Fiona Bennett’s Panama

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Not owning a panama hat this summer is like being absolutely unaware of the invasive Jane-Birkin-style basket importance. Are you still looking for the right straw hat to fit the upcoming sunny days? The Berlin-based milliner, Fiona Bennett, might have what you’re looking for. The hats coming from her ‘One World’ capsule are hand-woven with traditional techniques in a village in the Bolgatanga region in Ghana. The used straw is from local abundant kinkanhe (Veta Vera) grass and its coloured with natural dyes. Fiona’s website has more than two pages of different silhouettes fitting various head-types, so don’t hesitate to check them out (or visit her studio-slash-boutique, if you’re in the German capital).

Potsdammer Straße 81-83 / Berlin

Zazi Vintage

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You will thank me later for telling you about Zazi Vintage. Although Jeanne Zizi Margot de Kroon‘s label is based in Berlin, the Dutch entrepreneur has a global vision to share. She quitted modelling industry after her great disillusion with the fashion world’s unethical approach towards sweat-shop production and decided to oppose chain stores’ and big companies’ continous expoitation of female workers. With the founder’s focus on sustainability and women empowerment, Zazi Vintage respects and embraces traditional clothe-making, using rejected fabrics and old materials. The brand’s seasonless pieces are made by local women from distant places. From the most intricately embroidered Suzani coats from Tajikistan to Ikat woven dresses made by  Saheli women, these pieces aren’t just precious and one-of-a-kind additions to a  wardrobe. Zazi Vintage, with support of Institute for Philanthropy and Humanitarian Development, helps girls fund education and continue their incredible work.

Learn more about Zazi Vintage on their site – click here.

Photos by Stefan Dotter.

Designers of 2015 – Stella Jean

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Born in Rome and of Caribbean descent, Stella Jean’s aesthetic is a fusion of her Creole heritage and meticulous, Italian craftsmanship. As a designer who respects ethnical matters, Stella Jean should be praised not only for her breath-taking clothes, but for her idea of giving women and men around the world (from Burkina Faso to Kenya) a chance to do their craft in ethical and comfortable conditions!

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AW15 – At the end of March, I went to Milan to preview Stella’s AW15 – the embroidery, the prints, the colour combinations looked impressive. And what’s interesting, thanks to mixing classical, Italian heritage with the Bollywood-inspired theme, the AW15 collection is absolutely avoiding the word “kitsch”. There’s nothing too excessive about this collection – basically, Stella delivered a set of wearable pieces decorated with mesmerizing embroideries and bold print matchings. These voluminous skirts look so great with the ethno-patterned knits and simple, checked shirts!

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AW15 Men – For autumn-winter 2015, Stella focused on India and Nepal – warm colours, enchanting embroideries and oriental silhouettes appeared not only in her womenswear collection, but also in men’s. The boys look good in this lifey, printed splendour! The kaleidoscopic jackets, hand-stitched pea-coats and turquoise trousers rule. Also, this collection brings Wes Anderson’s emotional Darjeeling Limited mood to the men’s wardrobe.

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Ave Cesaria by Stromae started to beat from the speakers. The ultra-modern venue of newly opened MUDEC Museum striked all of the guests. Just like the absolutely unexpected collection delivered by Stella Jean, the most bold and ethical-fashion thinking person in Milan. Stella Jean’s spring-summer 2016 collection marks the geographical and emotional map on which the main stages of Italian migrant identity are charted. And that’s not all. South America, North America, Africa and Europe are the destinations, that the Stella Jean woman reaches. As the show-note said, “the port of departure, so to speak, is Italy, represented by its sharp, sartorial qualities” – comfortable, wearable silhouettes were visible in over-sized pants and Euro-sleekness of polo shirts. Then, the journey continues, and Stella takes us to Brazil, full of raffia ruffles and Cariocan multi-coloured flounces. The imaginary “travel” itinerary is ready for the next place – the Andes, represented by artisanal and hand-painted motifs including pinatas, daily life of women wearing traditional bowler hats and striped tunics which reflected Andean style.

The ethnical beauty of the collection is contrasted by American varsity jackets and over-sized cowboy shirts, while trench coats and men’s formal striped shirts made a sign of London’s well-known Savile Row needle. However, it is worth to note that some of the fabrics were hand-made in Burkina Faso. Stella Jean and her SS16’s flowing dresses, boxy jackets and “amphora-like” skirts not only made a strong impression, but also felt very right for the current, migration conflict. The collection was like a melting-point of cultures, filled with beauty and creative freedom. Also, it proves that fashion can be politically important.

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Aurora and Brother Vellies

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Who is Aurora James? She’s the girl every fashion conscious person in New York knows. Shortly, she’s the founder and designer behind Brother Vellies. But her label isn’t an average footwear and accessories one-moment-Instagram-hashtag thing – Aurora is up to something much more significant, and certainly ground-breaking. Bringing fashion, which is both ethnically appropriate and ethically made is a struggle in today’s fashion industry – and the latest spring-summer collection of Valentino proves that, with an all-white model cast wearing tribal, African dresses and cornrows. But Aurora does a totally opposite thing. Rather than saying that her shoes are just “inspired with Kenya”, she really has them made in Kenya, by local craftsmen and women. Naturally, the artisans are properly paid, and have an amazing opportunity to show their real, heritage tradition of shoe making abroad.  “There is a popular saying in South Africa that only two things will survive the apocalypse: cockroaches, and vellies.” The phrase describes the indestructible nature of veldskoens (a South African shoe known colloquially as “vellies”) and an idea that is Aurora’s foundation of her design signature. James believes that her shoes should last for a long time – that’s why the quality of those hand-made shoes, decorated with various types of raffia, furs and feathers, have a solid and durable sole. Moreover, this talented, Brooklyn-based designer won the main CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund award together with the designer behind Gypsy Sport, Rio Uribe, and Jonathan Simkhai! Now, I am extremely curious what will be the next step for Aurora… and I can’t wait to see her shoes in person when they hit Europe.

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