This unique collaboration witnesses the exciting debut of Muzungu Sisters artisanal embroidery with La Coqueta's classic styles. The collection is a natural meeting of brands, with a focus on traditional craftsmanship. We catch up with Muzungu Sisters with founders Dana Alikhani and Tatiana Santo Domingo and Celia Muñoz about the exciting collaboration.
How did this partnership come about?
TATIANA: We both love dressing our children in La Coqueta's beautiful clothes and were sure that combining Celia's delicate and traditional creations with Muzungu Sisters's ethnic influences would look amazing so we decided to approach Celia about a collaboration - she loved the idea!
CELIA: Tatiana and Dana have been customers of La Coqueta pretty much since we started. I am such a big fan of The Muzungu Sisters! What makes it extra special to me is that I have visited quite a lot of the places where their clothes come from and I know they care deeply about the craftsmanship behind their clothes and the attention to detail that is given to their garments. The Muzungu Sisters clothes not only look very beautiful, the story behind it is even more meaningful. After three years of regular contact through wearing each other’s clothes Dana and Tatiana approached us to do a collaboration.
In what aspects do you feel La Coqueta and the Muzungu Sisters are aligned?
CELIA: Both brands share a love of craftsmanship. We love supporting the continuation of traditional techniques such as hand embroidery, smocking etc. I love the fact that the Muzungu Sisters projects an image that is understated and discreet but equally focuses on quality and customer service. Their customer is a customer who appreciates quality and this is what the La Coqueta customer looks too as well.
DANA: Both Tatiana and I love the brand and the respect Celia has for traditional craftsmanship. Just like Muzungu Sisters, every La Coqueta piece is timeless and can be worn for generations to come.
What was the process for creating this collection?
CELIA: This has been a very straight forward process as we both knew what the collection would look like even before discussing it. It helps that we share a similar aesthetic and have a similar view on what a child should dress like. We spent time understanding what the Muzungu Sisters customers would like to see from La Coqueta and vice-versa. We then spent time looking at patterns, smocks and embroideries that would look like a mix of both brands rather than one or the other. In terms of materials, we wanted something that is uncomplicated, is good quality and relates to the mix of Muzungu Sisters and La Coqueta’s lifestyle, hence the use of linen, cotton and plumetti.
Up your game this Valentine`s Day with the Muzungu gift selection!
Our Dora blouses and Jasmine dresses are embroidered using Hungarian folk embroideries, known as Matyo.
Practicing the art of embroidery is a way for every Hungarian embroiderer to express their culture and remains an important part of their heritage. In Hungary there are more than twenty folkloric regions and each of them has their own unique pattern and they vary from region to region.
In previous times, weaving and embroidery schools were spread across the whole of Hungary and girls from every region attended them and learned how to create impressive embroideries on every type of textile. The art of embroidery has existed in Hungary since as early as the eleventh century and it was important in the upbringing of every Hungarian girl from every background.
The principal decorative themes include flowers and leaves, sometimes a bird or a spiral ornament. This type of embroidery is an art, which has a special colour combination accompanied with unique stitching which makes each one of our blouses and dresses rich in design. The availability of textiles and threads influence the colours and all the different types of design.
Our traditional blouses and dresses are hand-embroidered for us in Hungary by a third-generation embroiderer in the countryside just outside of Budapest. She has won numerous competitions for her embroidery skills. Sadly the practice of the embroidery art is declining and it is very hard to find new embroiderers as the new generation does not have patience for the long hours and concentration this embroidery requires. Our embroiderer has tried to train younger apprentices to master her skill, but many of these apprentices give up after producing one blouse, highlighting how difficult it is to produce the embroidery for just one blouse. Only the older generation of artisans possess the skills and dedication to master this type of hand-embroidery. Therefore we are very pleased to be able to help our artisans in Hungary by supporting their craft and through this collaboration we might be able to prevent the art of completely vanishing.
At Muzungu Sisters, we support artisans from all around the world. We want you to know their stories and how each of our products is made. We feel it is important to create awareness about how our support benefits our artisans and their communities. This week we will tell you more about our Wayuu Mochilas made in Colombia.
The Wayuu tribe is the largest indigenous tribe in Colombia. It is based in the northern desert region of the country, a few miles away from the Venezuelan border. This part of the country is called the Guajira Peninsula.
There are approximately 400,000 Wayuu living in La Guajira. The tribe lives below the poverty line and struggles on a daily basis to survive in their surroundings as it is a very inaccessible area of the country. Through their location, the tribe has been able to preserve a way of life which has not been influenced by the modern culture we live in. The Wayuu women are the center of the family and cultural leaders of the tribe. One of their traditions and most important characteristics that represent their culture and community is the art of weaving mochila bags.
Each mochila we sell is handwoven by a female member of the tribe. All the Muzungu Sisters Wayuu mochilas are handwoven by a Wayuu fair trade cooperative run by female Wayuu tribal leaders. The techniques that they use to weave the mochilas have been passed down for centuries from generation to generation. The reason why each mochila is so different is because the design on the mochila represents the individual method each weaver uses. The bottom of each mochila features intricate symbolic designs chosen by the weaver as a means of self-representation. Each woman spends approximately 25 days weaving one single bag. The bag strap of each mochila is then added by the men of the Wayuu tribe towards the end of the process. In this way every member of the tribe, female or male contributes to the creation of our mochilas.
OLYMPIA LE TAN X MUZUNGU SISTERS POSTCARD CLUTCHES
We are so exited to share our new collaboration with Olympia Le Tan ! Olympia Le Tan is renowned for her embroidered book clutches, a technique she learned from her grandmother as a little girl.
We designed these limited edition postcard clutches to represent some of the countries Muzungu Sisters sources from and where we are both from.
The clutches are made out of cotton and brass featuring a metal clasp opening, brass-tone sides with a Liberty-print lining. Each clutch features postcard-inspired stitching to the back signed off by Muzungu Sisters.
Our Olympia Le Tan x Muzungu Sisters postcard clutches are handcrafted and handembroidered in Italy. Each clutch is detailed with an edition number at the back (numbered 01-16) and 10% of the sales of each clutch will be going to UNHCR to help the plight of refugees worldwide.
Say hello to our beautiful new Uzbek pieces!
Our Ikat kaftans and coats have travelled all the way from charming Uzbekistan, where brightly coloured Ikat patterns are historically considered a symbol of status and wealth. During the 19th Century, nearly every religious and ethnic group in Central Asia used Ikat for costume and decoration, thus making it an incredibly sought after fabric. Some weavers dedicate their whole lives to perfecting the skill of weaving Ikat patterns due to the infinite skill and patience required.
So, what are you waiting for?! Snap up your piece of Uzbek history here
We often get asked the question:
“What is the most beautiful place you have visited?”
Well, we must admit it is a question impossible for us to answer, as every place has its unique story and charme. Today we present Kashmir, where we found our beloved Kashmir Vests! They are unisex and works for both women and men.
You can find our vests here.
Lots of Love,
February has arrived!
January passed in the blink of an eye and the days will slowly start to get longer and lighter to prepare us for spring and the experiences we are yet to face in 2014.
Our showroom in Notting Hill is the perfect location for us to plan new trips and adventures for the year to come, filled with treasure hunting journeys! Keep an eye on our online shop to see our most recent finds from our travels.
Meanwhile, enjoy crisp winter mornings and keep warm in our Alpaca and Beaded Peruvian Hats, available for purchase here.
Lots of Love,
The arhuaca mochila (Spanish: Arhuaca knapsack), or tutu iku in Ika, is a popular Colombian artisan bag made by the Arhuaco people of the Sierra Nevada.In recent years, the bags have turned into a cultural symbol for Colombian identity.
The fabric comes from sheep wool, cotton, hemp, or industrial cotton. In the town of Atanquez, the bags are most frequently made with hemp from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain-range. Although the whole arhuaco community is involved in production, only Wati (Arhuaco women) can weave the bags together according to ancient tradition.
The colors with which the mochilas are woven are earth tones, ranging from brown and beige to black and gray. Originally they were woven with natural fibers from the Arahuaco lands, such as agave and cotton (the latter reserved for Mamos backpacks, which can not be traded).The Spanish introduced sheep’s wool and currently mochilas also are made with industrial fibers.
The bags usually carry indigenous drawings or representations of animals and other objects of their cosmology. Each design identifies families, some of the most important are the gamako (the frog), the symbol of fertility for the indigenous groups of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the zikamu (the centipede), the aku (the rattlesnake) which symbolizes time and space, the peynu (the comb), Kutia (ribs), kaku Serankua (the creator of the Sierra father), Makuru (the vulture), gwirkunu (the hills and lakes), urumu (the snail), sariwuwu (the months of pregnancy), kunsamunu a’mia (the thought of women), kunsamunu cheyrua (human thought), kanzachu (tree leaf), chinuzatu (the four corners of the world), kambiru (scorpion tail or scribble), phundwas (the snowy peaks of the Sierra) and Garwa (the father of the roads).
We wish you all an amazing weekend!
Lots of love,
Morocco is one of our favourite destinations.Make sure you come back to check our travelling experiences & our muzungu tips
Our adventures to be continued…
We both love Beirut so you can imagine how excited we are to be popping up in one of the most dazzling, fun cities in the world in just a few short days. We’ve chosen Kitsch concept store in Gemmayze for our first ever pop-up foray outside of Europe. Check out the details below:
We did a great interview with the Lebanese version of Elle magazine which is out now too.
If you’re in town make sure you come by on Tuesday 12th June for what promises to be a great party hosted by Kitsch to celebrate the launch of our pop-up as well as the shop’s six-year anniversary!
We’re in Monaco until tomorrow evening ‘popping up’ at K11 concept store, a great new concept store that sells young brands and fun gadgets from all over the world. Come see us if you’re in town!
Muzungu Sisters xxxx
Our first-ever Paris pop-up shop is now well underway. We opened on the 19th April at The Space, a new concept store that opened in December 2011 on Rue Bonaparte in St Germain. The shop is the art-meets-fashion brainchild of dynamic duo Tallulah Rufus Isaacs and Julia Van Hagen.
We’ve been having a great time with the girls behind the fabulous store, and are sad our Paris pop-up will be no more after the 26th April. Come see us while we’re still around!
We are very excited that our Tatiana bags have finally arrived!
These bags are custom-made for us by a non-profit organisation in Brazil that teaches local women handicrafts as a means of guaranteeing self-sufficiency, ensuring they can in turn support their families. It is made of silk-straw and I love it so much that I wear it from morning to night (I love it so much I even gave it my name)! It packs flat, is virtually weightless and fits everything I could possibly need inside!
Get yours now on http://muzungushop.motilo.com/, Margherita and Eugenie have already gotten theirs!
Wear it at the beach the way the girls have or even in the city like I do for a cool and easy everyday look.
For our first-ever designer collaboration we commissioned a series of limited-edition loafers decked out in Missoni to benefit the Small Steps Project (more about them below). Missoni donated the fabric that we would be upcycling for the shoes as it would have otherwise been discarded. Cecilia Bringheli, the creator behind the artisanal shoe brand CB Made in Italy was enlisted to help us create a super-comfortable and stylish flat.
The shoes come in three different styles, in both mens and women’s sizes. They will only be sold on our website from 30th April 2012 onwards, and in our pop-up shops in different cities. We pre-launched with a small number of the shoes at our Paris pop-up in April the week before they’re to be sold online.
Check out Tatiana’s excitement as we unpacked the shoes when they arrived in London
The Small Steps Project is a volunteer-based humanitarian organization and registered charity that works with children and communities living on municipal rubbish dumps in countries ranging from Cambodia to Nicaragua. Shockingly, much of the waste in such dumps originates in Europe and North America including countries such as the UK. The organization first began with founder Amy Hanson providing the simplest form of assistance to kids on the dumps – handing out wellington boots, protective clothing and hygiene kits to the children to protect them from disease until they could get off the dumps and take small steps out of poverty. While getting the children and communities off the dumps and into schools is a priority, the reality remains that until those steps can be taken, care and hygiene kits will protect from disease and injury. Crucially, Small Steps Project pledges that 100% of its public donations are spent directly on aid for children and families who survive from scavenging in rubbish. I first came across the organization’s work several years ago and have followed them since, and am thrilled to be able to help raise awareness in small part for an organization that relies solely on volunteers and is doing such a good job at shining a light on an issue that often goes unnoticed.
Watch this short video to learn more about the organization’s work.
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10% of the proceeds of each pair of Missoni x Muzungu Sisters x CB for Small Steps Project loafers will be donated directly to the Small Steps Project
Our South American trip in 2011 started in earnest in Argentina – this was Muzungu Sisters’ maiden sourcing trip which also included Brazil and Peru. We went to Buenos Aires, Argentina’s northern-most province of Jujuy, and Salta.
What we got: new and antique indigenous aguayo textiles from Salta and Jujuy, great patchwork travel bags made from old aguayos, handwoven leather belts from Salta. We had always noticed the most amazing linen gaucho pants on our super-chic Argentine friend Martin (who also unwittingly found himself being our guide and designated driver all around Salta and Jujuy) so while we were there we asked him to take us to meet with one of the oldest tailoring houses in Buenos Aires where we custom-ordered bombachas de campo in linen that we now sell online.
What we saw: the most diverse terrain I have ever seen. The Jujuy countryside lets you feel like you’re on a different planet. You can drive for hours without spotting another person and the terrain can change dramatically as you turn a corner. We saw green hills, giant cacti, red rocks and the famed 7-coloured mountains (they really are 7 colours). Clouds in Argentina are the fluffiest I’ve ever seen, they look too cartoon-like to be believable. But by far the most trippy thing we saw were the Salinas Grandes salt flats. They look like something you would find at the end of the earth, like a giant white lake with red mountains surrounding it. We were there during the rainy season so there was a layer of rain on top of the thick salt crust and we took our shoes off and waded in the water.
What we sang: we learned Maria Elena Walsh’s song ‘La Vaca de Humahuaca’ (the cow of Humahuaca) from Martin who kept singing it during the long car journeys. Tatiana and I love to sing it now and you’ll notice a little tribute to the song and our trip on our website as we included an image of Maria Elena Walsh’s album cover in our homepage collage.
Lowest point: I got the worst altitude sickness in Argentina on the long drive back from the Salinas Grandes salt flats in Jujuy. When we finally got to San Salvador de Jujuy, I got to a pharmacy but not before begging Tatiana and Martin to ‘just leave me’ in the city for the night alone (we were due to drive on to Salta on a tight schedule but the last thing I could face was another long drive with my pounding head). They looked around and couldn’t help but laugh as I kept sobbing that I wanted to stay on in San Salvador de Jujuy. They wisely suggested we stay for a while in the only cafe that was open for empanadas while we waited for the super-strong Argentine painkillers to kick in, figuring I’d be lucid again within half an hour. I learned my lesson and prepared myself for the altitude in Peru by taking a medley of natural supplements used by hikers.
In the town square in Purmamarca.
In January we went to Budapest. It was my first time and I fell in love with the breathtakingly beautiful city. We were there to meet with the artisans that would be making and embroidering our traditional Hungarian Matyó blouses:
The lady that made these blouses for us is a third-genertion embroiderer and she has won numerous competitions for her fine skill.
Here we are in her atelier with her wearing some of the blouses she made!
We spent a couple of hours with her going over all the specifications we wanted for the blouses that she would be making for Muzungu Sisters.
Later in the day we went on a guided tour of the city. Budapest truly is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and I can’t wait to return with more time.
And of course our visit to Budapest would not be complete without us indulging in a delicious apfelstrudel!!!
We loved Peru! We had a great time there and also managed to include some sightseeing of sights along the Inca Trail like Machu Picchu and Ollyantaytambo into our busy itinerary – as well as a fun 24 hours in Lima sampling a little of what Latin America’s culinary capital has to offer. I can’t wait to go back.
We’re really lucky to be working with a wonderful NGO that promotes the education of traditional Andean textile techniques that are at risk of disappearing. The cooperative brings together weavers from nine different communities. All of the items they produce for us – including the Sonia bolero below – are woven using techniques that are thousands of years old, and dyed using natural dyes from plants, vegetables and flowers.
Three generations of weavers! The youngest family member in the photo prefers a synthetic tracksuit to traditional Andean garb like the manta. In fact, many weavers prefer to use synthetic dyes even when working on traditional textiles, because the brightness you can achieve with synthetic colours is unparalleled. Nevertheless, the video below shows impressive results are still possible using natural dyes.
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We’ve been looking forward to sharing our wanderings with others since we first started talking about starting Muzungu Sisters back in 2009. On our first sourcing trip to South America in February-March 2011 we kept saying how we would upload this and that to our blog. Over a year later, and though it’s taken us a while, we’re finally blogging. Neither of us has ever blogged before but we’re excited to have a space where we can share our travels and travails, get inspired, and share random things that make us laugh.
Our featured product
Unisex cashmere wool gilet handwoven in Kashmir, featuring Nehru collar and button fastenings