This Haitian-American fashion designer has had his looks splashed in magazines and on television screens. Prajjé Oscar Jean Baptiste, the man behind the hit label Prajjé Oscar, has had his designs covered in Teen Vogue, Elle Magazine and the Boston Globe.
We spoke to him about the not so glamorous side of the Haiti’s fashion shows, fashion industry, social media’s impact on the industry and what we can expect from him next.
What inspired you to the fashion world?
My culture. It is so rich it’s almost impossible to say one thing inspires me; however colors and the old days have a lot of influence in my work. Haiti is so full of talent, and as I designer I want to promote the luxury and talent in my country that you don’t see.
My grandmother, and the way she dressed, also has a lot to do with where I draw my inspiration from as a designer. Former first lady, Michelle Bennett Duvalier was also a big inspiration growing up. She was, and still is, my first big Haitian fashion icon.
Many people think of the fashion industry as glamorous, not realizing how difficult it is, give us some insight.
Fashion is a business and at some point you have to start to make money to support the dream and the brand. It is glamorous and fun all that, but that’s just for literally 15 minutes. You spend your entire career or the days, fighting to make a name and when you do make that name, (if you do) you fight each and every day to keep and maintain that name. There is nothing glamorous about that.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the fashion industry?
For me, a big misconception about the fashion industry is that people just wake up one morning and all of a sudden they are designers, stylists, or wardrobe consultants. They fashion fashion for a joke instead of a career. How do you educate someone about fashion and personal style, when you yourself don’t have and education in fashion? It always baffles me when I come across those people.
Could you imagine if I woke up one day and declared myself a doctor!?
Where do you want to be in the next couple of years?
I want to be in Haiti, running the world of fashion right in my grandmother’s backyard. I want to walk into Bergdorf Goodman and see that Prajje Oscar made in Haiti label. That’s where I want to be in the next few years.
How much has the fashion industry changed and what role is social media playing right now?
The industry has certainly changed. From the day I graduated college to now, there has been a big change, and yes social media has a lot to do with that. Social media now creates an opportunity for everyone to do just about anything they want to do, and make you believe in what they are doing. It also changed the business dynamic. There is no sense of community or relationships with clients anymore. We are now all about likes, the amount of followers we have, and who is liking and sharing your post. Before, models sold products. Now, any social media celebrity will sell whatever product you need sold.
There are several people organizing fashion shows in Haiti, are these events up to par? If not, what needs to be done to bring them up?
I said it before and i will say it again, NO they are not! The problem with these organizations is that everyone thinks they are “chief executive of the fashion world from the past,” however not one of them are making the move toward a better fashion industry in Haiti. We have so many designers in Haiti, beautiful models, highly creative young people, and yet they are scrambling for fashion work or to sell a product or jobs for that matter.
Fashion is not a “kòkòt mwen” business, you find the pros and you invite them in and you learn from them. let someone that is on the global market show you how to break into the global market in the year 2018. It’s ok to take a back seat, but we all know that’s not going to happen; and until then, the fashion industry in Haiti will never be up to par.
What advice do you have for aspiring fashionista?
Have a plan. Don’t just make one pillowcase and call yourself a designer – you are not. Make sure you’re strategic and at minimum get a basic understanding of fashion and business.
It is true what they say about fashion, “one day you are in, and one day you are out.” The last thing you want to do is close that door before you can even get in.