Chile: South Embassy specialty store

Planet Berlin: Showcasing South American culture

Bringing people together

Having organized a fashion trade fair in her Chilean homeland, Cecilia Fuentes Ibarburu later founded her own Latin American fashion label when she came to Germany. Meanwhile, South Embassy is not just retail store, but also hosts Latin American events and brings people together like an actual embassy.

Planet Berlin: Showcasing South American culture

Traditional wares

Among the 2000 products on offer, South Embassy is filled with ceramic utensils and decorative figurines procured from across Latin America. These arts and crafts constitute centuries-old South American traditions, and contrast with the contemporary fashion also on display.

Planet Berlin: Showcasing South American culture

Regionally sourced

A necklace from Colombia, liqueur from Mexico, carpets from Peru or ceramic bowls from Chile. The great variety of Latin American goods in the Berlin-Mitte concept store is a labor of love, with Cecilia Fuentes Ibarburu avidly procuring the articles from small, regional manufacturers.

Planet Berlin: Showcasing South American culture

Department store of the south

While the Kaufhaus des Westens (department store of the west) has been a magnet for visitors in Berlin for decades, South Embassy is emerging as the department store of the south: Clothing, accessories, jewelry, wines, art, cooking and architecture books fill the shelves. Pictured here, there's also a delicatessen.

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.

Chile: South Embassy - Move your cursor or finger for the 360° view

'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.

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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

SOUTH EMBASSY
Alte Schönhauser Str. 33-34
10119 Berlin-Mitte