In our current social climate, it can seem like an overwhelming number of causes for brands to align with, many, if not all, interrelated. At the heart of London-based Usisi Sister is a foundation of sisterhood, empowering women and addressing climate change through sustainable practices.
Launched in mid-2019 by sisters Kathryn and Millie Allsopp, the brand is driven by a simple logic: to create elegant, versatile and trendless pieces that will stand the test of time. Separated by a decade in age, the sisters have aimed to offer classic pieces like tailoring in two different colorways each to flatter different skin tones and body types.
Usisi (pronounced oo-see-see) means “sister” in Xhosa, one of the official languages in South Africa, where Kathryn and Millie’s mother grew up. The designers combine their South African heritage and London upbringing to inform a cultural hybrid of city and resortwear.
A core design element is a notion of functionality — effortless and polished dresses, tailoring and jumpsuits to take you from work to dinner, drinks to after party, then on holiday. “We want our styles to be lived in,” the designers wrote in e-mailed responses. “We both struggled to find a brand that was elegant and understated, and at an affordable price point.”
From the three collections launched, key pieces have included the Jana dress with draped neckline and side ties that create movement, a multifunctional jumpsuit, soft tailoring and silky draped tops, and sculptural accessories like the Eddie bag, a vintage yet modern style with contrasting calf leather and punchhole handle.
To create these items, the sisters employ women-led factories that comply with fair trade and ethical standards for workers, ensuring fair pay, safety and benefits. “As manufacturers, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to minimize the environmental and social impact of waste, pollution and worker exploitation. We know the people who make our collections,” they said. As members of Offset Earth, the business is carbon neutral/negative. Other sustainable practices include biodegradable packaging for their own e-commerce, using DPD (a carbon neutral company) for shipping, employing smart pattern cutting to reduce waste, and using natural fibers with a strict no polyester policy.
This month, ready-to-wear launched on Net-a-porter and handbags on Harvey Nichols. The collection is also available at Moda Operandi, Browns and their own ecommerce usisi-sister.com.