Every week, we’re shining a spotlight on the best small brands we think are worth shouting about. We love our great British high street, but there are so many fantastic independent brands out there making clothes, accessories, homewares and more from a place of passion and love and we need to support them – now more than ever.
From fashion and beauty to homeware and accessories, we’ll be bringing you the best small businesses you need on your radar. This week, we chat with Paola Masperi, founder and CEO of Mayamiko, a responsible womenswear and lifestyle brand and social enterprise.
How did Mayamiko come about?
Mayamiko means praise in Chichewa, which is the main language of Malawi, the beautiful country in Southern Africa where the brand was born. I started it after having worked with women artisans for a number of years, with a desire to share their skills, artisanship and story with other women all over the world while creating a good life for them, paying fair prices for their talents.
It all started from there, and while we remain committed to empowering women in Malawi, we have since then brought creations from several countries to the Mayamiko community.
How would you sum up the Mayamiko aesthetic?
Joy. Mayamiko is made for joy. There is a real sense of happiness about the effortless silhouettes combined with the gorgeous textiles. Our pieces are seasonless and made to last, and they can be layered up for winter or worn alone during the warmer months.
Who is the Mayamiko woman?
She is an empowered woman who takes joy in wearing clothes with a story – she cares about looking and feeling great as well as making sure that the women who made her clothes are equally empowered. She stands for something, loves life, shared experiences and has stories to tell, not just with words, but also with her wardrobe choices.
Where does inspiration come from for your designs?
Both my grandparents were tailors and from very early on I learnt the value of beautifully crafted, lovingly made, effortless pieces – pieces that move around you, rather than forcing you to move in a certain way.
So the effortless and simple design aesthetic definitely comes from there. And the textiles tell the origin stories of where the clothes come from – the shores of Lake Malawi, the colours of nature, the amazing and beautiful women we work with: each style is named after a woman we work with, a small gesture to give tribute to each of them.
How is Mayamiko striving to be sustainable?
From the onset, we have placed people and the planet at the heart of everything we do – including being very honest and transparent about the things we still haven’t got completely right.
We train women from disadvantaged backgrounds and offer them dignified work; we also help them get started on their own business if they prefer. Our workshop is powered by the sun, we design for maximum fabric use and any off-cuts are upcycled into something of value – for example, we make reusable sanitary pads that we donate to the girls in our community. We are pretty close to zero waste! We also work with reclaimed textiles when possible and with more sustainable materials such as linen and organic cotton.
Finally, each garment has a QR code that, when scanned, tells you the story of each garment, who made it, and how!
Which Mayamiko piece are you most looking forward to wearing this spring/summer?
Difficult choice! We have some lovely Bridgerton-inspired dresses and tops with gorgeous big puffy sleeves that I can’t wait to wear for picnics and afternoons in the park, but if I had to pick my favourite, I like to be ready-in-one and I love pockets, so jumpsuits are always my go-to piece. This season we have a lovely new easy-breezy jumpsuit called Simba and my favourite print is this gorgeous green and pink spring-like pattern – I’ll throw an easy blazer on top and some flats and I’m ready to picnic!
Finally, is there anything exciting planned for the brand this year?
We are working on bringing more pieces from new artisans and independent makers to Mayamiko and we are also working on a system to help our customers mend, rent and resell their Mayamiko pieces, and I am really excited about that!