Before Nasrin Jean-Baptiste started her own business, she asked herself one question: “Without fear, what am I capable of?” The former stylist for Alicia Keys always had the urge to create something from scratch, and after giving birth to her first child—an experience she said was “transcendental and gave me a glimpse of how powerful I could be”—Jean-Baptiste felt ready to finally pursue her own creative venture. Last year, she began the conceptualization process for her collection of bags, called Petit Kouraj.

“I have always had an innate desire to design and create,” says Jean-Baptiste. “But it was only after the birth of my daughter, Daye, that I incrementally started to dismantle the fears preventing me from going for it.” Petit Kouraj translates to “little courage” in Haitian Creole, and all of the macramé-fringed carryalls—which come in mini and large sizes and neutral earth tones—are made by local artisans as part of a collaboration with DOT Haiti, a community organization that protects Haitian arts and culture.

Petit Kouraj officially launches this week with an exclusive preorder sale on Moda Operandi, in conjunction with Haitian Heritage Month throughout May. Though Jean-Baptiste was born and raised in London before moving to New York, in 2012, her family roots run deep in Haiti; through Petit Kouraj, she’s been able to reconnect with her culture and develop new relationships with local artisans. “I started this brand with the will to empower myself,” Jean-Baptise explains. “Through very intentional choices, I feel that it can also be used as a vehicle to empower others.” She travels to Haiti a few times a year, but expects to begin taking more trips soon, as she hopes to continue growing Petit Kouraj and expanding her design repertoire.

Jean-Baptiste works primarily from her home studio, in Brooklyn, and is also still working as a stylist. “My days are pretty unpredictable and unstructured,” she says. “So when I’m not prepping a styling job in the city, I mostly work from my apartment.” As such, Jean-Baptiste’s everyday style and work style are one and the same, a look that she describes as “easy.” She loves mixing color and “atypical pieces in an unexpected way,” but she is also conscious of the fast-fashion trap and of what she refers to as “fashion fatigue.” The designer says that she “rarely buys clothes these days, and when I do, I will invest in special pieces that stir up a feeling of a memory.” She adds, “I want that initial excitement I feel when I first find an item to last well beyond our first interaction, and I always seek pieces that speak to that.”

Below, Jean-Baptiste talks about how she gets dressed for work as a stylist, as a mom, and as a woman with more than just a little courage.

“As a stylist, I think it’s important that I reflect my personal style, even on the most practical of days. If I’m on set prepping a job in the city, I’m often on my feet for hours, so I will always wear something that excites me but finish the look with a pair of sneakers.”

“I am definitely a creature of habit, and if I’m not wearing my own bag, then I always opt for my leather Kara backpack. Being a single mom with an unpredictable work schedule, I prefer a hands-free life.”

“I like to wear outfits that straddle the line between what I consider to be day-to-night. I am not someone who likes to dress up. I like just enough character in my looks that it can easily transition, yet feel easy and effortless.” Continue reading

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