Caroline Fuss of the Harare Collection Empowers Artisans and Inspires the Design Community
Fashion designer Caroline Fuss is a vibrant burst of energy, radiating her infectious and friendly personality throughout the room, as most Aussies do. We sit in her effortlessly-cool Midtown studio that overlooks Manhattan. We’re concealed in the shadow of the Empire State building, surrounded by the buzzing hustle and bustle of hectic city life below.
This Zen workspace is her urban retreat, the atmosphere is hippy-chic with a relaxed vibe. Pictures, drawings, and magazine clippings cover the walls, creating a range of inspiration boards. The mood boards, Fuss states, perfectly comprise her “girl”. It’s everything that she’s envisioned of the brand and all the qualities that encompass her target customer. These have proven to be a success, with her “idea” of Harare as something that women worldwide not only desire to buy into, but hope to embody.
Harare is a beautifully-detailed, airy, and free-flowing fashion line that was founded by Fuss in 2013. The name was inspired by Fuss’ mother’s and grandmother’s birthplace in Zimbabwe. Fuss explains that Harare’s ethos is:
“Devoted to unearthing the rich artisan culture from around the globe and celebrating it through high-end women’s fashion.”
With vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and elaborate weaving, it’s every girl’s dream to slip on a piece of Harare couture.
Harare has been featured at New York Fashion week since 2014, and the Fuss collections are carried worldwide in boutiques. Working with just a small team of interns, Fuss is the one-woman show and driving force behind the brand. Before moving her studio to Midtown, she was creating products from her artsy loft in the Bronx.
Fuss travels between South America and Southeast Asia in search of materials to acquire and skilled artisans to enhance the lure of Harare. “I know that it is the human hand, not the machine, that has the power to imbue fashion with soul,” she explains. Thus, Harare is founded upon caring for the hands that weave, dye, knit, and sew its garments, fulfilling the demands of the customers who do not just seek, but expect, such values.
Fuss comes from humble beginnings, hailing from a small town on Australia’s Gold Coast. After she moved to the States, she claims that braving the New York City winters and the metropolitan chaos are what kept her driven, making her unfailingly determined to secure her place in the fashion industry.
Yet Fuss faces the decision that all fashion houses must ultimately confront: whether to be ethical in the creation of their products or to simply turn a blind eye. Ethically-conscious fashion is obviously the best alternative, with companies opting for fair wages for employees and creating products that are environmentally-friendly.
Sadly, and more often than not, companies choose the cheaper option.
Major brands like H&M, Victoria’s Secret, and Zara are notorious for their unethical operations, such as their utilization of harmful materials and chemicals, wrongful treatment of workers, and child labor exploitation. Fuss explained that unlike these fast fashion practices Harare aims to “establish and nurture relationships with master craftsmen and women across the far reaches of the world” by alternatively providing them with the tools and finances to help preserve their otherwise-dying art forms.
Although Fuss is a veteran fashion designer—she graduated from TAFE University in Sydney and studied at FIT in NYC—she’s still facing the uncertainty that comes with establishing a new label. Perhaps most difficult of all, though, is bearing the financial costs in order to make a commitment to her values. While Fuss spends more money upfront because of her belief in environmentally-sound policies, she states that she could never opt for any other choice.
She voiced that she would rather “go broke” and live with an easy conscience, knowing that she had created an inspiring body of art while making the world a better place.
By speaking with Fuss, I witnessed that her commitment to Harare is not only empowering artisans, but edifying consumers and providing a model for the design community. Harare is a part of a pioneering movement that is ecologically-friendly, locally-sourced, sustainable, and above all, human.
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FROM THE EDITOR
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