Suno, Good Motifs, Motifs for Good

Created in 2008, Suno is one of the first ready-to-wear houses to successfully combine contemporary fashion aesthetics with an ethical, sustainable market positioning. This cross-cultural project was accomplished by the creative duo Max Osterweis and Erin Beatty – the former, a screenwriter and New York University graduate; the latter, a stylist trained at Parsons and seasoned at Tory Burch and Gap.
Max Osterweis was born in San Francisco to a Korean mother and a German-American father and considers Lamu, Kenya a second home. He is a collector of kangas, the loincloths worn by women in the Great Lakes region of Kenya.
First collection cut from vibrant prints inspired by Max Osterweis’ collection of vintage fabrics
These fabrics contain a rich repertoire of expressive, vivid motifs: exuberant geometrics, neoclassical florals, giant stylized flora, and illustrated quotidian vignettes. The designs are typically bordered with aphorisms in Swahili.
Max Osterweis was touched by the climate of sociopolitical violence affecting life in Kenya, combined with the economic threats following the 2007 presidential election. With Erin Beatty, he founded Suno with the idea of offering high-end fashion that could bring job opportunities to emerging economies.
Suno Fashion Show, Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2016 in New York
Spring/Summer 2016 runway
They created their first line of dresses, tunics and turbans cut from vibrant prints inspired by Max Osterweis’ collection of vintage fabrics, as an homage to the Kenyan nation. This fresh mix emphasizing materials led to success for the New York brand.
The design duo started working with artisans in Kenya and began training tailors. Seven years later, the brand has developed workshops in Africa, Peru, India, and Europe. Choosing textile suppliers is central to the house’s approach, as they seek partners with strong savoir-faire who understand the brand’s aesthetic while offering acceptable working conditions to their employees.
Spring/Summer 2016 runway, detail
Suno also produces a portion of its collections in the New York Garment District, in the heart of Manhattan. Far from humanitarian posturing, the house convinces with a realistic engagement with these issues, embellished by a touch of cosmopolitan glamor. Valorizing the origin of fabrics and the production of collection pieces have been creative priorities and have proven to be strong sales pitches as well.
Cover Photo: Spring/Summer 2016 runway during New York Fashion Week
Photo Credits: Suno NY