Haitian-American fashion designer Dayanne Danier was at the end of a 10-day trip to rural Central Haiti in late January checking on the production of her latest creations when one of the seamstresses turned to her as she prepared to leave.
“Don’t forget to send the fabric,” Danier, 43, recalled the woman saying. “Don’t take too long.”
Danier had been going back and forth between New York and Haiti since the country’s monstrous 2010 earthquake. She had watched as interest in Haiti’s handmade arts and crafts piqued soon after the disaster with well-known American designers buying and selling Haiti-made designs, only to quickly wane. She understood the meaning behind the woman’s plea.
Dear Ibu Allies,
I come to share with you the story of our artisans and the magic of their hands. Growing up, I watched the women in my life create hand craft which, at the time, I thought was home décor or something to pass the time; but as I grew older, I realized it was so much more.
My mother, grandmother, and Godmother sewed and embroidered clothing and decorative items for the house. The quantity of sewing machines in the house almost outnumbered the children. It was nothing other than a necessity. I remember seeing my grandmother doing two things: praying and embroidering textiles as a form of meditation.
"Bien Abyé designer Dayanne Danier has deep ties to Haiti — not only does she create accessories and ready-to-wear using the vibrant colors, bold patterns and rich textures of her homeland, she also employs female artisans who live on the island. Danier knew she had to help after the recent earthquake. “I was actually in Haiti during this earthquake working on another order for Nordstrom,” she said. “Once I realized what was going on I ran out of my hotel. My first thought was about my artisans and the families of Fleur De Vie in the south.”
The importance of being well dressed was stressed to Dayanne Danier from an early age, so it’s only natural she ended up in fashion. She studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and worked her way up in the industry, holding positions at Perry Ellis and Phillips-Van Heusen.
While she managed to achieve great career success, Danier wasn’t going to stop there. With her line, Bien Abyé, and her non-profit organization Fleur De Vie, the designer is paying her success forward by incorporating charitable giving and community leadership in her work. We spoke with Danier about her efforts in Haiti and her inspiration.
The world is opening up again just in time for spring. Vaccination centers are working to give us a reason to worry less about contracting and, by extension, spreading a virus that has changed our way of life for more than a year. It couldn’t come soon enough, quite frankly. Still, it is best to tread outdoors with caution. Read: Wearing a face mask should still be prioritized. So here to offer some options primed for the season is Bien Abyé, a burgeoning accessories brand that recently got picked up by Nordstrom.
Bien Abyé is the brainchild of Dayanne Danier, a Haitian-American designer who creates elegant pieces that nod to her Creole heritage. To wit, Bien Abyé translates to “well dressed.” She started with a ready-to-wear collection using the vibrant colors, eye-catching patterns, and rich textures of her homeland, eventually segueing into accessories and home decor. What’s more, she employs female artisans from Haiti. Not only does it give the label authenticity, it also provides much-needed jobs on the island.
Our 98 year old Ibu Ambassador, Iris Apfel, sits next to me at our trunk show in Palm Beach and admires my clutch. An Ibu clutch, of course, embellished with a face. We ought to do a clutch with your face on it, I say casually. I think that's a great idea, she agrees, and calls me a few months later wondering what has happened with the clutch idea?
What has happened is that I've been invited to a luncheon by a woman I do not know, (because, why not?) and seated next to another woman I do not know, (it was all arranged, I learn later) and quickly dive deep into conversation. Dayanne Danier has flown from New York to Charleston for this occasion, and is seated next to me because she is a fashion designer working in Haiti and who would like to meet her more than me?
She reaches for her beaded bag and I am caught staring. Now I am the one admiring her clutch glowing in a lovely chartreuse design. The women I work with in Haiti bead this, she tells me. All of this. By hand.