Q&A with SUNO founder, Max Osterweis
Max Osterweis founded SUNO in 2008 as a response to post-election violence in Kenya as an attempt to produce ethically and responsibly made garments. SUNO has taken the fashion world by storm, almost singlehandedly leading the print revival of the past few years, their colorful, bold prints and fun silhouettes offering an easy option for a modern, well-traveled “bohemian achiever.” In 2013 they won the Swarovski Womenswear Designer of the Year Award and have been nominated several times for the CFDA Fashion Awards. The line continues to incorporate Kenyan kangas and vibrant, printed vintage textiles from Osterweis’ collection combined with fresh, modern designs by Erin Beatty, a former Gap designer.
Osterweis took a few moments to answer some questions for us about the line and his inspiration. Meet him and Beatty at the opening party for our new location on Wednesday, May 20th from 6-8pm!
Shop Suno Spring and PreFall collections at our two day trunk show Tuesday, May 19th & Wednesday, May 20th from 12-4pm.
Where does the name SUNO come from?
SUNO is my mother's name.
Tell us about your family history. Your mother has been a big influence on your life - how did she affect you in regards to fashion?
My mother, Suno, is Korean, but was raised all over. My father is third or fourth generation German-Jewish-American and grew up mostly on the East Coast. They met in Berkeley in the late '60s. Because neither parent was raised within just one culture, I've probably been especially open minded about the world and what it has to offer.
My mother has always been a serious lover of fashion, so, from an aesthetic standpoint she's had an incredible influence on me. My father, on the other hand, has never been terribly excited about fashion, so, maybe he's influenced my own personal sense of style (I typically wear the same thing, black jeans and a white tee, everyday).
What kind of sustainable practices does SUNO employ?
SUNO is an ethical and socially responsible company. We work with factories where we feel employees are treated well and the working conditions are safe. We often work in communities where we can help contribute to positive social change. Our internal motto is "Beautiful Things, Beautifully Made" - we like to feel good about both what we put out into the world and how we interact with it.
Who is the SUNO woman? Who are you designing for?
The SUNO woman is intelligent, creative, worldly, and modern. She likes to stand out, but doesn't need to be the center of attention. Although it's been exciting to see so many incredible and accomplished women become fans (from Michelle Obama to Sofia Coppola to Beyonce to Taylor Swift to Maria Sharapova and Cindy Sherman) we started out making clothes for our friends. Over the years we've learned a lot about our customers and many of them are successful entrepreneurs, artists, and creatives - a friend of ours recently called our woman "the bohemian achievers," which we thought was funny and works for some of our girls.
After growing up in San Francisco, how do you feel like the city has influenced you and your creative work? What's your favorite place to eat in SF?
Although I grew up in San Francisco, I left for New York when I was 17, so, I think what I got from SF is from the culture of the generation before me – an entrepreneurial spirit combined with a genuine sense of social responsibility. More than half my life has been in NYC, so, in most ways, I'm more a New Yorker than a San Franciscan, however, I am still a diehard Niners fan, nothing beats a real mission style Burrito, I still prefer Dungeness crab to any East Coast crabs, I miss the proximity to nature, and (although I enjoy the drama of the Knicks) I am currently very excited about the Warriors.
Other than my mom's kitchen, SPQR is probably my favorite restaurant in SF.
What books, music, art, etc. were the inspiration behind the A/W 2015 collection?
Our inspiration for Fall 2015 is actually a character: Bertha Mason, from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and her reinterpreted self as Antoinette Cosway in Jean Rhy's Wide Sargasso Sea. She interested us because of her heritage - a Creole, born in Jamaica then moved to Victorian England - as well as her madness and its many interpretations.
Where are you going to take your next vacation?
Being in the Bay Area is a vacation for me! I will hike Tam, run Crissy Field, visit Bolinas, get some seafood from Swan's, have a giant burrito in the Mission, and see friends I never get to see.