Muzungu Sisters’ website launch is imminent. The site will showcase items and unique pieces from all around the world with a mission to engender artisans and support fair trade principles. In the run up to the site’s launch Muzungu Sisters are hosting a pop-up in Mo cafe off Regent Street. At Mo cafe for the Muzungu Sisters pop-up Fox&Squirrel took the opportunity to speak to Dana, co-founder of Muzungu Sisters, about her latest project.
Dana, tell us a bit about Muzungu sisters and how the concept came to life.
The concept for Muzungu Sisters came to life in 2009 when my business partner Tatiana and I were both living in New York. We realized we shared similar ideas about starting an online project that would bring together a curated collection of ethnic items from around the world, while engendering artisans and support fair trade principles. We allowed the idea to incubate while we refined it further and are excited to be finally launching now!
What does Muzungu mean?
Muzungu originally meant ‘wanderer’ or ‘traveler’ in Swahili. It was a term used to call early European travelers in east and central Africa, hence ‘the travelling sisters’. Because these travelers were white, it is now a term used in everyday African parlance to refer to foreigners, particularly white people.
Based on what do you choose the items that will feature on your site ?
From a production point of view, we assess the quality of the craftsmanship, explore what the story is behind each item, how is it being made? Under what working conditions? We ensure that the artisan producing the item is paid a fair market price for their work. From an aesthetic point of view, we try to make sure that each item functions as a beautiful piece that speaks for itself.
At the Muzungu sale on the 24th of May I particularly liked the pashmina scarves. Can you tell us where they are from and the story behind them?
The shawls are specially woven for us by a family-owned company of weavers in Kashmir. The super soft pashminas are the finest quality available, as the highly skilled weavers responsible for weaving them use the same technique traditionally used to weave shahtoosh shawls.
In the past couple of years fashion and consumers have developed a conscious, people seem to be rejecting fast fashion and seeking items that are everlasting and ethical. How do you think Muzungu sisters will contribute to this development?
Muzungu Sisters is definitely launching at a time when there is more of a desire on the part of consumers to have access to timeless, season-less, unique pieces, and to know exactly where products are coming from, and how they are being made. We think this is not a trend of the moment, but hopefully something that is here to stay. Hopefully in the coming years, all fashion will be ‘ethical’. For our part, we hope that by exposing specific artisan crafts to an international audience and new markets, the artisans we work with are able to continue sustaining their livelihoods through their crafts, teaching these skills to younger generations.