Meet Mayamiko: a contemporary women’s wear brand inspired by African and global artisanal tradition and prints, with ethical trading and sustainability at its core. Established by Paola Masperi, Mayamiko The Label is lovingly made in Malawi and around the globe by a team of tailors, pattern cutters and seamstresses. Their multi-seasonal collections are designed for the global modern woman, whilst giving ode to their birthplace through the use of traditional techniques and locally sourced materials.
Mayamiko strongly believes that ethical and sustainable production is the only acceptable way of producing, and feel that shopping ethically should not compromise the quality or design of the product but rather enhance and add value to it. We caught up with Mayamiko's founder Paola, to chat all things ethical fashion.
Why should consumers care about the history of their clothes before it reaches them?
I was born and raised in Italy. Growing up in a strongly artisanal and connected society, there are very few pieces of clothing I owned, that I didn’t know the history of. It is a wonderful way of connecting with your garments, treasuring and loving them, respecting them and their makers. Nothing was ever thrown away: it was almost a ritual to pass things on to younger siblings or cousins, or to repurpose a dress your Mum wore in the 70s!
Fashion can be a real force for good: we see in our small context that lives are changed forever by people’s buying choices. And what drives people to buy is not just aesthetic, but also the awareness of how their clothes are made, and who made them. We all want to feel great in what we wear, and it is just impossible to do so if we are wearing someone else’s exploitation and misery. But if you know that your dress has allowed Jane,
one of the Mayamiko pattern-cutters in Malawi, or your Po-Zu's have allowed a rubber farmer in Sri Lanka to have access to clean water, then it has real meaning.
Who are the makers behind the Mayamiko clothing and how does shopping with Mayamiko support them?
Our work focuses on women’s empowerment and the idea that dignified, fairly paid work gives each woman the ability to make choices over her and her family’s life. This takes a different shape in different places, depending on the local context and need. So with Mayamiko Trust in Malawi, we start with our training academy, where we ensure that the right skills are provided or honed, and then we offer a choice: employed work at Mayamiko, or support to set themselves up as an independent artisan. In which case we have a programme of small business and financial skills, as well as a start-up grant to support graduates on their entrepreneurial journey. Those who choose employment with us come on a journey of growth and development that continues for years. We really are like a big family!
In Sri Lanka, we partner with the wonderful Booteek Collective, who works with women caring for differently-abled children. For them, what works best is to gather once a week, then go back to their homes and work to their own rhythm, to then meet again the following week. And so on. No one model fits all, and we work closely with our partners to do what is right in the context.
So every purchase made at Mayamiko has a real impact on people’s lives, and it is not a one-day affair, we are in it for the long run!
How important is zero waste to Mayamiko The Label?
At Mayamiko we have both a strong social and an environmental stance because we believe that these must go hand to hand and cannot be separated. Zero Waste is an expression of our commitment to value every single piece of material we work with. We start from Zero Waste pattern design for maximum fabric usage, and that includes designing for longevity, so our styles can adapt and change with you. And we use every single off-cut to create items of value. So we flip the concept of waste on its head and say: what some may consider waste, we consider a treasure: this is how our scrunchies, earrings and other small accessories come about - which also means we are able to develop more skills for artisans, and help them generate additional income.
Our Positive Pads initiative is also part of this: we craft beautiful reusable sanitary pads using our offcuts, and collaborate with local organisations to promote feminine health education, together with the distribution of reusable pads. Mayamiko customers can help by sponsoring a pad as they shop.
What drew you to styling Po-Zu shoes with Mayamiko clothes?
I believe in our industry, in a time where we are all committed to bringing about change, collaboration is essential. Ethical and sustainable fashion is still considered niche, so we all need to work together to magnify our collective voice. Competition is not a word that belongs in our vocabulary, collaboration should appear twice.
Oh, and need I mention that Po-Zu shoes are just awesome, and that’s a clear added bonus! I think the looks created by Mayamiko clothing and Po-Zu shoes really embody the women who wear our brands: dynamic, not afraid to stand out and be counted, stylish yet comfortable and wearing their values quite literally on their sleeves.
What's next on the agenda for Mayamiko The Label?
So much, there is never enough time! Our long term vision is to collaborate with more groups of amazing artisans around the world and work with them to create unique collections with a positive impact on their economy and environment. At the moment you can choose from embroidery from Sri Lanka, handloom from Myanmar, reclaimed jewellery from Laos, Kenya and Afghanistan, knitwear from Peru and reclaimed silk and wool from Italy. We are working on some new exciting partnerships there.
We are also working hard to add more sustainable textiles to our collections: we love working with heritage and upcycled textiles, and we also know that more of our customers are looking for certified textiles. So getting the right balance is really important (and tricky!). And of course we have our yearly collection landing at the end of March / early April, so watch this space for some exciting new designs!
There are a few other surprises in the pipeline but if I said what they are, they would no longer be surprises! You’ll have to keep coming on a journey with us to find out :)
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