This Fabric and Wallpaper Is Inspired by Badass Women in Caribbean History

Hadley Keller

From House Beautiful

When Kelly Finley created her Black Girl Magic dollhouse for House Beautiful's Dollhouse Beautiful series, she included an eye-catching wallpaper featuring powerful black women through history. The paper came from Haitian design firm Yaël & Valérie, a company with a background as interesting as its designs.

"I began to draw the things I saw around me growing up in Haiti," recalls founder Valérie Louis of the beginnings of her design business. "I came to the realization that none of these visuals were reflected in wallpapers or fabrics."

So she created her own, founding Yaël & Valérie, a design company named for herself and her teenage daughter, and inspired and run by women in Haiti.

"Our designs are based on Haiti's culture," explains Louis. "We were totally excluded from the world, so we had to create our own identity: the Haitian identity. That's why we have our own art, architecture, language, gastronomy, dance, music." It's that "magical world" that Louis endeavors to show through her work.

Photo credit: Yaël & Valérie

The company makes wallpapers and fabrics, which it sells by the yard, as well as home accessories and furniture it manufactures in small factories in Haiti owned by female designers. "We work very closely with our designer community," says Louis. "They give me a lot of ideas in terms of collections and accessories—we even have some collections named after them."

Photo credit: Yaël & Valérie

Every item begins with a hand-drawn sketch by Louis, which she may marry with colors or patterns seen around her home country. The resulting decor is both personal and universal, a juxtaposition best seen in Yaël & Valérie's first collection. The line features notable women throughout history—from African queens to Haitian resistance fighters and American protesters. "I realized in creating my first collection [which spotlit women through history] that the challenges of all the women that I felt connected to were my own," says Louis.

That concept has continued to inform the company's work, even when the designs are less obvious. "It's a world view through the feminine lenses of my daughter Yaël and myself," explains Louis. Yaël gives final signoff on every design. Says mom, "She's just 16, but she has such an eye for detail."

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