This Haitian Owned Brooklyn Shop Pushes The African Diaspora Forward With Curated Sustainable Fashion
By Rachel George
Byas & Leon is a collective house specializing in Haitian craftsmanship, dedicated to curating sustainable fashion & pushing the African diaspora forward through Haiti.
Haitian owners Rony Byas and Harvey Leon are building their own legacy by upgrading from an online retail shop to a storefront in Brooklyn. The duo pledged to help provide sustainable and ethical jobs and income to the people of Haiti. Seven years ago, this concept was only an idea but before they knew it, they were walking the streets of Haiti and shaking hands with artisans they had built relationships with over time.
As one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has struggled to rebuild itself since the devastating 7.0 earthquake in 2010. Harvey had a front-row view of his homeland’s economic status, having lived there for a few years.
“My growing interest in fashion, is really what set the stage for me to dive wholeheartedly into this initiative,” Harvey said.
Rony worried Haiti was being used as a source of cheap labor due to their lack of infrastructure. He received his master’s degree in urban planning at Hunter College, fully grasping how successful brands work andputting a focus on fashion and Haiti.
“There’s a lot of people who want to work but they can’t because there is not enough opportunity,” co-owner Rony said. “When opportunity presents itself, it’s in the form of these foreign companies that invest, they exploit that. they pay them next to nothing for the work that they do.”
Rony and Harvey traveled to Haiti after buying all their materials, including fabric and buttons, to be hand-cut and sew by Haitian artisans. The store’s clothing racks are filled with vintage clothing, textured prints, colorfully patterned hats, bags, shirts, accessories, and other gender-fluid attire. Made in Haiti by Haitians, it doesn’t get any more authentic than that.
The duo is known for their ’60 and ’70s aesthetic attire.
The Byas & Leon Shoppe currently serves as a culture pub, preserving Haiti’s culture and history through pop-up shops, events, book readings, art exhibits, and other hostings.
Shop black this summer at Byas & Leon, located at 404 Tompkins Ave. in Brooklyn, open Wed-Sunday.