Cecilia Fuentes Ibarburu brings her passion for South America and its bespoke, artisan products to her chic store in Mitte. An embassy in a literal sense, the shop is a treasure trove of gems from her home continent and serves as a hub for the South American community in Berlin.
Richly embroidered clothing from Mexico, soft alpaca scarves from Peru, jewellery designed in the Amazon rainforest, traditional felt hats from Ecuador — this small shop in Berlin Mitte is a treasure trove of South American gems. “I have 2,000 products on offer,” beams Cecilia Fuentes Ibarburu. She is a font of inspiration and she knows just how to grab her guests’ attention.
“I am interested in everything — that’s the problem,” she laughs. In her home country of Chile, she organised a fashion trade fair where she discovered new designers and local textiles made of wool from alpacas and vicuñas. But she knew there was a better way to market those products. “That’s why I founded South Embassy and moved to Berlin, taking the project with me.”
Her flagship store, located in the busy shopping district around Alte Schönhauser Strasse in Berlin Mitte is many things in one: it’s a retailer and wholesaler for fashion, design, decorative items, media, wine, and specialities from all over South America, but it also serves as a hub for Latin American events and a meeting place for the community. The store also operates an online shop and gallery.
“I see South Embassy as an embassy in a literal sense, as a point of contact for South American culture and business that brings people together and helps to promote new business ideas both here and in South America.” After studying tourism and industrial design in Chile, Cecilia Fuentes Ibarburu took a trip to Germany. While skiing, she met a man from Munich and moved with him to Bavaria. She learned German from the Bach Choir in Munich.
“I developed my own methods,” she says, elaborating, “When you sing in a foreign language, your subconscious automatically develops a feel for the language and its melodies.” But Cecilia Fuentes Ibarburu’s products aren’t just consumer goods. For her, “Each product tells a story about people and culture.”
Her customers include Latinos, native Berliners from the district, and tourists. “Hospitality is vital to what I do — I want to share that warmth. Berlin has plenty of cold weather and there is so little colour in winter. This shop is like an oasis — it’s my home and I am happy to welcome people in.”
All photos by Lena Ganssmann
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Alte Schönhauser Str. 33-34, 10119 Berlin-Mitte
T (030) 280 416 81