Chicago’s Very Own: Niala Conte and Anne Sweeney
“All of the scarves are named after the girls that created the designs.”
The girls Anne Sweeney is referring to live in Nairobi, Kenya, refugees displaced by war. Many of them have been abused, most have lost their families.
The women spend hours making each unique and exquisite scarves by hand.
The scarves are part of the Maisha Collective, the income generating project of Heshima Kenya, a non profit Sweeney co-founded in Nairobi in 2008.
Until recently, the scarves were only sold online.
Then boutique owner Niala Conte saw them. “And I love the colors and the style and it’s very much my style,” she said.
Niala thought they’d be perfect in her boutique on Chicago’s Gold Coast. Niala is the first Chicago retail store to carry these scarves.
The partnership is helping to generate interest in a crisis that’s 8,000 miles away. Shoppers who frequent this area will now know the stories behind the scarves. And knowing that people are interested in their work, helps to empower these young women.
Niala’s Conte and Anne Sweeney are two of Chicago’s Very Own.