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Africa is a big trend this season (and I'm not the only one to wonder if President Obama's heritage was on designers' minds). Done badly, ethnic-inspired fashion brings to mind the shapeless, scratchy, unflattering hippie-wear so ubiquitous to American street fairs. Done well, it emits a vivid, vital energy.
Suno, using intense color and vibrant prints in modern shapes, does it well. In the spring collection, I particularly like the look of a couple of sleeveless, almost wrap-type dresses (combined with a model's head scarf, one also transmits a 50s domestic-goddess vibe) and a short-sleeved collared dress emblazoned with purple flowers.
The line is the creation of Max Osterweis, a screenwriter and artist who first visited Kenya in 1996 and started collecting textiles, including kangas, large squares of material with bold, occasionally whimsical prints. The line is designed in New York, but the garments are actually produced in small fair-trade workshops in Kenya. Since no two kangas are identical--and many of them used in the collection are vintage--each item is different from the last.
Suno is carried locally at Ikram, and prices range from $95 to $595. Items on the lower end of that scale include bikinis at $95 each and T-shirts for $185.