Pacot, influenced by the nearby Haitian Handicraft Committee and National Arts Board. When the jewelry she made and wore for herself garnered attention, Floreal knew there was another layer to her commitment. Floreal began the company with forty-five dollars, money meant for textbooks for her last year at university.
Since then, Daphne Floreal has become the first person to present a jewelry showcase in Haiti. The Madrid Design Association honored her diligence and artistry in 2012 and 2014. In the spirit of philanthropism, the company chose to donate a portion of proceeds from a special collection to giving books written by Haitian authors to an orphanage. The principles behind Bijou Lakay vet individualism, along with cultural and personal history.
Bijou Lakay’s audacious and elegant line of jewelry will be exhibited for potential buyers at NY NOW’s Artisan Resource August 20-23 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.
For more information please visit www.bijoulakayhaiti.com.