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Mrs-O.com is a blog dedicated to chronicling the fashion and style of First Lady Michelle Obama. Founded September 2008. 

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Thursday
Jul162009

A Closer Look at SUNO

When Mrs. O traveled to San Francisco a few weeks ago we got several inquiries about her heart print tunic, but not until later did we discover the designer (via a Mrs-O.org tipster via New York magazine, thank you!). The top is from a new label called SUNO, formed in 2008 by Max Osterweis, a film director and screenwriter turned designer.

The inspiration for the collection came after Mr. Osterweis spent more than a decade collecting textiles from Kenya, where his mother had built a house on Lamu Island. (The collection is named after her.) Wanting to do something positive for Kenya after the country found itself in political turmoil in 2008, Max decided to put his collection of fabrics to new use.

He started SUNO -- a company that employs local Kenyan talent and is committed to treating workers fairly. The overarching aim is to affect positive and lasting economic and social change.

Design for the SUNO collection originates in New York City, where sample and pattern makers construct the first pieces for the collection. The patterns and samples are then sent to Kenya, where the garments are produced in small artisan workshops. The first SUNO collection for Spring/Summer 2009 consisted of 1,000 individually numbered, one of a kind pieces made from Kenya kangas. (Kangas are large rectangles of printed cotton that come from coastal East African tradition.) The pieces are then finished with touches of silk charmeuse, used for piping, binding, pockets and collars.

Mrs. O's top is a cotton tunic by SUNO, made at a small fair-trade workshop in Kenya from a vintage kanga. The top was purchased from Ikram in Chicago. With such a substantive background and lovely, interesting pieces, we are not suprised that SUNO has found its way into Mrs. O's wardrobe. Fingers crossed there is more to come! To see the SUNO collection, click here. For further reading, click here.

 Photo by Kimberly White/ Getty Images

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Reader Comments (18)

I love the SUNO collection

Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterEbony

What gorgeous clothes!

I hope she will wear more of his work. Slightly lengthened, of course.

Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterdesertwind

Awwww...shout out to her hubby's father's side of the family! Thanks Mrs. T, for the info.

Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 9:48 PM | Registered CommenterIVA

Great collection, very colorful and I saw quite a few pieces that I would wear. Most of those outfits are too avant-garde for Mrs. Obama, but I can see a few of the separates on her. I'm sure they could also custom make something for her (if that tunic wasn't so).

Now something from THIS design house is what she could've worn on her most recent foreign trip, and help keep those Kenyan workers employed like she's done for other designers. It's not a black-owned design house (Mrs. Obama continues her snub, which I do not like...wearing Tracy Reese and Kai Milla once was an attempt to get critics off her back about this very issue), but the next best thing to further diversifying her wardrobe choices and to where she spends her money.

Kudos to Mrs. O for introducing me to a new, good designer!

Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 10:15 PM | Registered CommenterMara

Goodness, Mara...u are too much. I just have no words to describe the vibe you manage to convey. Total downer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 10:26 PM | Registered CommenterIVA

True that, IVA. She is definitely what people call NICE NASTY.

Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 11:05 PM | Registered CommenterNyon

It's wonderful to see fabric and design with African influence. Some of them are fabulous. Some of them are a bit over the top for me. I especially found the leopard print stockings over the top. But, it's all a matter of taste. I hope that Mrs. O will wear more African and African American designers.

Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 11:57 PM | Registered CommenterWillow

I can't believe that there is actually a website for the non-fashion Obama, love her but her clothes look like nothing special.

Friday, July 17, 2009 at 12:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterjanie

I think these some of these pieces would actually work for her - some of the dresses could be tunics over her leggings, and the jackets are also her kind of look.

I like that MO chose to wear this house in the US, rather than saving it for her trip. I think it was a good move. Suno is providing employment for those who work in the artisan houses in Kenya, which is sorely needed. And MO is showcasing this beautiful line in the US. I think that wearing it in Kenya could have looked patronizing and given the impression that she was only wearing it because it was Kenyan. Wearing it here sends the message that this is part of her wardrobe, and we should think about such items being part of ours as well.

Friday, July 17, 2009 at 12:51 AM | Registered Commenteroperafanatic

Mrs. T, great research as always. Fascinating background on that designer.

"(Mrs. Obama continues her snub, which I do not like...wearing Tracy Reese and Kai Milla once was an attempt to get critics off her back about this very issue)"

How do you know that she wore those designers in an effort to get critics off her back, rather than as a personal choice? If she cared about critics, wouldn't she stop wearing belts?

I suspect her wearing Kai Milla was less a choice about critics and more a nice gesture to the wife of Stevie Wonder, who was being honored.

Friday, July 17, 2009 at 5:39 AM | Registered CommenterChristina

What wonderful insight into such a divine designer. The pieces are very tribal and exotic, managing to invoke thoughts of tropical locales and destinations. I'm quite happy that Mrs. O has elected to wear some of SUNO's creations! :)

Friday, July 17, 2009 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterCafe Fashionista

Oh girls, I think it's time we ignored Mara. She's got nothing nice to say, not really. She sprinkles about some positive words to make it look OK, but actually, it's just damning with faint praise and just itching for some attention. It's time to vote with silence!!!

I really liked that top Mrs Obama wore, but I must say the story behind it is even better. I'm inspired to go back to my old neighbourhood in East London and buy some of this fabric and sew it up myself. I always loved the patterns but back then I was very committed to my "I wear black" philosophy and never bought any! Now I'm inspired and now I wear colour, I don't live there!!! (Long drive at the weekend, I can see...)

Friday, July 17, 2009 at 10:10 AM | Registered CommenterPosh Tater

Gorgeous stuff! I've learned about amazing designers through Mrs. O-the person and the website, ;)

I love this stuff- 100% African yet it has an early 20th century European portraiture flair...

This is a more futuristic and optimistic Afro-European/Euro-African aesthetic that rejects the deplorable colonial insinuations which others in the fashion industry romanticize and capitalize on.

Friday, July 17, 2009 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered Commentersd

I wish I knew where this could be found in my area. The website is a little unclear to me.

Friday, July 17, 2009 at 7:08 PM | Registered CommenterChristina

@Christina - I found a February 2009 edition of Daily Candy (dailycandy.com), where there is info under the title "Suno Wrestling." It is (or was) available at Opening Ceremony, a shop on Howard Street in NYC. Or check out openingceremony.us. It's another edgy, artsy website that is almost impossible to navigate, but maybe you will have better luck. Or call the shop. Or Ikram might be able to give you some help.

Keep us posted - it's a very cool line and a piece here or there would be great fun.

Friday, July 17, 2009 at 10:08 PM | Registered Commenteroperafanatic

I don't know...I've seen the tunic she was wearing and I would say that its Lalesso another brand based in Kenya that makes clothing using Kanga. But I am guessing based on the style.

P.S. there are many not-known designers that make clothing using Kanga fabric from East Africa/Kenya (I am from Kenya and I am a bit of a fashionista)

Monday, July 20, 2009 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered Commentercolorbash

after i told you so! remember the name of the fabric!?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 5:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterAwino

Check out www.fafakenya.org for other designers from Kenya & around Africa. Swahili Fashion Week will have more from Tanzania.

I'm a designer working in Kenya - those I know who are working with khanga apart from Suno include Kooroo, Ki2, Lalesso, Dwara & many others do collections in it now and again.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnn

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