Hudson’s Bay has created a pop-up store devoted to handmade objects by Haitian artisans in a bid to provide work to Haiti, which is still recovering from an earthquake more than three years ago.
The project is the result of collaboration with the Brandaid Project, a social enterprise group that aims to bridge the gap between the developing world and Canadian consumers.
“You’re going to see products that don’t look anything like the other products in that store,” says Cameron Brohman, president and co-founder of the Brandaid Project.
“They’re very unique products, designed by Canadian designers and made by Haitian master artisans so that collaboration has produced some very exciting, very new-looking designs,” he said in an interview with CBC’s Lang & O’Leary Exchange.
The Bay is selling handmade pillows, quilts, housewares and decorative objects from Haiti, all by artisans who have been paid at least 25 per cent of the price up-front for their work.
For the artisans, there is immediate benefit, said Brohman, who has done years of development work in Haiti. Their incomes go up by 50 to 100 per cent, and are able to buy land or employ other artisans.
“It’s quite tangible, and we’ve measured this because this is a project that’s being sponsored by the government of Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). We’ve had to do impact studies,” he said.
The initiative for Brandaid came from a conversation Brohman had with an old friend, Tony Pigott, chair of ad firm J. Walter Thompson, about how to bridge the gap between developing economies that are rich in artisans and global consumers.
“Poor countries have what we call handmade economies and the products they produce have great appeal to global consumers. The problems they have have to do with marketing and design, getting the product to market and getting it in front of the consumer in the right way and that’s what Brandaid does,” Brohman said.
Brandaid is supported by the federal government and pro bono work by the ad and marketing agencies involved.
It’s an enriching experience, both for the ad companies, whose employees love the process and the artisans, who learn to cater to a global consumer, Brohman argues.
“These products are beautiful products, but they also give you something money can’t buy and that’s a certain sense of freedom that you’ve contributed to somebody else’s improvement, someone who needs it and deserves it,” he said.
Brandaid is analyzing the results of its experiment with supplying the Bay and has big plans to take its ideas to other developing countries around the world.