Women in Color: Valérie Blaise, Artisan & Designer
Full disclosure: Valérie Blaise is crazy about leather. The first time we met she was waxing poetic about the best tanneries in the Garment district and what grain is the easiest to stitch. The Boston-bred's love of leather goes beyond luxury handbags. She loves the artistry of it all. Her adoration for creating one-of-a-kind pieces out of leather scraps probably has a deeper metaphorical meaning. But for the sake of typing, well say this, she's really passionate about her work.
Learn more about VAVVOUNE designer, Valérie Blaise below.
Town/City You Claim: Brooklyn
Favorite Quote: "I get what I want because I work for I."
1. Out of all your passions, what's been the hardest to master?
Definitely VAVVOUNE and actually making my bags to where they look like they were made by someone who has been doing it for decades. The trial and errors, figuring out the business of leather and still doing so, all of that and still learning.
2. At what point did you start making leather goods? What was the first thing you did to start your business?
I physically started making leather goods around Oct 2014. I have a difficult time with illustrating/sketching designs so the first order of business was making the bags. I had to have a demo/blueprint of what I wanted them to look like, and feel like. I think as a designer in fashion and accessories it's very special to have the skills to hand make your product.
3. When did you start modeling? And does modeling inform VAVVOUNE's branding aesthetic(particularly with your look books)?
I think modeling is something that people always assume that I’m passionate about and to be honest, not really. There are people who I have conversations with and during the beginning of our conversation they’ll ask “ So, hows modeling going” and I’ll have to stay to myself “I’ve never mentioned modeling to this person”. I mean of course everybody loves taking pretty pictures of themselves and admiring it. But I don’t think my experience with modeling did much from VAVVOUNE’s aesthetic when it comes branding or anything else with VAVVOUNE rather.
4. How connected are you to your Haitian roots? Do you travel there often? And what is the arts community like in the country?
There is a huge culture of artists and artisans in Haiti. Yes, it is limited but it is absolutely there and sadly we don’t see it much. As much as I love to travel, especially alone, I haven’t been to Haiti in a LONG time. It’s on my agenda for 2017.
5. How do you create your bag designs? Is there a style that's more popular than others?
The first thing I think about when creating a new design is length and then what I want the straps of the bag to look like, and it just builds from there. The URSA shopper and Small Drawstring are the most popular styles for sure.
6. If you could summarize your life right now in an album, which one would it be?
That's a tricky question to answer. I can only answer that based what albums I've been binging lately and it has to be a merge for me. So, Solange A Seat At The Table and Gregory Porter Water.
7. When did you first know you were a Black girl?
I’ve always knew that I was Black. My parents are Black, all my family members are Black –some lighter shades– but I came from a Black country. I was always very self aware of who I was. But, when I moved to the States I just wasn’t sure where my blackness stood. Once I moved here (NYC) I got to realizing exactly where I stand, exactly where my interest stand, exactly what my goals are and so on.
Check out VAVVOUNE's latest collection by going here.