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Fashion Talk
Paola Masperi

Paola Masperi

Designer
Label - Mayamiko

We are season free and therefore timeless in our approach to design

Established by Paola Masperi, Mayamiko is a responsible womenswear and lifestyle brand, lovingly created by the women who are at the heart of its social enterprise, with ethics and sustainability at its core. The brand was founded working alongside charity through the Mayamiko Fashion Lab, where many of the label’s garments are made. In an interview with Kiran Sahija, the designer talks about her journey and the challenges faced while starting her venture.

Fibre2Fashion: Mayamiko is a Trust organisation as well as a clothing brand. How would you illustrate your journey and what motivated you to start this venture?

Paola Masperi:

I started working in Malawi in 2004 and by 2008 I had established the Mayamiko Trust, a not-for-profit providing training and skills development for women.

One of the skills areas that women wanted to acquire was tailoring and sewing. A few years in, the quality of training was so good that we were able to start working as a small production house for the very first sustainable brands.
In 2015, after much experimenting, we launched a small capsule collection under the Mayamiko brand, and the rest followed!

The original idea was, and still is, to use craft, creativity, and fair labour to support the work of the Trust. Having our own brand makes us financially sustainable and able to invest in growth and creative experimentation.

Fibre2Fashion: How would you define the aesthetics of your collection?

Paola Masperi:

Our tag line is ‘Made for Joy’, and this sums up well the spirit of the brand. It’s about feeling good in your own skin and knowing that what you are wearing is not only bringing you joy, but it also does so to everyone involved in the process of making that piece.

We are season free and therefore timeless in our approach to design.
My vision with our collections is to create an emotional connection between the person who wears one of our pieces and that garment.

Ours are the kind of clothes that you remember and associate with making memories in life: I want our community to be able to say, ‘I remember I was wearing my Mayamiko dress, when this wonderful thing happened’.

Fibre2Fashion: How does the design process undergo?

Paola Masperi:

As a brand with sustainability in its DNA, the design process, after I have identified the essence of the collection, actually starts with what we call ‘zero waste’ in mind. We think on how we can make maximum usage of the fabric and reduce cutting room waste to the minimum. This can feel a little restrictive to some, but actually it encourages a more thoughtful and deliberate kind of creativity, a mental challenge to design shapes that will look great once worn.

I always try to push the boundaries of usability too. For example, how can we be more inclusive and design for longevity, or changing bodies, by doing away with zips, and using more adjustable features, ties, even elastic in a clever way.

In the end, if we all kept and wore our garments a little longer, this would massively reduce the carbon footprint of our industry, and this can start from the creative process.

Fibre2Fashion: Who is your target audience and where is the clientele majorly from in terms of geography?

Paola Masperi:

We only sell direct to consumer from our website and have so far shipped to over 45 countries worldwide – which is great as it indicates that our brand resonates globally.

We have historically been focused on womenswear; however, we have introduced a unisex capsule, and very excited to see how that is received.

Fibre2Fashion: What were the challenges faced while pursuing your venture, since you are based in the UK while your brand operates from Malawi, Africa?

Paola Masperi:

It has definitely been a journey for us, and we have had different challenges at different stages.

We have for a number of years owned and managed our own production in Malawi, and in recent years we have transitioned to a joint venture owned by one of our Malawian managers, which is a great result as our intention was always to build capacity in Malawi and create a sustainable business for the local community.

The other challenges are more infrastructure based. For example, the lack of reliable electricity supply, which we were able to overcome by making our production solar powered; and the lack of locally made fabric and the complexities around importing certified textiles.

Fibre2Fashion: With so many sustainable brands coming into picture, how do you ensure your label stands out?

Paola Masperi:

It’s great to see so many brands embracing more sustainable or circular approaches, so we encourage and welcome that. We need the whole industry to shift for the sake of our planet and the wellbeing of garment workers.

Sadly, this also gives rise to a lot of greenwashing and that is always trickier, as the playing field is not even.
As a brand, we continue to innovate and push our creativity and sustainability further, and we think this is the best way to stand out. And we do have a great community of supporters, so we focus on giving joy to them over time, continuing to surprise and delight them.

Fibre2Fashion: What is the vision for your label for forthcoming years? Are you planning to expand the same?

Paola Masperi:

We are focused on improving some of our processes to make them more sustainable, which includes scaling our efforts on natural dyes, and sustainable materials. It might also mean new partnerships that allow us to explore new techniques and crafts. We also want to partner creatively with local talent.

What is the vision for your label for forthcoming years? Are you planning to expand the same?

Published on: 27/05/2022

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