Rachel Roy Talks Heart of Haiti Jewelry, Holidays, and Giving Back

rachel roy

Photo courtesy of Rachel Roy

Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren, Rachel Roy and Martha Stewart on their trip to Haiti.

Fashion has long shown off its more charitable side. After the earthquake in Haiti, there were benefits galore. Following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, brands rallied to raise money.

But there's more to giving than just parties. Rachel Roy, who participated in the CFDA's “To Haiti With Love” campaign, joined Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren and Martha Stewart on a trip to Haiti this year to witness the devastation firsthand. (Roy's line RACHEL Rachel Roy is sold exclusively at the department store.)

Roy—no stranger to charitable collaborations (she regularly creates bags with proceeds going to non-profits)—met with local artisans and a partnership was born. (The designer is a firm believer in trade not aid, helping people get back on their feet through work.)

Macy's Heart of Haiti initiative includes pieces from the designer's beautiful RRR jewelry collection, which were crafted by local women. They, in return, receive 22 percent of proceeds from each item sold to help feed their families, pay school fees, and rebuild their homes—a worthy cause if ever there was one.

FashionEtc caught up with Roy to talk about her experience in Haiti, the charitable jewelry line, and holiday traditions.

How did you get involved with Heart of Haiti?

After the January 2010 earthquake, I participated in the CFDA’s “To Haiti With Love” campaign. Shortly after, Macy’s approached me for a partnership with their program, Heart of Haiti. I jumped at the chance to participate; it is such an amazing cause and a powerful platform. Heart of Haiti is built on the principal of trade instead of aid, which really resonated with me. I love the idea of empowering artisans to support their families.

What is the collection all about?

The [Heart of Haiti by Rachel Rachel Roy] jewelry collection was created by a Haitian mother-daughter artisan team that I met with during my September trip. All of the jewelry is handmade so each piece is unique, yet I especially wanted it to be wearable and modern—not a costume—so that it would fit seamlessly into the wearer’s wardrobe and life, thus creating a need for much more product and prolonging the life of the artists' employment. I love accessories that are handmade with love, but it’s more than just jewelry; the collection is really about putting real, sustainable income into the hands of the artisans who create it. It’s important to help as many as humanly possible get back on their feet. And what better way than through employment?

How did the trip with Martha Stewart and Terry Lundgren come about?

I was invited by Macy’s and their CEO Terry Lundgren, which was such an honor. It was truly one of the most inspiring trips I’ve ever taken—I learned so much from the people and the culture.

Tell us about the artisans who design and make the jewelry.

One of the reasons that I’m so passionate about this cause is because of the women it supports. The artisans who created our RRR pieces are Gladys and Belinda. They are just two of the many women who are at risk in the tent cities in Haiti. Temporary towns were set up after the quake and many people are still living there, in tents. There is zero security for these young girls there and a lot of violence against women in these areas—rape, molestation. It’s heartbreaking. Every woman deserves to feel safe in her home; I hope that I can help the artisans to provide for their families so they can move out of these risky areas.  

rachel roy

Photos courtesy of Rachel Roy

Jewelry from Heart of Haiti by RACHEL Rachel Roy, designed by artisans in Haiti

What's it like working with the local artisans?

I'm just so grateful that I have the opportunity support and empower these women in third world countries. Going to see them in Haiti really put my life in perspective. I’ve always felt that it’s important to give back—seeing these artisans and speaking with them about their businesses really solidified that for me. It is a way of life to give back, not a month-to-month project

What advice do you have for people who want to give back but feel they don't have time?

I would tell them you have to make time. It doesn’t have to be as big as a trip to Haiti, but there are always little ways to give back: volunteering at a hospital, donating old clothes or household products or even a few dollars to the Salvation Army—it all makes a difference.

The Heart of Haiti jewelry makes for such a great gift. What's on your holiday wish list?

Thank you! The luxury of giving back is the most luxurious of gifts. I hope to help everyone give back in a fashionably kind way with our Haiti pieces. A small sparkle clutch is always a chic option. I love to give books that have blessed me with light or gift certificates to spas to help relax the soul. My current favorite is the spa at the Plaza hote [in NYC]l—for men or women! Of course, I’m also hoping to spend lots of time with my friends and my girls, laughing cuddling and at peace.

What do you suggest pairing the pieces with for seasonal parties?

I love pairing winter whites with the natural textures of the Haiti jewelry pieces. A lot of people think you can’t wear white after Labor Day, but it’s always a classic. White is such a chic alternative to basic black and a breathtaking way to make an entrance at a holiday party. I pair it with nude or grays—love!

Do you have any holiday traditions?

The holiday is always about my girls. Every year, I take them to the sea the day after Christmas. It’s our way of bonding and relaxing. We also collect handmade German music boxes—divine!

What's your New Year's resolution?

To live fully, embrace completely, and live in a world of love—to come from a place of love with all that I do … That is my goal!

The Heart of Haiti by RACHEL Rachel Roy jewelry collection ($32–$42) is available at Macys.com and Rachelroy.com.

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