Cecilia Fuentes Ibarburu is Chilean but is an ambassador of South American culture. In her South Embassy store in Mitte, she sells alpaca wool scarves from Peru, Amazon forest jewelry, Ecuadorian felt hats and much more.
Richly embroidered clothing from Mexico, soft alpaca scarves from Peru, jewelry designed in the Amazon rain-forest, 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 organized 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.
'Like an oasis'
"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 color in winter. This shop is like an oasis – it's my home and I am happy to welcome people in."
Author: Friedhelm Teicke
Alte Schönhauser Str. 33-34