After a stint at fashion-house Proenza Schouler, Australian-born, New York City-based designer Caroline Fuss set out on her own to create Harare in 2013 sparked by a trip to Central America where she fell in love with indigenous textiles.
The line is named after the Zimbabwean city from where both her mother and grandmother hail, but its heart lives in Guatemala, where Fuss built intimate relationships with female artisans there who taught her local techniques, like back strap weaving, foot loom weaving, and hand embroidery. The work of these artisans is stunning and we’ve got our eyes on a floor-length chartreuse dress with micro-embroidery detail.
We sat down with the designer to chat about her Fashion Week debut, and why it was important to her to focus on sustainable fabric treatments, brocades, and embroideries.
THE TRUTH SERUM: Why Guatemala?
CAROLINE FUSS: Guatemala is such a magical place for textiles and craft it’s difficult to not be inspired once visiting. I was fortunate enough to make an incredible contact with an agent there who believed in my vision and has been working with me ever since.
THE TRUTH SERUM: How did you find Harare’s craftswomen, and what is your process?
CAROLINE FUSS: My agent and I sit down and discuss the direction of the collection and what I’d like to achieve. We then look at different villages and groups of women who can best execute it. From there, I drive anywhere from 2-10 hours cross-country to meet with them in person and collaborate on the vision (this is my favorite part). It’s an incredible time for me, and truly so beautiful to work with amazing artisans. I feel like I know these families a little better and have a relationship with all involved. I just love that part of the process.
THE TRUTH SERUM: Why the name Harare?
CAROLINE FUSS: My mother and grandmother were both born in Harare, Zimbabwe. I was born in Australia but would frequent South Africa to visit family while growing up. African culture was a huge part of my childhood and I was always so fascinated and drawn to strong black women. I always thought they were so beautiful.
THE TRUTH SERUM: What’s been the biggest challenge?
CAROLINE FUSS: The first season was a real learning experience. I had to build relationships with factories and vendors and have them trust and believe in my brand and vision. Now we understand each other better and it’s easier, but it’s kind of like being at a new school at first and having to make a whole new set of friends, while feeling entirely vulnerable the entire time.
THE TRUTH SERUM: Will you continue working with women in Guatemala?
CAROLINE FUSS: Guatemalan work will always be incorporated in my collections. For the future, I would like to harvest these types of relationships with artisans world-wide. Countries like Bolivia, Mongolia, Ghana, Nigeria, and India are really interesting to me for the future.