Meet Gabrielle Stevenson

The woman behind Simpatico Artisan Products is Gabrielle Stevenson. When Gaby is not designing costumes for film and Television or for the World of Wearable Arts Show in Wellington, she works on her true passion Simpatico. Here's how Simpatico started in her own words.

'Simpatico' is an Italian word that translates loosely as 'like minded' it embodies my interest in bringing different cultures together and creating community through a love of unique, hand made objects, objects that bare the mark of the artisans that created them.

Travelling has always been a passion. Apart from the beautiful pieces I was lucky enough to find on my trips, it was the the artisans and their stories that were the real treasures. It is these connections that I dream of and it is my intention to weave the artisans story into each piece selected and to share with you a rewarding, truly unique, ethically sourced product.

The Hat that Started Simpatico


I am an avid thrift shopper, trawling through shops, on the hunt for something unusual or something specific is part of my job as a costume designer. I am always looking for hand made pieces that have soul and utility and was not on the hunt for a product to turn into a business the day I found a little straw sunhat. It had everything I look for in design;  beautifully made, durable, unique and tactile, it was gorgeous. I brought it home and studied it. I knew it had to have been woven by hand with pride by an artisan with skill using traditional weaving techniques specific to a distant place with a lot of sun using a natural straw-like material and I needed to find out where, so the search began, lifting every stone and exhausting every avenue without any luck.

I had put the search to rest on the back burner while on a job when I saw a hat on a costumer in my team, it was unmistakeable, it was made the same way with its distinctive tight weave and although a different shape it had the same chin strap with a leather toggle. It turned out she bought it on a trip to Ghana and after some research, I found them in a small area in the northeast of Ghana called Bolgatanga. The hats are woven using traditional techniques using elephant grass endemic to the region. Next was to find a wholesaler with whom I could communicate directly and who had the ethical principles I wanted to align with. It took some time but I found the perfect person who really cares about his community and the artisans he works with ensuring the money made by sales goes back into the communities by paying the weavers directly for each basket. I had no idea of the rich variety of products that the weavers were making including lampshades and baskets and how directly I was able to inform the designs through my new friend, it has become a wonderful soulful collaboration including a shared love of music and social enterprise. Simpatico was born.