Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Brooklyn-based artist and designer Catherine Edouard Charlot has been turning trashed materials into stunning art and fashion for almost 30 years.
The upcycling artist taught herself to sew at the tender age of 13, using her father’s old shirts to create dresses, skirts and pants. As a young adult, she founded The Lion Art Craft – where she sold native Haitian art pieces made from old oil drums.
Shortly after immigrating to the U.S. in 1994, Charlot set her sights on a new business venture; a clothing and accessories line called Himane Sustainable Designs, named for the artist’s late mother who first taught her the joy of recycling.
At first, Charlot freelanced her handbag-making services to designers and crafted custom-made gowns for clients. One day in 2004, the artist got stuck in a downpour on the way home from a meeting, and the bags she labored on for weeks were ruined.
Later that week, the creative crafter was cleaning a closet in her home, and an old umbrella fell directly at her feet. Inspiration struck instantly, and Charlot began disassembling the umbrella to create a waterproof tote.
After the first bag, she was hooked. She started with totes, purses and clutches and eventually expanded to jackets, cocktail dresses and even a wedding gown made from tossed umbrellas.
“Most people told me it was a crazy idea,” Charlot remembered. “I never thought that after almost eight years I would still be making bags out of umbrellas, and that I would get so much attention and reactions from people.”