For Fashion Revolution week, I’m thrilled to highlight the brand Mayamiko. Their fashion revolution is defined by radical transparency that goes beyond what meets the eye.
What makes this brand unique is its holistic approach to social and climate justice, the inspiring stories behind the pretty clothes and it's work to empower women. Founder, Paola Masperi seems to constantly challenge and redefine what a stylish, charitable, sustainable and ethical fashion looks like. She describes the brand with three words: empathy, empowerment and Elan Vital aka energy and Mayamiko is more than a true embodiment of these concepts. Radically transparent, Mayamiko is synonymous to its garment workers, most of which are based in Malawi. Their faces and stories are ever-present on the brands’ social and website and their dedication to it is authentic. This is rare to see, even in the sustainable fashion world. Paola is a personal hero to me, so let’s hear how she brings this exemplary vision of a brand to life.
Mayamiko is born and bred in the beautiful South Eastern African country of Malawi. Their work doesn’t only employ women but the independence these women find through it is nothing short of empowering. The Mayamiko Trust is an initiative that uplifts and provides key tools for women to thrive. Paula explains:
What we hope to do with the work of Mayamiko Trust is to offer women choices for their own life, and we see education as the key to unlock those choices.
We focus on providing free quality training in tailoring and sewing, business and entrepreneurship education, as well as access to grants and microfinance.
From Malawi with love
Style and sustain
Sustainable fashion blog
While empowering women is core to the brand and really drives its definition of success, being a small sustainable brand is never easy. Encouraging conscious consumption in their customers while growing the business to sustain this mission is a balancing act. Paola takes this full-on by redefining what success means for the brand and not by industry standards:
So much of the narrative around us is focused on growth, scale and fast consumption.
It also means we may not be seen as successful as other brands which grow much faster, but it really goes back to the definition of success.
I believe in owning clothes we love, to make memories in, to change with over time and to treasure for years and years. If I look back to some of my fondest memories, I still remember what I was wearing and this is the connection we need to rebuild - as well as connecting with the origin of our clothes, with the people who make them. It is also about building community, rather than customer acquisition!
Buy what you love
Building community through charitable fashion
How can one know if a brand is truly ethical or sustainable? This is a question frequently asked by many. The answer is you can never know a 100%. However, one element is always a good sign in a brand: they admit they are on the journey while putting as much of their resources and marketing towards implementing sustainable and ethical practices. Mayamiko has a knack for doing this exceptionally well:
I strongly believe that you cannot separate social justice from climate justice, and our holistic approach is what makes us different. The transparency to say that we are on a journey and that every day we take steps towards our destination, but we are not there yet.
We use a system thinking approach, and look at every aspect of our supply chain, as well as sales and after-sales and try to tackle each step and make positive change at each step. It’s massive and complex but taking it a piece at a time helps.
By constantly observing, manipulating and adjusting parts of their supply chain, Mayamiko manages to keep it healthy and authentic. This allows room to fearlessly improve how the brand empowers and gives back to society at large as the years go by. Their partnership with Mail Out is a true example of the brand’s empathy-driven actions:
Last year we focused on packaging, logistics and trimmings. All our packaging is compostable, our trims and labels are in recycled materials and we have partnered with Mail Out, a warehouse and fulfilment centre that trains and employs lovely humans with disabilities
And we launched our QR codes that allow to track garments down to the individual makers, to create deeper connections with our clothes and the people behind them.
Empathy for nature and people
Like many worldwide businesses, the current COVID-19 situation has had a profound impact on Mayamiko. We’ve all of heard of fashion brands abandoning their workers in this time of need but I believe that we focus too much on those who are not doing and not enough on those who are doing. Those making ethical choices and putting their people above profit. It’s refreshing and encouraging to see brands like Mayamiko take a stand for good at times like this:
Covid19 has impacted absolutely everything we do.
In Malawi, where a lot of our production happens and our charity Mayamiko Trust does most of its work, we initially closed the Sewing Academy down to keep students safe, and transformed our production area into a mask-making facility. We stopped making fashion and dedicated our entire production to making masks to donate to partners starting from the most vulnerable and the elderly.
As time went by, we decided that the safest thing was for our teams to work from home, so we now distribute materials and collect masks that everyone is making in the safety if their homes. It’s amazing to see that our sewing machine grants have proven to be a real relief in time of crisis, as well as giving people a source of income. We are still paying full salaries and want to carry on as long as possible.
We have also worked on several educational resources like easy to read flashcards that can be shared digitally to help spread messages on how to stay safe. We have made our pattern and tutorial for making masks to empower people to make their own, cheaply and easily at home.
(Read more about the brand’s COVID-19 response HERE).
People + planet over profit
We are all in this together
Despite these difficulties the brand prioritises its sense of community and continues to build and protect it. That’s what keeps its essence alive no matter what. Mayamiko is one of those brands that doesn’t only take but graciously cares and gives back to the community:
In London, our warehouse has been closed for almost a month now, which we believe is the right thing to do to protect people, especially the more vulnerable adults that work at Mail Out. This means that except for what fits in my bedroom (going back to the roots!) we are not functioning as a business.
Aside from the financial impact, we recognise that we are a community and we want to care for our customers even if we are not active as a business.
So, we have created a simple scrunchie making tutorial to help our community do something crafty at home.
(See the tutorial HERE)
During this crisis customers supporting small businesses has been crucial. It’s helped people realise who they give their money to is crucial in making a difference in this world. Mayamiko has created easy avenues for you to support them:
We are also encouraging those who can, to pay forward and sponsor a face mask - this allows us to keep donating to those in need and allows us to keep many in employment.
Of course, shopping with brands like Mayamiko is also a great act of support but remember to only buy what you love or need.
(You can support their initiative HERE)
How to support Mayamiko
This year we are looking at natural dyes and increasing inclusivity from a sizing and shapes perspective. For example, our Ufulu capsule (Ufulu means freedom in Chichewa) was designed to move freely and have fun in...we never stop pushing ourselves!
Learn more about Mayamiko on their website: https://www.mayamiko.com/pages/mayamiko-the-label
What's next for the brand that keeps on giving?
Click **HERE** to discover my Mayamiko editorial featuring my favourite dress from the brand.