Fashion is often nostalgic, taking us to a time and place using inspiration and influences from the cultural past. In our latest launch, Haitian-born designer Prajje Jr. Jean Baptiste’s designs transport us from everyday to a world that’s reminiscent of a fairy tale. The Massachusetts College of Art-trained designer finds his inspiration in his Haitian culture and combines it with an attention to tailoring and detail of which the likes of Elle Magazine, the Boston Herald and Good Morning America have taken notice. With strong coloring reminiscent of Dorothy’s Oz, the ‘Erzulie, Goddesses of Love’ collection draws inspiration from two Haitian goddesses and marries it with adult cuts and glamour. In this Designer Spotlight, we chat with Prajje about goddesses, goosebumps, and infuriating fashion sense.
How and why did you start designing?
I knew as a boy I always wanted to be a designer, but growing up in Haiti at the time it was not something you said out loud to your parents.
What is your fashion philosophy?
My philosophy is that fashion is art. The ability to create something beautiful that people actually want and can wear is not a popularity contest. That is my philosophy!
How has your design changed over time?
I started designing when I was young, a time where I don’t even think I knew what I was doing. As I matured, my designs also changed. I have a better understanding now – not just about fashion – but of myself, the industry, and what exactly what I want.
What inspired your latest collection?
Haiti and the Gallery Nader in Haiti are big parts of this new collection’s inspiration. Being in a room full of nothing but the best Haitian art does something to an artist and it did something to me.
Another source of inspiration is the fact that we now live in a society where my people are literally throwing away what is Haitian culture to adopt other things. I feel as an artist it is my job to make sure that my culture never dies. Instead, it needs to grow into a new dimension. My inspiration is not unique – I am sure there are hundreds of designers in Haiti that have done some sort of Erzulie or Vodou inspired collection. I will say this is the first time that there will be a Prajje 1983 Erzulie collection; a collection that is luxurious, clean, fashionable, marketable, and chic. I want people to know that people like me come out of Haiti. My culture is to be celebrated and respected no matter religious or personal views
In my collection, together the two goddesses bring a vibrant spirit to the wearer, combining eye-catching palette, luxury, tradition and modernity, craftsmanship and mystery.
Watch Prajje speak about his inspiration in a crowdfunding video below.
What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today?
My biggest hurdle right now is finances, which have always been the problem. It is really hard to do something great all by yourself while trying to survive, especially in New York. The right backing would help me building this brand tremendously. I might be gifted but I am not superman. I can’t do it all alone.
What do you think about fashion today?
I think fashion today is moving in an interesting direction. Anything goes. I have seen things that should never be seen out in public. Now it’s cool for men to show their under garments, and for women to wear leggings as if they are pants. Did I miss something? How can a 30 year old man wear a crop top…? With all the beautifully made clothes out, there you would think they could find something better. I am sorry I don’t get it please excuse my passion, but I just don’t see it! I am blind by beauty.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
Goosebumps. If it is good enough to give me goosebumps, I can find inspiration in it.. I find the beauty in everything, and, when I do, I go to my workspace where it’s just me and beautiful clothes and out of nowhere things start to flow.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
The only tip I can actually give is to know yourself and stand behind your ideas even if it kills you, but make sure you have a detailed, realistic, and profitable plan.
Envelope yourself in beauty and the goddesses with Prajje 1983’s latest collection.