Mr. Berny Martin:
Founder and CEO of Catou
Founder of Midwest Fashion Week (MFW)
While pursuing a computer engineering degree at Purdue University, Haitian born college student, Berny Martin, took a chance to explore his true passion and created an entire collection for a student fashion show. With fashion design and construction being a part of his life since childhood when he made his first article, a pair of pants, Berny decided to focus on fashion design and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. Combining his worldly travels, training, and natural talent, Berny launched his own label, Catou. Named after his grandmother, Catou garments are elegant and sophisticated with an edgy flare. His stylish, well-tailored clothing have been featured in runway shows the world over, and continue to provide the fashion industry with ageless, one of a kind fashions.
What is your occupation and academic background and how did you come to work in this field?
My occupation is Fashion Designer and I became a fashion designer by making the decision one day that I am going to live the life that God have given me. My educational background is Computer Technology with a Bachelor degree and a minor in French. Also took several classes in fashion related classes.
At what age did you realize that you had a gift and talent for fashion?
I was 24 years of age, and partially has to do with my parents because in our culture, art is not considered a career. I have tried in several occasions to dismiss the idea of being involved in fashion but my inner feelings were too far superior. You are what you are… can’t deny who I am! A friend shared that with me.
Given the cultural roles that many Haitians place on their sons and daughters, what was the reaction to your desire to make this your life’s work?
It was certainly a challenge and a risk at the same time. I did not have any positive reinforcement from my parents. They wanted me to be a lawyer, doctor, engineer or somewhat considered the norm in the Haitian culture.
What was the creative process like you started Mid-West Fashion (MWF)? What were some of the frustrations and setbacks?
The Midwest fashion Week came to life by experimenting and launching my first fashion show. I realize that there was a need and want in the Midwest for fashion in Indiana. People were very curious and seem to wanting more out of the services that we were providing.
Major setbacks have been raising enough capitals (money) in order to produce the quality of a show that I often dream about and lack of education of our consumers in term of knowing what fashion is. However, I have been patient enough to understand and learning the cultural of this region and determine to make it work.
When did you realize that the line was becoming successful?
I think I became successful when I decided to follow my heart and name my business Catou. It was a given moment of truth for me. I never give up on that.
Who would you like to design?
I am not sure I understand your question correctly but I am assuming you meant to say what would you like to design? Anything really. I would like to design houses, and interior of houses or hotels or museums. Furnitures and any other home goods.
In your mind, how can Mid-West Fashion possibly help to generate dollars for not only the Haitian community in the United States but also in Haiti?
That is a big concept and idea that you are touching on. Yes, I can see it happening! Midwest fashion can be used as an avenue to enter the US market or to present the goods that are made in Haiti or designers that are Haitian to present their line of clothes or products in a big US audiences.
You say that MWF is about inspiration. Where do you draw yours from?
I draw my inspiration from childhood dreams, traveling experience, and people that are in my life and from other people experiences.
How do you envision MWF growing?
It is growing! I see it growing in various areas local, surrounding states, regional and national and international… by producing other shows in order to educate and create opportunities for those that are in fashion and never thought it would be possible in their communities.
What do you do in your leisure time to round you out as a person?
Reading a book, watch movies, and take classes on a subject that I don’t know about. like cooking classes and others
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Having a store front and more a permanent home for Catou in every states. Consulting design ideas or concept for other design companies.
What is some advice you would offer to those who have a dream but are not sure how to achieve them?
Dream is the beginning of creativity; if you can envision it therefore you can achieve it…. You will need to be defiant and persevere in order to achieve those dreams!