How One T-Shirt Became an Entire Movement: An Interview with Paola Mathe
Paola Mathe is a lifestyle blogger, a photographer and writer. Most of all she is an entrepreneur, putting in place a t-shirt line Ansanm Nou Se Ayiti [Together, We Are Haiti]. Mathe says she was never trained in fashion or merchandising, but her unique style made onlookers assume she worked in the fashion industry.
Born in Petionville, she attended high school and college in New Jersey. She studied economics and French literature, and currently works in the accounting field at a top-rated hotel in New York City. But she isn’t letting go of her dreams and aspirations, and she certainly is living in the right city to make them come true.
Her blog is a representation of the person she is. It celebrates the young chic girl living in New York City, who hasn’t quite let go of her Haitian roots, and who has no intention either, of letting them go. Mathe does animated on-camera reviews of the music of Haitian artists. She also gives her piece of mind on everything from natural hair to fitness.
But at the heart of her is the Ansanm Nou Se Ayiti tee, which means more to her than a t-shirt. It’s the thread that connects her to Haiti. It’s the movement she started.
How did the idea of the Ansanm Nou Se Ayiti t-shirt line come about? The t-shirt line is more of a social movement than it is a fashion line. I wrote a poem called, “Ansanm Nou Se Ayiti,” which was inspired by two beautiful Haitian women, Ania and Soukena, I met through different social events in New York. One is a fashion model, and the other one might as well be one too, but she’s an aspiring fashion stylist/designer. I came up with the poem because I found both of them extremely stunning, yet their looks couldn’t be more different from each other. After I wrote it, I decided to contact them to see if they would perform the poem with me. I wanted it to be shot like it was a “beauty” shoot, but I had a message to go with it. I wanted to display the different types of beauties Haiti can offer, but also talk about the most important thing, which is coming together. The day of the shoot, Ania had a very important shoot scheduled and couldn’t make it. I still went with it because the whole crew was there, and we all know how things rush in New York! I had the opportunity so I went with it.
Now as a fashion entrepreneur, have you learned any lessons thus far about the business? I wouldn’t describe myself as a fashion entrepreneur or any kind of entrepreneur just yet. But I promise you that one day I will be one. I’m taking everything one step at a time, and I really wish the video reaches a huge Haitian audience because my goal is to collaborate with many Haitian artists and designers.
Ansanm Nou Se Ayiti has fans all over. What has their responses been to the line? Everyone wants a t-shirt! Right now, we only have the classic black for sale, but we will have colors of all kinds available by the end of April.
Give all the ladies out there your best advice on how to put an outfit together. Always go with what makes you feel comfortable because you’re sexiest when you have comfort. And when you have comfort, you have confidence. Find what works with your body type best, and don’t be afraid of a pop of color.
A t-shirt is a t-shirt is a t-shirt. How can those purchasing a Ansanm Nou Se Ayiti T-shirt rock it best? Soukena and I have already done a style post on the Ansanm Nou Se Ayiti website. I’d like to see more people wear the shirt without the typical blue jeans and sneakers! So, pair it with a fun leather skirt, or bright skinny jeans. Better yet, wear it with patterned trousers. It can work with whatever you want!
Will you be making additions to the Ansanm Nou Se Ayiti T-shirt line? What’s next for the brand? I’ve got my mind on this secret project. I have all of my ideas on the table, but I need a good illustrator for that one. This one will be about female empowerment. It won’t only be directed to Haitian women, but women all around the world! Stay tuned.