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In addition to getting a full page in Vogue México + Latinoamérica highlighting SYOU’s co-creation philosophy, several of our Colombian creative talents and local collaborations, on August 1st we got mentioned in one of the most important newspapers in the Netherlands: The NRC.
‘Medellin: A city that rose from the dead’ is the title of the two page article written by journalist Harry Meijer about the metamorphosis of Medellín in the past decade. This city used to be considered the most dangerous city in the world and has now become one of Colombia’s safest places. To get an inside scoop on Medellín's past, current and future situation, Meijer flew there and spoke to locals who shared with him their own personal experience. It is a great honor for us that one of these people was our very own country manager, Xandra Uribe.
The following is a segment from the NRC article:
"We want to free ourselves from our history" says Xandra Uribe, a chatty 41 year old wearing a fashionable hat. She joined forces with a Dutch businessman to found sneaker brand SYOU. ‘The problems of the city gave us a lot of dynamic. You can feel the energy here in Medellín, in the entire country. Your re-known airline KLM recently started flying directly to Bogotá, "and that’s for a reason", she says on a terrace at Parque Lleras, Medellin’s most exciting spot, filled with bars and restaurants. She left the city in 1989 because there was no room left for life. ‘We were completely isolated, going to school straight from home. You couldn’t go anywhere else, it was incredibly unsafe". Now she does canvas printed sneakers, and every part of the shoe is local. "Really cool".
Meijer’s article is very optimistic, yet objective and fair. He spoke to Sergio Fajardo, the current governor of Antioquia, one of Colombia's 32 'departments or states. He talks about the pain and fear that violence and destruction carry with them. "When a population is scared, there is no room left for dreams. And that is exactly what we've changed. We created new public spaces for education, cultural centers, botanical gardens, parks and escalators. The new spaces have brought a sense of trust and dignity".
Governor Fajardo and his men recently set up a film festival in Ituango, an isolated place in the mountains that was infested by coke fields and the FARC which has been transformed into a town with a film festival. They wanted to inspire the youth of Ituango and get them out of their isolation.
However, Meijer doesn't exclusively speak about the success stories. No. He also spoke to people that have a sceptical view on the matter. Jeison Alexander Castaño, alias Jeihhco, met with Meijer to talk about the situation. Coincidentally SYOU collaborated with Jeihhco on our two day talent conference in Medellín last year. "I can't deny Medellín has experienced a transformation, but it's not a paradise in a war zone" he says. "We are absolutely not the city of Pablo Escobar anymore, but we are far from reaching the end of the tunnel. Medellín is experiencing a calm period at the moment. It's been quiet since 2013. That's typical for the cycle of a city. The violence can light up again at any second".
Jeihhco is brutally honest about the city's reality. He feels there’s still too much inequality and a city like Medellín shouldn’t have to be that way. "There are still children that can’t go to school because they can’t pay for their uniform. These things shouldn’t happen." Jeihhco contributes to the city by running a Hip Hop school in Comuna 13. Children come here to practice their graffiti, rap, breakdance and photography skills. During our two day creative talent conference he inspired the contesters with his stories about making the city a better place.
Articles like this one remind us of the importance of positive country branding, the importance of telling stories about a country that still suffers from the wounds of the past. Initiatives like SYOU help these wounds heal by focusing on the positive elements the country has to offer to the world. It’s both a thrill and an honor to stimulate countries like Colombia by showcasing their talent and creativity. Thank you Harry Meijer for this great opportunity.
On a last note, SYOU got mentioned in the Financieel Dagblad (the Dutch equivalent to the Financial Times) this weekend. For us, being mentioned in VOGUE, NRC and FD represent what we stand for. It’s possible to have a high-quality fashion product with an important and altruistic story to tell.Click here to download the 2 Page NRC article (in Dutch). Click here to download the Vogue article (in Spanish).