With their breezy boho-style friends, designers Tatiana Santo Domingo and Dana Alikhani define the term 'modern jet-set'. These souk-savvy sisters have created the Munzungu Sisters brand to celebrate their love of travel and artisanal products - every product in this unique collection celebrates local artistry, while promoting fair labor practices.
Why did you start the Muzungu Sisters brand?
DANA: We officially started Muzungu Sisters in 2011 although we had first discussed starting it in 2009. We didn?t really mean to start out Muzungu Sisters as a ?brand? as such at the time, as neither of us had any particular experience nor ambitions to be designers of a fashion brand. It started out as a joint project to promote ethically made, artisanal handmade pieces accessible to people through the internet and pop-up shops but the fashion label was ascribed to us later So many of these pieces had been items we used to pick up for ourselves or our friends on our travels before launching the project and the idea was clearly defined in both our minds, but we realized that we couldn?t really convey that idea to others without tying all the diverse pieces we were collecting from around the world together under a certain identity. I remember my brother told us both off for thinking we could get away without having a defined logo, branding and the whole package.
The word Muzungu is originally Swahili, meaning ?wanderer? or ?traveler?, What are some of your favorite destinations and why?
DANA: There are so many places, so often when Tatiana and I are in a new place we think ?we could really live here?. I love going to India and never need an excuse to travel there, Although I love the colours of Rajasthan, I really love the intensity of Bombay and Delhi too and I felt at home there from the first time I visited. Last month for the first time I went south to Goa and really appreciated the vibe of India-on-sea in the former hippie enclave which is totally different to anywhere else I had ever been. I also love Peru, from the rich indigenous culture and tribes in the highlands of Cusco and the proud Inca history, to the melting pot of cultures in Lima where you have a strong Japanese community and a strong Chinese community fusing with very Spanish influences. They even have their own fusion Chinese food called Chifa and it?s inspiring to see.
TATIANA: I love going back to India and try to travel there as much as possible. Of the places we have visited on sourcing trips for Muzungu Sisters, we were blown away by the vast landscapes of northwestern Argentina, especially when contrasted with Buenos Aires which feels very old-world European in parts. As well as having incredible forms of indigenous craftsmanship and amazing artisanal markets, in the northern provinces of Salta and Jujuy we saw the 7 Colour Mountains that are purple, orange and green in colour, as well as the breathtaking Salinas Grandes salt flats. We were there during the rainy season so the water had gathered on the salt plains, reflecting with the clouds in a surreal way.
How long have you two been friends?
TATIANA: Dana and I have been friends since 2003 when we were both studying in London. I met her through her older brother, and we also lived in the same building in London. Then we were both living in New York at the same time as each other. The idea for the site actually came about in 2009 in Dana?s apartment in New York when the two of us were both living there: at the time Dana was finishing her Masters degree in Human Rights and wanted to start an online portal that would promote fair labor practices through supporting artisans in various communities. I had wanted to travel and collect things from around the world and curate a website including these items, so we decided to merge the two ideas together.
How would you describe your own style? Please name the three staples of your wardrobe you could never live without.
DANA: a pair of comfortable silk pants, Muzungu Sisters fique mochila and a khaki military parka that has the perfect sized pockets.
TATIANA: Muzungu Sisters cashmere shawl, a comfortable pair of jeans and Muzungu Sisters Dana tassel loafers the most comfortable shoes ever made that work for both daytime and evening.
What are some of the destinations on your bucket list?
DANA: There are so many! Chile, Laos, Mongolia, New Zealand, Ethiopia, South Africa
How would you describe your travel style?
DANA: Comfortable pants, light silk kurta shirts from India, and my favourite fique mochila as it packs flat, weighs nothing but expands to fit my shawl, jacket and shopping from the souk if I need it to.
I pack multiple Bali sarongs because they always come in handy, not just for the beach but also to make your hotel room cosy or to cover your pillowcase if the hotel you?re staying in isn?t as clean as you?d like. I always remember to bring a bright jacket like our embroidered Sonia bolero from Peru because you never know where you might end up in the evening and that bolero and some red lipstick are all you need!
Souk or Department Store? Souk
DIY or Concierge Service? DIY as most concierges send you to the last places you want to be like the most touristic restaurant in town run by the concierge?s distant cousin
Buy Everything or Buy Nothing? Buy nothing unless you fall in love with it
Camping or 5-Star Hotel? Glamping in a tent with necessary luxuries
Drive or be Driven? Drive so you learn your way around
Room service or Street Food? Room service can be a necessary extravagance but street food most of the time
Lots of Luggage or Carry-on Bag? Carry-on bag upon departure stuffed with soft duffel bags, lots of luggage on the way back!
Shop the collection from Muzungu Sisters here.