Eltha: Ethical Wearable Art
Shadgie Jean is the founder and creative director of Eltha, a Canadian brand of ethical and sustainable fashion. Montrealborn and of Haitian origin, Shadgie’s backgrounds in both marketing and fashion come together to form her independent brand. Shadgie’s latest collection of one-of-a-kind wearable art pieces is a true testament to her passion for design.
With a name that means “to be ready”, it’s no surprise that Shadgie readily lives up to the challenge of creating such an intricate collection. With each piece requiring anywhere from days to months to complete, these handmade garments are a feat that not just any brand would take on. “All of the embroidered and painted pieces are hand embroidered and hand painted by women in Haiti.”
Shadgie has held an interest in fashion her whole life, studying under Claudette Floyd through her business degree. With no training or background, she was ready for the challenge. “I spent hours watching her drape, sew and work. I would then go home, take apart clothing and put them back together. This is how I practice my craft. I can definitely say that I am self taught.”
Eltha began in 2016, the year her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. While looking into what cancer patients do to feel better, she realized there was no mention of clothing. “I spent months researching fabrics and discovered that the fashion industry is the second most polluting after the biochemistry.” This inspired Shadgie to hunt down organic and sustainable clothing, but found none suited her style. Thus, Eltha was born: a line using only natural fabrics; certified materials on which women in Haiti would hand embroider and hand paint using non toxic paint.
Is there a deep connection between yourself and your work?
Eltha is an homage to my father, Botex Jean. After his passing, I travelled to Haiti in October 2016, and gave a small group of women fabrics, threads and all the material needed for my first embroidered fabrics, [which] I received in March 2017. I made a promise to my father that I would always keep an eye on my mother and make sure she is happy. This is why I named my company Eltha. It is my mother’s name. In ancient Greek, it means “Healing”.
Shadgie’s inspiration for the Wearable Art Collection was to showcase the craftsmanship of Haitian women. “The beauty about the time we are living in now is that women can express themselves through different means. I strongly believe that by giving women a salary, you feed a family.” Her aim was to display the resilience, strength and beauty of these women. (Cont'd.)
Working with women in a country limited in resources, infrastructure and with a lack of education proved to be a challenge, but not a deterrent. “Communication can sometimes be challenging.” Another challenge is within modern society as an ethical, independent designer. “I make a lot of one-of-a-kind pieces to encourage the reduction excess purchase of synthetic clothing and fabrics; moreover, we live in a world where the consumption of fashion is high and fast.”
What kind of impact do you hope to have in the fashion industry?
I aim to provide women with fair, equitable and responsible work by empowering them through the use of their abilities, talent and art to advance in our society. All while promoting real diversity, behind the scenes and on the runway. It is important to raise awareness of the rise of natural fabrics and materials. I truly believe that slow, equitable and sustainable fashion is the future of the industry.
Her motivation is the awareness of how important sustainability is. “Seeing high fashion brands making decisions that are greener and more sustainable, I realize that we are paying attention and listening more to our planet, Mother Earth.” For up-andcomers in the industry, she recommends the ‘five P’s’: passion, purpose, perseverance, persistence and peace. “I believe that you have to have passion; without it you will not be able to move towards your dream. Whatever the idea, know its purpose. By sincerely giving you will receive more. Persevere through thick and thin. Be persistent: Do a little every day! [Finally,] peace of mind. Be patient and believe in the process.”