After volunteering in post-tsunami Sri Lanka in 2004, Australian cousins Jessica Brown and Hayley Maynard found themselves laying the groundwork for KissinCussin, an ethical womenswear label that employs local women to produce its vibrant hand-printed wares. In Talalla Bay, where the relatives spent the better part of eight months, Brown and Maynard arrived at the perfect place to launch their production facility. Not only would they be able to harness the residents’ talents, but they could also help the community generate income while it rebuilt and recovered from the disaster.“The ladies, mainly from Talalla village, were previously unemployed skilled seamstresses and we offered them an opportunity to work close to their families,” Maynard tells Ecouterre.

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Splitting their time between their studio in sunny Bondi Beach and Talalla Bay, the cousins still work closely with the seamstresses. (Four months out of the year is spent in the South Asian country.) “Despite not speaking each other’s language, we all have a bit of a village gossip and giggle over morning teatime, we share a really lovely relationship with them and work closely together each day that we are in Sri Lanka,” Maynard says.

The cousins split their time between their studio in Bondi Beach and Talalla Bay in Sri Lanka./blockquote>

The label’s recent collection features dark shades of purples and deep gold, printed in patterns reminiscent of butterfly wings. Dresses hover closely to the ground only to let ankles peek out while scooped necklines hint at the ’70s fashion revival.

Although KissinCussin has grown quickly since its launch in 2008, Brown and Maynard aren’t about to get complacent. Exciting new fabric developments and an evolving marketing strategy are keeping the duo on its toes. It’s refreshing to see an emerging label that has clearly found a balance between helping those in need and maintaining its creative exuberance.

+ KissinCussin