Argentines Sofi Sugasti and Damian Furmanski had never met when they first touched down in Dallas around seven years ago. But both newcomers had the same impression of the local retail scene: There was a bounty of European luxury brands, but close to nil from South America.
Six years later, the Buenos Aires natives are doing their part to change that. The striking young couple, now married, runs Estilo Argento, a year-old import company that's putting South American tabletop and home wares on the shelves of some of the city's chicest stores.
The label's success is as fortuitous as the couples' history.
Sugasti, 30, moved to Dallas in 2001 to accept a personal-assistant job with a prominent family she'd met while ski-bumming in Aspen. Furmanski, an internationally ranked tennis pro, arrived the following year to teach and to launch his own academy. When the ex-pats were introduced (on the tennis court) by a friend in 2002, the connection was instant; they tied the knot a year later.
"I always knew I wanted to marry somebody from home, even if I lived in the States," says Sugasti, a bubbly brunette. "I knew it would be hard to find, but marriage is so difficult already. I wanted us to at least share the same culture to make things a bit easier."
With Estilo's success, Furmanski has closed the academy and is instructing just a handful of longtime clients. He and Sugasti plan eventually to return to Buenos Aires, settle and have children. But for now, the business is their baby.
The Estilo concept first took shape during the couple's visits home. Seeking wares they thought would be unique and desirable to American shoppers, the pair struck gold — actually, something closer to silver — while strolling through an outdoor market in the northern Argentine city of Salta. A craftsman was offering handmade home wares made of alpaca metal, an alloy of nickel, zinc and copper that's unique to Argentina.
Within months, the first shipment of Estilo Argento was en route to Texas.
The rustic-modern line encompasses all things tabletop, from platters and trays to champagne buckets, water pitchers, even picture frames. Each piece is unique, crafted entirely by hand and accented with cast-off horns or fragments of bone from indigenous goats or cows. Prices range from $70 for small trays and frames to $800 for oversize platters
Several top Dallas stores have picked up the collection, including the Dallas Museum of Art gift shop.
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