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Dayanne Danier: Designer and Philanthropist using her love for clothing to give back to Haiti

Dayanne Danier: Designer and Philanthropist using her love for clothing to give back to Haiti

 

This Boston Born-New York bred Designer and philanthropist is making waves in the fashion industry as she continues to cement her legacy while giving back to her beloved Ayiti. After twenty years spent working in fashion, from designer to retailer, she left one of the top design companies to branch out on her own. Ms. Dayanne Danier is the CEO of Bien Abye (french for Well Dressed), the ready- to- wear women’s brand. Ms. Danier is also the Co-Founder of Fleur de Vie, the non-profit helping to educate young Haitian students in various parts of the country.

The Bien Abye brand personifies a simple philosophy: to make women look fabulous at all times effortlessly in S7VEN. Most recently, Ms. Danier hosted a pop-up shop for her brand in New York and Washington D.C. titled, “Les Jardins de la Mode” where she featured her pieces for the world and allowed people to experience the creole essence of the brand. The pop up shop also featured other emerging Haitian brands. The Bien Abye line has been showcased in fashion shows in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Miami, and Haiti. It is distributed nationwide in retail stores in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Dallas. Items can also be purchased online through the company website.

On September 23, 2017, to consistently fulfill the mission of her non-profit, Ms. Danier journeyed to Haiti to host the Fleur de Vie Back to School Recreational Program; the organization’s flagship event. There, she will be distributing school supplies to students while also building health awareness and hosting team building activities. The vision is to support schools through funding school-wide programs like the flagship event, training teachers, and focusing raising the literacy of the population. This partnership has now expanded to four institutions in Haiti. The organization has touched the lives of 1,000 students to date. Ms. Dayanne Danier is a Haitian-American woman on a mission to build an empire while keeping Haiti in her mind and on her heart. Her love for Haiti is evident in all her endeavors.

Haitiville: What motivates you?

Dayanne Danier: What motivates me is the concept of legacy and having a positive and strong legacy. A spinoff of the concept was engrained in me since I was young whenever my father would tell me, “don’t let people talk [bad] about you”. It reminds me to think about what people would say about me if I were to die tomorrow. I strive to be a unique individual who creates amazing things and brings change. I am a Virgo with a Gemini blood stream because I want to wear two different hats. I love design and I also love to give back to effect positive change.

Haitiville: How has the Haitian culture influenced your work?

Dayanne Danier: As a designer, the whole essence of Bien Abye is Haitian and Creole centered. I always think about how I look, how my clients look, which is such a Haitian thought. How you present yourself is such a universal concept, but it is also a very Haitian concept.

As an artist, the gingerbread architecture is what inspires the motifs and prints I use on my line. The Haitian Gingerbread home, a style of architecture predominant in old Haiti, is a sign of strength and prominence. Gingerbread homes are designed with natural elements yet are decorated in such an ornate way. I take that, and whenever I am designing something, I think, “what element of this piece is like a Gingerbread home”. Haitian culture influences Bien Abye a lot.

My culture also influences my philanthropy. Growing up, my family was constantly giving back. My parents were very influential in helping complete cities in Haiti move to America. I always heard the term “commission” which was always about sending things to Haiti. I kept hearing the term so much ever since I was a child that I knew I wanted to give back. In a way, Fleur de Vie is an ode to my parents, my family and an ode to my culture. Fleur de Vie is my commission to Haiti.

Haitiville: You use such bright color schemes and palettes. Would you say that’s a Haitian influence?

Dayanne Danier: Something that I have been drawn to even in high school was colors. That sense of color is so strong in me. I would say yes, that the color I use stems from my Caribbean roots. The colors that you find on Bien Abye clothes are colors that you find on the islands. Now, I have made it that Bien Abye is so inspired by my creole and Haitian roots that I can be in any place in Haiti and it will influence my line. It does not have to be the typical bright tropical colors, but it can even be just the colors of the landscape. For example, my journey to Hinche one time involved a drive through Mon Cabrit. I loved going there because even the color of the ground was a very gorgeous edible terracotta orange/red. That experience led me to create a collection called “The Earth” where all the shades were very earthy greens, browns, burnt orange, and reds. I really try to bring people into Haiti. Bien Abye ultimately is my culture. I am presenting it to Haitians and non-Haitians and I want people to know that you don’t have to be Haitian to appreciate the concept of Bien Abye, to love the concept of Bien Abye, or to want to buy into the concept of Bien Abye because it is just really rich and captivating.

Haitiville: Speaking of Fleur De Vie, what is the goal of your non-profit organization?

Dayanne Danier: Giving back was important to me, I just didn’t know how or in what capacity.

Growing up Oprah was my role model. Fast forward to 2002, when Oprah went to Africa for Christmas where she aired the Oprah show of bringing gifts to African children. Seeing what she did made me feel like that was something that Haiti needed, and I wanted to do that for Haiti. What started off as adopting kids in Haiti, sponsoring children for $120 a month, seemed insufficient once the earthquake of 2010 struck. I did not have Oprah money, but I began by organizing a few activities with Jenny Batista, the co-founder of Fleur de Vie when I took a trip to Haiti after the earthquake. That was the jumping point because on the last day, I asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grow up and these 9 to 14-year-old kids stared at me blankly with no answer. They needed role models. I felt that reaching the children through education and schools had the potential to make a lasting impact. I want the children of the schools to feel like someone is constantly there, and that someone outside of their parents or family members constantly cares.

Haitiville: What does growing up Haitian mean to you?

Dayanne Danier: I appreciate it more now as an adult than I did as a kid. I always remember that I come from the two best countries in the world. Being Haitian means that I come from the blood of slave liberators. I come from not the 2nd, nor the 3rd independent free black nation, not even 1960, but 1804, you know! That’s my culture and that means so much to me! That is a feeling I have always had.  And I don’t care what Haiti looks like. I will always be so proud.

Haitiville: You have quoted “Fashion is an art, and you are the canvas” As a designer, does this feed the need to the create?

Dayanne Danier: Well I am grateful for this question because I do believe that. Fashion is my art, the human body is the canvas, and my medium is fabric, beading, and thread. For Bien Abye, when I think about my garments, I think, “what can you do to a garment that makes it so striking that when she walks into a room, the best way to describe her is captivating.” I recognize that fashion enters the room before you open your lips, so you got ‘a look good! Most of the time, it isn’t the hair or makeup, but rather the clothing that makes someone look captivating- and that is an art. Beyond being captivating, I want it to last. I want my clothes to be timeless, endless, and season-less. That is where architecture comes into play. I design them based on architecture that is timeless, and when you pull out that skirt years after it hit my line, it will still be viewed as captivating. I want a woman wearing one of my pieces to walk into a room, and people look at her and say, “Wow!  femme sa Bien Abye [emphasis added] (meaning Wow! That lady is well dressed)”.

Haitiville: What is the inspiration behind the Reassemble motif?

Dayanne Danier: I had just left my last job at PVH and I wanted to start creating a more positive image of Haiti after the earthquake. To support this project, I knew I wanted to work with a Haitian artist and create a print. I met Patricia Brintle, who I thought was an artist agent. I stated my hopes to her about collaborating with a Haitian artist and she remarked, “I am one”. Then I asked if she had a signature motif, and Ms. Brintle replied that she had a collection called “seasons” that featured Haitian women with their heads wrapped with different fruits and vegetables. I told her to make something that resembled her signature piece because I wanted people to know it was a Patricia Brintle. She brought three sketches and the one I fell in love with was the one that is now a key piece on my line.

Haitiville: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Dayanne Danier: Well, in five years I want there to be the beginning pillars to the Dayanne Danier empire. I want there to be a showroom in New York City that has employees and is functioning consistently and offering amazing clothing. I want there to be an Atelier in Haiti that is making these amazingly constructed clothes. I want to create a pyramid where it gives back, creates jobs, and does good. I want Bien Abye to give back to the community by giving back to Fleur de Vie. I want the kids of Fleur de Vie to be flourishing because their parents are working for Bien Abye. I want to be able to know that tomorrow if I die, that these kids of Fleur de Vie will receive an education because their parents work for Bien Abye.

Currently Haiti is the t-shirt capital of the Caribbean. But I want there to be more to Haiti and Haitian stitchers then t-shirts. I want to bring back les petite main (master sewers in a work room who hand craft high end items), and have Ateliers (fashion work rooms). I want to bring back the notion of seamstresses and making fine garments. I like to work with Haitian artisans. While factories are good because they put the masses to work, I envision better for Haitians; a large portion of whom are employed in clothing factories. Bien Abye will be at the center of bringing that vision of mine to life.

Haitiville was so glad to have this conversation with a true visionary. Ms. Dayanne Danier’s legacy will undoubtedly be one of making beautiful elegant art and also of selflessly giving to our home country. We know we will see this spotlight again. Stay tuned to Haitiville to see follow up pictures from the Fleur de Vie Back to School Recreational Program.

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