If you’re someone who can appreciate art, street style and cultural connections, look no further. Established in 2011 by artist Fritz Bosquet, Heritaj is the streetwear brand that has made it their mission to bring your cultural identity to the forefront, paying tribute to the icons who inspire you the most and fuelling a cultural movement. To Bosquet, it’s not just about the fashion – it’s a lifestyle! Fashion Bomb Daily had the chance to interview the founder in a one-on-one discussion pertaining to his inspirations, point of view and aesthetics when it comes to Heritaj. Read on to discover the brand:
FBD: Your brand is all about showing pride & love for our culture and heritage. Tell us about yourself and the rich background that made you who you are, inspiring you to take this powerful approach to fashion.
Fritz: I’m originally from Haiti, the small town of Mirebalais. Out of Haiti, I came to New York when I was about 12 or 13, and I’ve always had a background in art, I used to draw. In terms of fashion, my parents always made sure that as a child I was always well-presented, and that always stuck out to me. As a teenager in my early years, I did do a little bit of modelling and I didn’t take it all the way as far as I probably could have.
Fast forward to 2005, I had ran into an old friend from high school who was doing graphic design at the time. While catching up, he basically shared with me some pointers, connecting my art background with my short experience in fashion modelling. Then, I had another friend that I grew up with in Haiti who was doing the same thing, so I was kind of surrounded by friends who were doing graphic and t-shirt design. They weren’t afraid to share information with me and showed me the ins and outs of how to use the programs to design, and the fire was lit at that moment. I started a brand called FYNYSS and I just wanted to do a whole collection with no capital! I took on too much and those are things that I learned. I took a little break from it, then 2010 hit which was the year of the earthquake in Haiti. Pretty much, everything that I was hearing on the news networks was the worst and it was this constant reminder of Haiti being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. So I’m like wow, I understand that that’s a reality that we all have to accept but I thought it would be a good thing to share how much Haiti has contributed to society, to the world, in terms of being the first to gain our independence in 1804, and how we also have contributed to helping others get their independence as well. That drew this fire in me. I wanted to do something to highlight some of the things, historically, about the country.
‘Eritaj’ is the creole word for ‘heritage’.
Heritaj empowers people to change their mindset and the narratives surrounding our diverse cultures across the world. Can you unpack the brand’s way of going about this please?
I use a lot of images because people, usually, once they see a face they want to know who that face is or what the face means. When Jay-Z wore the Che Guevara t-shirt on MTV, they didn’t even know who that was, they were just like “Wow! He’s wearing it so I want to know who that is,” so it forced people who were not familiar with that image to go and Google it to see who that guy is and what he represented.
So in some cases it may be a face with a name, or it may be just a quote under the face, so you can connect with that individual. Even as far as iconic figures, a comedian or an activist or an entertainer, I use the image to highlight that person and while the narrative may have focused on a certain aspect of that person’s life, that person is a hero to a certain group. One of the things that I believe is that pride in my culture does not mean hate for yours.
Of all the different forms a fashion line can take, why was this avenue of street style the one you decided to take?
There are several reasons why, number one being the fact that what happened [in Haiti] was almost like being kicked while you’re already down. So I’m like okay, how do I walk the streets with my head up high. No matter the status that a person has in life, they know “My story is something triumphant.”
I want us to celebrate each other, no matter where you come from. I saw a lot of the black community celebrating everybody else’s culture, and it wasn’t like it was fashionable for us to rock something that represented us. It’s not because we hate ourselves that much that we can’t wear ourselves, maybe its that we don’t have what to wear, so I wanted to create pieces that you can actually wear while you’re going out to a function, or to hang out with your friends or to a barbecue. Something that says “Nigeria”, that not only represents your cultural but looks dope and cool at the same time, connecting you with your culture and giving you that piece, but throughout the year you can have that conversation.
Your designs feature a wealth of artwork and graphics, are these graphics done in collaboration with local artists or are they designed in-house?
As we grow, the plan is to grow our team of designers and artists but I would say 85% – 95% of the art that you see on my pieces are created by me. Because I want to create art, I don’t want to just throw a face on a shirt because it’s redundant. It’s been done. But how do I make a piece of Richard Pryor, a Biggie Smalls piece, art? Where you’re like “Wow! I love the colors on this, it looks like something I’d put up on my wall, in my home.” Not only can I have that art piece on my wall, but I can also wear it on my t-shirt and look fly with it. So it’s very artistically inspired just to give you the feel that this is art that you’re wearing.
What are some of the meanings of the images and words we see on your products?
I did a piece that I will be re-releasing very soon where I kind of merged the faces of Jay-Z and Jean-Michel Basquiat, who he speaks very highly of. That piece, to me, is a creative piece to highlight just how much Jay-Z values Basquiat’s art and the respect that he had, both being Brooklynites, and his transformation and his looks. In Jay-Z’s song So Ghetto he said something along the lines of “[…], pop bottles on the White House lawn, guess I’m just the same old Shawn,” which is his signature double/triple entendres, there’s so many meanings of what he’s saying. So, he may have said “same old” but “Samo” is Basquiat’s tag name when he was doing graffiti on walls in NYC. Shawn is Shawn Carter. And they had two quotes, and very similar quotes as well. Basquiat’s quote says “Art is how we decorate space, music is how we decorate time.”
Jay-Z’s quote says “Leave a mark they can’t erase, neither in space nor time.”
Connecting these two images together, this is something to celebrate. Both of these icons, and how much their work has impacted the world. Other pieces, is just sharing an artistic approach of an icon.
What has been your most impactful collection or line yet?
The logo with the rope design, it symbolizes unity. The brand itself, the name and of course our slogan means it’s not just a garment, it’s your story. My life, my journey, my story. Just that piece in itself, people can connect with it. It’s a conversation starter. Like, “What is that? What does it mean? How do you pronounce that? What heritage do you come from?”
Now, the iconic figures, whether its a Pryor art piece or Sanford Redd Foxx piece or Biggie, Jimi Hendrix, those pieces resonate with people, with our audience, with our customers because we use colorways that we want you to make with your sneakers. People that come to buy one piece tend to pick up one or two other pieces that they didn’t even know!
Do you have any quotes that guide you in your craft and outlook on the world that you’d like to share?
Two of my favorite quotes right now are the Basquiat and Jay-Z quotes. We can decorate the world with art, but we also want to leave a mark in this world. Whether it’s how we inspire each other or show love and appreciation for one another. My personal quote would be “While I’m prideful of who I am and where I come from, I can also appreciate someone else’s history and heritage.” Because we can learn so much from one another.
You’ve been at this for a long time with Heritaj now in it’s 11th year! With all of your experience, what aspects of the fashion industry would you like to change?
I think right now it’s more so to continue the programs promoting opportunity for minorities, black and brown brands or entrepreneurs. I think we need more of them because here we are in 2022 and we still don’t have a fashion house, a black owned fashion house, like the Guccis and the Chanels and so on. So, I would love to see more of us on a platform to really showcase our talent. I think there’s a wide range of black and brown designers that are doing amazing work. What Claire is doing with Fashion Bomb Daily, it’s huge, because there is a shortage of black brands that are getting the notoriety and exposure that is necessary to get more of our story out there. That’s something I’d love to see more in the fashion industry because fashion is not just European, Italian, London and France… it’s the world. I do feel as much as the black community supports every brand, that we need more representation of ourselves in the designing space so we can find more of our people wearing a lot more black designers.
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Main Image: Courtesy of Heritaj