There are dream jobs, and then there’s Muzungu Sisters. Founded in 2011, the online store sells fashion created by artisans around the world and has sent founders Dana Alikhani and Tatiana Santo Domingo shopping in some of the most far-flung corners of the globe. In Swahili, muzungu means traveller or wanderer, and the two have visited Peru, Morocco and Brazil for traditional alpaca boleros, bespoke velvet jackets, handwoven bags and more.

While not actually sisters, the two women are bonded by a common mission. “One of our main goals is to raise awareness of the crafts of the local artisans we work with,” Dana says. “By exposing these traditional items of national heritage to an international audience and new markets, we aim to support local economies and ensure that the artisans we work with are able to continue supporting themselves and their communities through their crafts.” Dana, who has an MA in human rights from Columbia University in New York and has worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, wanted to develop a business in line with her commitment to human rights and fair fashion. Tatiana was working at Vanity Fair and had her mind set on travelling, collecting pieces from around the world and curating a site. Their visions collided.

By visiting artisans’ workspaces, they are able to check on working conditions and fair wages, and build a relationship that allows them to custom-order garments. “Many of the items we take exactly as they are,” Tatiana says, but in other cases they offer input or design ideas. The Vera clutch, for example, is the duo’s own design, but they employ Brazilian artisans to realise it. “The clutches are handwoven and crocheted by a non-profit women’s organisation that trains women from low-income urban communities – favelas – to learn the crochet skills that are typical of São Paulo craftsmanship,” Dana says. “In turn, as the young women learn these crochet skills they can ensure they have a means of guaranteeing self-sufficiency.” The Moroccan velvet jackets stocked on the site are made by a family of couturiers. “The father trained under Yves Saint Laurent during his time in Marrakech,” Dana explains, “and has passed his skill onto his three apprentices, who do the fine stitching and hand-embroidery that is customary on this type of jacket.”

Since launching, Muzungu Sisters has had pop-ups in eight countries. “We are trying to grow our business slowly and organically,” Tatiana says, which means looking to new horizons and seeking talent in Kenya, Guatemala and Tibet.

Text by Janine Bartels