Maasai inspired design and Mauritian coconut jewellery

Commonwealth Fashion Council

Explore the exchange story of designer Zinzi De Brouwer from Mozambique and artisan Beautiful Local Hands from Mauritius and find out how they created their look for The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange, 2018.

The Exchange: Mozambique x Mauritius
For The Commonwealth Fashion Exchange 2018, designer Zinzi De Brouwer exchanged with artisans Beautiful Local Hands to create a look that was inspired by architecture. The look was unveiled at Buckingham Palace on February 19, 2018, and later moved to the Australian High Commission, London, where it was open to the public in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, April 2018.
Mozambique: Designer Zinzi De Brouwer
Born in Maputo in 1987 with a Dutch background, Zinzi de Brouwer grew up surrounded by Mozambique’s unique landscape and culture. After completing a fashion design degree at Amsterdam’s Fashion Institute in 2010, Zinzi worked as a designer in Bali, Rome and latterly New York, where she interned for Proenza Schouler. A Masters degree in Fashion Strategy at the Institute of the Arts in Arnhem soon followed, before setting up her own multi-disciplinary design studio Stories of Near. Her ever-evolving design aesthetic draws much from her multi-cultural background, for example finding inspiration in traditional Mozambican cloth: the ‘capulana’. Her strong African roots have drawn her back to Mozambique, encouraging an ambition to enable empowerment to people, especially women, through craftsmanship, heritage and design by building bridges between cultures through shared ethical values.
Mauritius: Artisans Beautiful Local Hands
Beautiful Local Hands owes its beginnings to the charitable arm of Beachcomber Hotels, the FONDATION ESPOIR DÉVELOPPEMENT (FED). Thanks to this foundation’s principled approach to helping educate, train and mentor businesses local to its properties, a cooperative of 55 artisans came together in Mauritius to form Beautiful Local Hands. 

Experts in pottery, textiles, basketry and beadwork, the craft workers have benefitted from the careful structure of the business, allowing homeworkers who may struggle with conventional enterprise to work from home at their own pace. Those disadvantaged members of Mauritian society, including older women and disabled people are given new skills, escaping their isolation by meeting other craft workers and gaining confidence through their ability to earn an income. The promotion of traditional Mauritian handicraft techniques, using indigenous plants and recycled materials, maintains biodiversity and preserves the environment.

The story behind the look
Inspired by Maputo’s best-loved architect, Pancho Guedes, who shaped much of the city’s post-modernist buildings, Zinzi has created a dress that represents the juxtaposition of past and present in the urban landscape of the city. 

Illustration of the dress

Fabric inspiration

As Zinzi De Brouwer's look is inspired by architecture, the fabric chosen nods towards the Maasai tradition for checks and the grid-like structure of the city.

The ruffles and gathers symbolise the lush vegetation and the warm sunshine dappled through palm leaves.

Jewellery made from locally sourced materials

Beautiful Local Hands’ artisans, James Warren (aka Pop) and Dany Couyava, created a necklace and bangles to accessorise the look, made from locally sourced polished coconut sewn onto beige canvas.

Final look on display at Buckingham Palace, 19 February 2018

Final look on display at the Australian High Commission, London, 22 February 2018

Credits: Story

This content has been specifically curated for the Google Arts & Culture platform on behalf of the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange exhibition that launched on the 19th of February at Buckingham Palace in partnership with Swarovski, The Woolmark Company and MATCHESFASHION.COM.

The project, created and managed by Eco-Age, with the support of The Commonwealth Fashion Council and The British Fashion Council.

More information about the images is available by clicking on them.
Read more about the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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