Four design teams are forging ahead with launches, despite the shaky economy. Each insists their label addresses new pockets of business. Time will tell.

Suno

Manufacturing in Nairobi, Kenya, Max Osterweis faces deterrents most start-ups don’t see — routine power outages, overturned buses and the occasional wayward snake. With his new label, Suno, which makes its debut this spring at Opening Ceremony, he is trying to work around those things to build a thriving business that employs Kenyan workers and shows off their artistry.

Osterweis first traveled to Nairobi 13 years ago when his mother, for whom the collection is named, built a house there. He has collected textiles since then and now has something to do with all that fabric. Wary that Kenya’s recent postelection upheaval might keep tourists and potential investors in the country away, Osterweis is determined to use the local talent. “The Kenyan people really get the big picture. Hopefully, if this works, we will be able to do a lot of things here,” he said. “There is a lot of opportunity for jobs here.”

The first collection consists of 1,000 one-of-a-kind pieces and the second one will be double that size. In addition to Opening Ceremony’s stores in New York and Los Angeles, Osterweis plans to sell the line in six other stores in six other cities. Retail prices will range from $160 for a tank to $600 for a dress.

Osterweis divides his time between New York and Nairobi, and his background is as diverse as those two places. A graduate of New York University’s film school, he recently was commissioned to write the screenplay for a feature-length action film, but will continue to design Suno. He said fashion has similarities to film. “In a way, designing clothes is the same thing as making a film in that you are telling a visual story.”

— Rosemary Feitelberg


 

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