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Weekly Newsletter July 14, 2020

Textile spotlight: Kikoys!

We love kikoys -- these 100% cotton fabrics are soft, durable and add a pop of color to any outfit any time of year. Worn all over Kenya and Tanzania, these textiles are most commonly seen along the coast, where men, women and children can be seen sporting them as sarong-like wraps, shawls to keep off the coastal sun, headwraps, and even baby carriers!

Though most warm coastal communities around the world have a version of the kikoy, it's thought that they first originated along the Swahili coast, brought by Arab traders centuries ago. Fishermen adopted them as a convenient garment, comfortable, affordable and quick to dry! 

Characterized by a single solid color with striped bands and fringed ends, kikoys can be found in a variety of palettes from a simple black and grey to bright reds and oranges. 

How do you like to wear your kikoy?

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // Camayenne Sofa "A Grands Pas"

This album, originally released in 1976, is one of our favorites from the prolific Guinean band Camayenne Sofa, which was popular in the mid 1970's but stopped recording in the late 90's.  A rhythmic and soulful sound, throw it on the next time you go for a walk--you'll see your neighborhood with fresh eyes and a happy heart!

 

 

 

WHAT WE'RE READING // Beloved by Toni Morrison

 

If you haven't read this classic, now's the time! And if you have, it might be time to pick it up again. In our current moment when we are re-examining our history and biases and thinking about a better future, this novel provides a deeply felt reminder of the realities of slavery and how recent it was in our shared experience as a country.

 


 

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // Point of Origin with Stephen Satterfield

 

If you love food and learning about it as much as we do, this podcast was made for you! Host Stephen Satterfield takes us on a journey around the world to explore where our food comes from. Whether it's crossing oceans with the sea-faring coconut or talking about what a decolonized diet looks like, this podcast is the perfect listen for traveling and eating vicariously!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Weekly newsletter July 7, 2020

Community spotlight!

We love seeing you in Zuris out and about and in the news, and we especially love when you share your sightings and run-ins with us! We've said it before, but we are constantly amazed and inspired by the incredible women in our community, and we're spotlighting a few today!

Meet Prof. Melissa Murray! She's a Professor of Law at the NYU School of Law and Co-Director of the Birnbaum Women's Leadership Network, and a leading expert in family law, constitutional law, and reproductive rights and justice. She also co-hosts Strictly Scrutiny, a podcast about the Supreme Court. We'd highly recommend giving it a listen, especially if you're interested in recent Court decisions and how they affect us all.

 

Minerva Cuevas is a conceptual artist whose socially engaged practice encompasses a range of strategies and media including film, installation, performance, and site-specific public intervention. Her on-going work, Mejor Vida Corp.is a non-profit corporation that creates, promotes and distributes products and services for free, and through these subversive interventions, she is challenging how we think about our established economic and political systems.

 

 

 

Activist Alice Wong is the Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project, a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to creating, sharing and amplifying disability media and culture. She is the editor of Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-first Century, which just came out and we can't recommend it enough!

 

 

 

 

Artist Claire Ashley transforms ordinary materials into inflatable painted sculptures and they are truly mind-blowing! Her work investigates inflatables as painting, sculpture, installation and performance costume. These works have been exhibited nationally and internationally and we love their humor and interactivity.

 

 

 

 

GIVING UPDATE // Equal Justice Initiative

We are so proud and grateful to you, our community, for your masks purchases that have enabled us to donate a total of $8,700 from mask sales from the month of June to the Equal Justice Initiative. We will continue to direct the proceeds from masks sales this month to the Equal Justice Initiative to support their work to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality.

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Weekly Newsletter June 30, 2020

Hand-dyed in Accra and Dakar

We're so thrilled to share with you two new prints, one a hand-dyed batik made in Ghana by Edwina and her team, and the other a sitiba (stitch-resist) hand-stitched and dyed in Senegal by Cheikhouna and his family. It's a privilege to work with such skilled and talented artisans, and we hope that you'll love these textiles as much as we do!

Accra, Ghana

Wax prints as we know them today originated from the batik tradition, and we're thrilled to be able to work with this collective (hi Oparebea!) to produce hand-blocked batiks in Accra. Working with locally grown cotton, melted wax is applied to fabric, which is then dyed, and then the wax is removed leaving the design! Learn more about the process here.

 

Dakar, Senegal

Sitiba is a technique where the fabric is stitched into a design of tight folds and then dyed. The stitches act as a "resist" so that when they're taken out, the area inside the folds retains the original color of the fabric and the rest is dyed. Cheikhouna is one of the only remaining master dyers practicing this technique in Dakar, and we are privileged to be able to produce textiles with him!

 

 

NYC + SF // Stores re-opening!

We've missed you, and we're really excited to welcome you back to our shops!

We will be re-opening 363 Bleecker on Wednesday, July 1, and our opening hours will be Wed-Sun, from 11-5pm.

We'll be opening 1902B Fillmore on Friday, July 3, and our hours will be Fri-Sun, from 11-5pm. 

(Both stores will be closed on July 4!)

As you know, our stores are cozy places, so we will be limiting the number of people to two at a time inside. We ask that you please wear a mask and maintain social distance!

We are also taking private shopping appointments, so please feel free to reach out (heyzuri@shopzuri.com) to schedule a time at either location.

These are uncharted waters for us and we're taking each day as it comes.  We are taking all necessary precautions to protect both our team and you with routine cleaning and health checks, and we will be responsive to updates in state and city protocols. We can't wait to see you soon (from a safe distance of 6 ft)!

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // Sona Jobarteh

Two words: WOW + WOW.  Sona Jobarteh's music will awaken something in you that you haven't accessed in at least 106 days, and you will truly enjoy it.  A vocalist and instrumentalist from The Gambia, she is the the first professional female kora player to come out of one of the five main West African Griot families, and her music is just SO beautiful.  Sit near a window, put in your headphones, and let go.

 

 

 

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // Floodlines by Vann R. Newkirk II

Though it's been 15 years since Hurricane Katrina brought devastation to New Orleans, we're still learning from its lessons today. Host Vann Newkirk brings us the stories of people who lived through the flood, revealing what really happened and how much we misunderstood.

 

 

 

 

WHAT WE'RE READING // Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

From the first time I read Samantha Irby's essay collection, "We Are Never Meeting in Real Life," and couldn't move from the couch until I finished it, I was hooked. Non-stop giggling funny, unflinchingly raw, her newest essay collection documenting a more settled life at forty after growing up struggling with chronic illness and the loss of parents in her teens doesn't disappoint.

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Weekly Newsletter June 23, 2020

Textile Spotlight: Kanga

The first time I visited Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city in the heart of the Swahili coast, I remember seeing women all over the Old Town wearing a textile that I'd never seen before with a decorated border and Kiswahili phrase underlying a large central design. Some wore them as skirts, others headwraps, and still others had cut and sewn them into shirts and dresses. I soon learned that this textile is deeply ingrained in Swahili culture, and quickly took delight in the sayings that are central anchors to each fabric. 

The origin of the kanga, sometimes called leso, is contested, but most likely the fabric derived from kerchief squares, called lencos, brought by Portuguese traders from India and the Middle East as early as the 16th century. They are always printed and sold in pairs, two identical 1 1/2 meter rectangles generally divided and worn around as a head covering or shawl and around the waist. The motifs take inspiration from the wide ranging cultural influences that have converged over a millennium along the Swahili coast, from the Persian boteh to Rajasthani bandhani to the Bantu cashew nut.

Today, kangas are produced across East Africa, including by Thika Cloth Mills in Nairobi. While the sayings were only added in the early 20th century, they are now are central to the textile. It's always fun to see who is wearing what, and why they chose it (or received it!). Sometimes the messages are political or commemorative, printed specifically for an event or organization, but often they're reflective of everyday life. Some of us can probably relate to "I won’t eat in the darkness for fear of my neighbor (I do what I want!)" and all of us can relate to, "There is no one like mom."

Do you have a favorite kanga saying? Let us know!

GIVING UPDATE // Equal Justice Initiative

We are so proud to share that thanks to your support, we've raised $6,500 so far that we have donated to the Equal Justice Initiative. We believe deeply in the work that EJI is doing to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., challenge racial and economic injustice, and protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society and we are grateful that together, we can make a difference!

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // 1619 by Nikole Hannah-Jones

I rarely listen to a whole podcast from start to finish in one go, but once I started 1619, I couldn't stop listening. Hosted by reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, this podcast examines the impact of slavery on every aspect of American society from the very roots of the economy and American capitalism, to the development of the healthcare system, to land ownership and agriculture. Informative, illuminating and engaging, this podcast is essential listening.

 

WHAT WE'RE READING // The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This essay doesn't need much introduction, other than that it is essential reading by one of America's leading thinkers today. "To ignore the fact that one of the oldest republics in the world was erected on a foundation of white supremacy, to pretend that the problems of a dual society are the same as the problems of unregulated capitalism, is to cover the sin of national plunder with the sin of national lying...

What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag. Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history."

WHAT WE'RE READING // for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange

I've been missing the experience of theater and live performance, and this masterpiece while truly all-encompassing performed, takes on a whole different power and resonance when read. Glorious in its beauty of language and deeply felt in experience, reading this choreopoem will feel vital in this moment.

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Weekly Newsletter June 16, 2020

As someone who has worn a Zuri dress every day for the last three years, I'll be the first to say that it's hard to imagine getting dressed in something that does not have carrots, mushrooms or birds on it!  That being said, we do love a good solid, and we know that many of you have been clamoring for them to be brought into the mix, as well. So we thought: what better way to add beauty and character to a solid fabric, than with texture!

NOW without further ado: we're extremely proud to introduce to you our newest collection of ethically produced linens! Woven by India's oldest certified fair-trade artisanal weaving cooperative, these textiles turned out so beautifully, we couldn't be any more excited to share them! Each fabric is a hand-loomed blend of cotton and linen. We chose this blend for two reasons: 1) to create subtle texture and movement within the weave; and (more practically) 2) so that your shirts and dresses will be super easy to wash and wear, as they'll be more wrinkle resistant, more durable, and drape a bit heavier when worn. (While the fabric was produced in India, the dresses were all proudly stitched in Kenya by our team. 💖)

Why India, you ask? Some of you may remember that I spent some time in Calcutta a few years ago with the incredible team at Sasha (India's first self-managing artisanal fair-trade collective, founded in 1978). We were blown away by their mission as well as their work. Given their heritage and location, it made sense to work with linen, which is grown in the region. With Sasha, we were able to source ethically grown linen and work with their experienced weavers in West Bengal to make these textiles.  

What's next? Great question! We're always in search of textiles that are both beautiful and ethically produced, particularly when they involve artisanal techniques that can and should be carried on. So many of the textiles we see these days are mechanized reproductions of what would have been originally hand-made, and it's extremely important to us to keep these groups and these traditions engaged. We'd love to hear from you if you have any thoughts or suggestions, and as always, we'll keep traveling, learning, and appreciating the places and people who create the beauty in our world, wherever it may be.

In the meantime, we're thrilled to share these luminous textiles with you, and we promise that they will be your absolute go-to's this summer!

PS Shoutout to mother-daughter duo Inja and Nia for modeling our new fabrics!

Meet Rebati! From Tulshabari in East Medinipur, she has been weaving now for the past five years and has become an extremely accomplished weaver. Rebati is proud of the fact that her income and talent allow her family to lead a better life and set an example for her children.

 

 

 

 

WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO // Truth Be Told with Tonya Mosley

We love this podcast. Host Tonya Mosley takes listener questions and dispenses advice and so much truth! We especially recommend listening to last week's episode where she discusses the recent protests and systemic racism with Dr. Eddie Glaude from Princeton's African American Studies Department.

 

 

 

WHAT WE'RE READING // Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis

This collection of essays by activist and scholar Angela Davis is indispensable, especially in this moment when we are confronting injustice and creating change. Her analysis of past liberation struggles and discussions of intersectionality provide both inspiration and actionable grounds for how we can take on state violence and dismantle systemic racism and injustice individually and collectively.

 

 

 

 

WHAT WE'RE READING // What I Pledge Allegiance To by Kiese Laymon

We're big fans of Keise Laymon, and this essay on American-ness will stay with you long after you finish reading. 

"I am a black Mississippian. I am a black American. I pledge to never be passive, patriotic, or grateful in the face of American abuse. I pledge to always thoughtfully bite the self-righteous American hand that thinks it’s feeding us. I pledge to perpetually reckon with the possibility that there will never be any liberty, peace, and justice for all unless we accept that America, like Mississippi, is not clean. Nor is it great. Nor is it innocent."

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