Haiti's Pepe Trade: How Secondhand American Clothes Became a First-Rate Business


"Haiti has practically become a trash can," says Ketcia Pierre-Louis, "where everything people in other countries don't need comes here."

Pierre-Louis is a businesswoman and affiliate of the Croix-des-Bouquets Chamber of Commerce, just outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Like many critics of imported second-hand clothing, which is known locally as "pepe," she believes the practice undercuts domestic businesses and industries. Some have even called for the government to ban the practice.

But Haiti's pepe trade is decidedly a business—not a charity. In fact, it starts with Haitian Americans buying goods at U.S. thrift stores and shipping products to Port-au-Prince and other ports. Pepe may include hand-me-downs, but the clothing is high-quality, stylish, and cheap. More important, average Haitians prefer the choice of wearing such apparel—and brands like Polo, Lacoste, and Converse—to not having access to such products at all.

Far from turning Haiti into a trash can, the market in pepe shows how buyers and sellers enrich each other through exchange.

Produced by Tate Watkins and Jon Bougher.

Approximately 4 minutes.

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  1. “Haiti has practically become a trash can,” says Ketcia Pierre-Louis, “where everything people in other countries don’t need comes here.”

    Well that explains Sean Penn’s presence. Maybe we can send them our Congress too, since we sure as fuck don’t need them.

  2. A clear illustration of the difference between being “pro-business” and “pro-capitalism”.

    1. Wait until their government restores itself to sufficient practical power again, and it’ll uber-regulate the living shit out of this industry.

      1. Nah, that’ll just drive up the amounts of the necessary bribes.

  3. What Haiti really needs is more regulation.

  4. How are Westerners supposed to get the full smug satisfaction of helping the locals if the locals are dressed better than they are?

    These people need to be dressed in local, sustainable, and most importantly primitive attire.

  5. This can’t be right; Bono just got an award for making everyone in Haiti wealthy!
    Unless maybe it was an award for being the most sanctimonious twit.

  6. What’s a “Trade-How”?

  7. The most surprising thing I learned from this piece is that a town in Haiti has a Chamber of Commerce.

  8. Haiti remains poor because of know-it-all goody two shoes snits like Pierre-Louis.
    Plus she probably feels offended that her Manolos that she donated to some stateside charity she now sees selling in some Haitian kiosk.

  9. So, since they’re recycling, this is a good thing from the Gaia-worshipping perspective, yes?

  10. “So, since they’re recycling, this is a good thing from the Gaia-worshipping perspective, yes?”

    Yep, along with most good business practices. But most tree-huggers ain’t happy about that.

  11. And to the guy who runs the sewing machine who complains that because his fellow Haitians are buying these brand name clothes at cheaper prices, he has to “sit here with nothing to do”, DON’T SIT THERE! Go do something else that people actually want and will pay for.

  12. So who comes up with all thats stuff? Wow.

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    1. Thanks, because when I wake up in the morning, and the light hits my head, the first thing I do when I get out of the bed is hit the streets a-running, and try to beat the masses, and go get myself some cheep sunglasses.

      Now I can get them on the Interweb, and never leave my f*cking house!!!!!

  14. Far from turning Haiti into a…..-c-15.html trash can, the market in pepe shows how buyers and sellers enrich each other through exchange

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