When she was sixteen years old, my mother, Yolette Fontaine (left pic) - the eldest girl of five children of Emmanuel & Christiane Fontaine, was given a passport & $500 as a gift from her older brother. She turned that passport & funding into a business and began traveling to the United States & Panama, purchasing goods to re-sell in Haiti. This endeavor afforded her the opportunity & the means to thrive successfully in a space where poverty was the norm. By the time I was born in 1980, my mother had put herself through engineering school, was a teacher & a seamstress (a skill she had acquired from her mother & aunt, Uranie, who made women's clothing & her father -my grandfather- fabricated leather goods). She ran a brick & mortar fashion boutique- "Yoldy's Store".
In December of 1987, my mother & I, Joelle Wendy Fontaine (Yes! My middle name is Wendy. -- right pic) migrated (or rather fled) to the United States from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, due to political unrest. In the midst of the turmoil of the Duvalier regime & Jean-Claude's ( the Haitian President at the time) exile, my mother lost everything. Her prominent boutique in Delma was burned to the ground by militia (Ton Ton Macoutes) & safety became a major concern. Every night we would fall asleep to a symphony of machine guns. I refused to sleep on the bed in fear of being hit by a stray bullet. I had seen humans set a blaze, adorned with tires around their necks, & heard my neighbors raped in the middle of the night. I found solace underneath the mattress, close to the cool, fresh ceramic earth- where i could lay silently until morning. My mom was sure i would have a heart attack. In her effort to protect me, we left our home & migrated to America.
As an immigrant in the United States, my mother has endured prejudice & racism as it pertains to the color of her skin & her thick accent-- classism, sexism & just plain old disrespect as a woman standing on her own. There's a perception that she is seemingly uneducated because she is not a native english speaker. But, she speaks three languages, fluently in-fact. She has raised three children as a single mother on minimum wage, overcoming the odds- reinventing herself time & time again. She is an overcomer- the resilient rock who taught me what it means to be a woman. She's the hero we all aspire to become & the inspiration behind the Kreyol fashion brand.
As a young woman, I aspired to be an architect. In my second year of college, I became pregnant, got married & left school to take care of my family. I was a stay-at-home mom for three years, during which i started to experiment through a variety of creative outlets to maintain a sense of self. I began taking clothing apart & putting them back together, teaching myself how to sew & design items I had only previously seen in my subconscious. At 23, I was invited by a friend to a fashion conference at New York Fashion Week & decided to submit the only three garments I had ever created to be considered as a potential designer for their runway presentation. I faked the funk ya'll. I was an artist at that point- not a designer. I had absolutely no idea what i was doing. But I had passion, grit, talent & the audacity to believe I belonged there. I was immediately accepted, & with only seven days to showtime (and maybe 15 hours of sleep in total that entire week) I created my first collection of 12 full looks, entitled "Kaleidoscope". I moved to New York a year later & the rest is history.
As I started to expand, doing more shows, more editorials, I could no longer handle it on my own. My mother came on as my right (& left) hand- my seamstress. With her superior expertise in garment construction, free style capabilities (the woman barely works off of patterns), & my visual compass for vibrant colors, eccentric complimentary/contradicting fabrics, & bold design- it was the perfect marriage for the Kreyol Brand.
Kreyol creates high fashion quality garments that make women feel like powerful pieces of art. We want you to feel Beautiful, Bold, but more importantly- Strong & Courageous enough to be your Best Self. Our "For Women, By Women" initiative allows for your purchase to directly affect the livelihood of a woman artisan or entrepreneur. We believe that women should have the choice to create the reality they envision for themselves & their loved ones, & we aim to provide a pipeline for economic development & sustainability through artistry. Kreyol utilizes fashion to inspire & impact the world, one garment at a time.
The Kreyol Brand is for every woman with a story of overcoming- a story of resilience. When you wear our garments, it should remind you of your inner warrior & the warriors who created them.
What is YOUR Kreyol story? How did YOU overcome? What makes YOU Strong? Resilient? Free?
What makes you Kreyol?
Joelle Wendy Fontaine-- Kreyol Founder & CEO