Philanthropy | For Goodness’ Sake

Putting Kenya’s capital on the fashion map

How a New York fashion label is training tailors in Kenya

Putting Kenya’s capital on the fashion map

September 15 2010
Sibéal Pounder

Nairobi isn’t known as one of fashion’s haute spots, but Max Osterweis, creative director of New York-based label Suno, is determined to put it on the map. Since founding Suno in 2008, Osterweis (whose mother has a house on Kenya’s Lamu island) has been training local artisans to make his ethnic-influenced, tailored clothes (pictured).

“Over the past two years, I’ve taken many experts to Nairobi,” he says. “One of our designers, Erin Beatty, taught sewing techniques, and a technical designer recently gave lessons in sophisticated cutting skills.”

The Suno staff also advise workshops on management strategies to ensure healthy conditions.

Having started with a small, semi-skilled team, Suno now counts around 40 fully trained tailors on its roster. And this year, new training facilities are being constructed for an additional 20 to 30 aspiring tailors. “Every season brings new styles and different skills,” said Osterweis. “There are always new things to learn.”