Portugal native Sonia Afonso calls the world home, having lived in locales like Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, and Tokyo before eventually landing in Lake Forest. But it was in 2018 when Afonso found a way to combine her love of travel and culture with her interest in fashion.
The result? Afonso’s lifestyle label Hoshi Collective.
Combining a passion for sustainability with an interest in cultural preservation, Hoshi aims to create timeless pieces for women who are looking to define their own style with sourcing from cultures around the world. Each product is developed with the idea of promoting local craftsmanship, and the launch collection includes handmade baskets from artisans in Portugal and Panama hats from Ecuador. Each is designed by Hoshi but made by local artisans.
“My interest in cultural preservation comes from living abroad and from embracing and experiencing different cultures,” says Afonso. “In Norway, every time there’s a wedding or an important party, like the National Day, they always wear traditional costumes—the bunad. In Japan, women wear kimonos for tea ceremonies, festivals, and special occasions. With Hoshi, I want to keep those traditions alive.”
Afonso says moving across the world—nearly every three years for her husband’s job—gave her the freedom to try something new. When the family first moved to Switzerland, she learned German; in Sweden, she volunteered for humanitarian organization UNICEF; and, in Tokyo, she furthered her interest in photography and launched a travel blog, Out and About Tokyo, which led to freelance web design work in Norway.
“I love moving and the feeling of a new place,” says Afonso. “I’ve gained so much from embracing new cultures. I understand others more and don’t judge as much.”
Of all the places she’s lived, Afonso counts Japan as her favorite and says its impact on her is “difficult to explain.”
The name Hoshi comes from the Japanese word for “star,” and Afonso says the star is the brand’s unifying element, as no matter where you are in the world, we all look at the same sun.
Even though Afonso had no formal background in fashion, her parents used to run fashion retail stores in Portugal, so she’d always had a passion for the industry. And she still uses her background in photography and web design with Hoshi today, wearing many hats, if you will.
“The day it was launched in May of 2019, I couldn’t believe it was finally happening,” she says. “Every brand takes time to build and sales are important, for sure, but we want people to see that we’re doing something that goes beyond that. That’s what gives me motivation to continue and makes me feel proud.”
Hoshi gives one percent of its sales to Chicago-based Dress for Success, a global nonprofit organization that provides professional attire for low-income women to help support their job-search and interview process. Not only does Hoshi donate money, but Afonso gives her time, too, and volunteers when she can.
“Dress for Success really resonates with what we are doing,” says Afonso. “Not everyone is in the position to start something because they simply might not have the resources or connections, but we all have dreams. I want to help women come back to work and find their way.”
Hoshi does just that outside of Chicago as well by working with artisans worldwide who bring their vision to life with contemporary designs that are usable for day-to-day life.
Recently, Hoshi launched bracelets made by the Maasai tribe in Kenya and a new hat named the Salinas.
We can’t wait to see what they are up to next.
For more information, visit hoshicollective.com.