The meaning of Muzungu
The word Muzungu is originally Swahili, meaning 'wanderer' or 'traveller'. Early European travellers were often referred to in this manner throughout eastern and central Africa. 'Muzungu' is now a term used in everyday African parlance to refer to foreigners, or white people.
Dana Alikhani began travelling the world at an early age. Though Iranian, she was born and raised in Cyprus. At the age of 17, she moved to London, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in social anthropology from SOAS, University of London. Dana continued her studies in New York, at Columbia University. There, while studying for a master's degree in human rights, she focused her attention on ethical labour practices, an interest that eventually led her to the founding of Muzungu Sisters. Before the launch of Muzungu Sisters in 2011, Dana held positions at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), at Human Rights Watch in New York, and as a Middle East political analyst for a global business risk consultancy in London.
Of Brazilian-Colombian origin, Tatiana Santo Domingo was born in New York and raised in Switzerland and Paris. Tatiana attended the American University in London, gaining her bachelor of fine arts degree in visual communications, with a concentration in photography, in 2005. Following positions at the AEFFE fashion house in New York, with creative director Giovanni Biancho, and at Vanity Fair, Tatiana has developed a renowned fashion sensibility, which she now uses to curate the Muzungu Sisters selections.
The concept for Muzungu Sisters was born in 2009, when founders and friends, Dana Alikhani and Tatiana Santo Domingo, were living in New York. Dana, finishing a master's degree in human rights at Columbia University, wanted to create an online retail portal that would promote fair labour practices by showcasing artisan-crafted goods.
Tatiana, with a refined eye for style and a keen interest in travel, had been thinking of curating a website that would feature carefully sourced items discovered during her adventures abroad. By merging their ideas and passions, Dana and Tatiana created the revolutionary concept of providing the global online retail market with exclusive products handcrafted in a sustainable manner, by local artisans from diverse cultures. In promoting the products featured on Muzungu Sisters, Dana and Tatiana hope to shine a light on the rare artistry found in various communities, and to stimulate those local economies.
Muzungu Sisters currently offers ethically-sourced handmade luxury, produced by 16 different artisan communities across four continents. Muzungu Sisters has curated travelling pop-up shops around the world in over eight countries, showcasing their wares. Collaborations with Missoni (2012), Delphine Delafon (2013) Olympia Le-Tan (2015) and La Coqueta (2017) have further enhanced Muzungu Sisters' collection of classics.
Muzungu Sisters in 2012 received Spain’s TELVA magazine annual Fashion Sustainability and Solidarity Award.
In October 2014 at the United Nations Secretariat in New York, UN NGO Women Together awarded Muzungu Sisters with their annual Fashion for Development Award for bringing artisan-crafted fashion to the forefront of international consumer trade.